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1973 Mk1 Ford Escort RS 2000 Fast & Furious 6 (Giles Keyte/NBC Universal Canada)
1973 Mk1 Ford Escort RS 2000 Fast & Furious 6 (Giles Keyte/NBC Universal Canada)

Ford Mk1 Escort and Jensen Interceptor

Fast and Furious franchise features two cool Brit cars from the ’70s Add to ...

‘We talkin’ vehicular warfare here,” claims a cast member, describing the non-stop car-crash action that resulted in more than 400 vehicles being damaged or destroyed in the sixth edition of the Fast & Furious movie franchise.

Among the smoking piles of crumpled sheet-metal carnage produced by the recently released Fast & Furious 6’s endless succession of stunts was some hot modern machinery, and examples of familiar and cherished North American 1960s muscle. But also a mismatched pair of early 1970s Brit cars only a handful of viewers on this side of the Atlantic might recognize.

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Few would likely be able to identify the small, bright-blue-and-white car hurtling over a highway median as a Mk1 Ford Escort, dressed to thrill in 1973 RS 2000 livery. Or the big fast-back coupe – painted in flat-grey and with sewer-pipe side-pipes, racing down nighttime city streets while bouncing off things – as a pricey and exclusive 1971 edition, gentleman’s express Jensen Interceptor.

The Escort was introduced by Ford of Britain for 1968, replacing the long-running Anglia – known affectionately as the “Anglebox” – and soon largely displaced the Cortina, by then starting to show some middle-aged-spread, in the affections of tuner-car-tearaways.

The Mk1 Escort was a not-fast-but-frugal, every-family-man’s car. It was small – 4,045 mm, 365 mm shorter than a current Fiesta – and technically basic, but attractively styled, and available in two- and four-door sedan, and station wagon and van body styles.

The originals were light, at 769 kg in two-door form, had independent suspension up front and a live rear axle driven by 1.0-, 1.1-, 1.3-litre versions of Ford’s crossflow, four-cylinder, overhead-valve, Kent four-cylinder engine, rated at from 40 to 61.5 hp.

The first hot version of the Escort, and the progenitor of a series of high-velocity versions that would lead to the Fast & Furious 6 RS2000, was the 1300GT, with an engine upgraded to 75 hp, and gearbox, suspension, brake and tire, as well as some interior upgrades.

It was joined by the more potent, pricier and limited-production Escort Twin Cam, powered by a 1,558-cc Kent engine, topped by a Lotus double-overhead-cam cylinder head, which made 106 hp.

Mk1 Escorts were soon the rally weapon of choice, in the hands of factory hot-shoes and privateers alike. To capitalize on this exposure, in 1970, Ford set up its Advanced Vehicle Operation (AVO) to build factory hot-rods, and Ford Rallye Sport (RS) to sell them.

The first was the Escort RS1600, based on the Twin Cam, but powered by a near-race-spec 1.6-litre Cosworth/Ford BDA, 16-valve, twin-cam engine rated at 120 hp, that gave it a top speed of more than 180 km/h. The “works” rally team won the London to Mexico World Cup Rally in one, and Ford celebrated by creating the Escort Mexico (with 1.6-litre pushrod motor).

The RS2000 was essentially more of the same RS1600/Mexico mix, but equipped with the single-overhead-cam, 2.0 litre four-cylinder, 115-hp engine from the Pinto. It’s not clear how many, if any, of the half-dozen Mk1 Escorts used to make the film were “real” RS2000s, but they were all reputedly scrapped afterward, to the consternation of enthusiasts.

Ford’s Escort went on to become likely the winning-est rally car of all time. And despite its less-than-adventurous original specifications, evolved through five generations to become the best-selling car ever in Britain, with sales topping four million. German-built versions proved popular in Europe, and it was also sold in other world markets. The Escort name came to North America in 1981, bolted to Ford’s first front-driver sold here.

The Escort was replaced by the Focus in 2000, ending a 32-year run, during which 20 million had been sold worldwide. North American movie-goers may not get a kick out of the Mk1 Escort’s high-flying role in Fast & Furious 6, but its sheer numbers, and international competition success, make it instantly recognizable in the flick’s global markets.

The Jensen Interceptor featured in Fast & Furious 6.
 

Not recognizable, to just about anybody, anywhere, is the Jenson Interceptor, built by Jensen Motors Ltd., which in its entire existence, between 1934-76, produced only 20,000 or so cars.

The company was created by bespoke body-building brothers Alan and Richard Jensen, who initially produced custom coachwork mounted on other makes’ running gear, before producing their first car in 1935.

Following the war years, the Jensens returned to the car business with a large and lavish model called the PW, but built only 19 before moving on to produce the first Interceptor in 1949. This, too, was an extravagant luxury model, built as a convertible and four-door sedan, with an odd semicircular grille, but fewer than 100 were built up to 1957.

The mid-1950s aero-look 541 followed in 1955, featuring a fibreglass body with attention-grabbing styling – an oval flap opened to admit air to the rad in place of open grille-work – and was propelled by a four-litre, 130-hp, Austin inline-six. Only 546 were made. A similar number of CV8s, luxury GT cars that followed in 1962, powered by 6.0-litre Chrysler V-8s engines, were produced and replaced by a new Interceptor in 1966.

The Interceptor’s striking – and steel once again – bodywork was created by Touring of Italy, and it, too, was propelled courtesy of Chrysler, in later versions by its 385-hp, 7.2-litre V-8, coupled to a Torqueflight automatic, making it a truly fast and furious performer. The four used in the movie were powered by General Motors V-8s.

The Interceptor was also the world’s first production all-wheel-drive car, FF versions being fitted with the Ferguson Formula system, and also Dunlop’s Maxaret anti-lock braking system.

Jensen built 6,727 of these (and almost 11,000 Jensen-Healey sports cars) before closing its doors in 1976. Attempts are under way to revive the name.

Back in 1971
The Ed Sullivan Show, started by the ex-entertainment columnist in 1948, ends its TV run.
Walt Disney World opens in Florida.
The first major National Hot Rod Association drag race outside the United States, the Molson Grandnational, is held at Sanair near Montreal.
Rolls-Royce is declared bankrupt, then is nationalized by the British government.

 

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