Escort Twin-Cam, AVO's Ancestor

The 110bhp Lotus-powered Escort Twin Cam was conceived and developed by Ford's Boreham based competitions department during 1967 and unleashed on an unsuspecting public during January 1968. It went on to achieve many international race and rally victories during its short production life. The car's first international win was on the 1968 Circuit of Ireland Rally when driven by a certain Roger Albert Clark.

The Twin Cam owed much of its ancestry to the Mk1 and Mk2 Lotus Cortinas, in that they all shared many common mechanical components. Although its production might seem a logical step to many of us now, the route to producing the Escort Twin Cam was quite tortuous and would not have taken place without the dedication of some key Ford staff.

Near the end of 1966, some very early hand-built standard Escorts were being track tested at Boreham. They were spotted by Henry Taylor (Ford's Competitions Manager) and his Chief Mechanic Bill Meade and it was rumoured that on seeing the cars, Meade uttered the immortal words "Blimey, one of those things would go like hell with a Twin Cam engine in it!" Taylor enthusiastically agreed.

What happened next was essentially a race against time and Ford's higher authority. Henry Taylor knew he wanted a car that was faster and lighter than a Lotus Cortina but that it would be a nightmare to follow all the company procedures to introduce a performance Escort in the timeframes they had available. So in early 1967, after some hasty planning, Taylor and Ford's Public Relations Officer, Walter Hayes managed to convince the Board of Directors that their concept would work. The chiefs agreed that a few prototypes could be built.

Enter the next problem - all the tooling had already been frozen for production of the new Escort, so a standard production Escort shell was all the Twin Cam developers could use. In actual fact, during a Spring weekend in 1967, the only 'vehicle' they could lay their hands on was a plastic mock-up shell. Nevertheless, the candle was burnt at both ends to try and cram in all the Lotus Cortina mechanicals. Yes, you've guessed it - at first, the jigsaw wouldn't fit together! A few of the problems encountered were as follows...

The wide Lotus DOHC cylinder head with its twin sidedraught Weber carburettors fouled the offside inner wing, so offset engine mountings were used to push the nose of the engine towards the nearside of the car. The rear carburettor also fouled the brake master cylinder, so this was relocated inside the front bulkhead along with the clutch master cylinder. There was also insufficient space to locate both the battery and the brake servo in the engine bay so the battery was relegated to the nearside of the boot well (as per the Mk1 Lotus Cortina). The remote brake servo was then mounted where any standard Escort's battery would be. Moving the battery to the boot meant that the spare wheel was bolted flat to the boot floor instead of being housed in the standard Escort's upright position.

The "2000E" gearbox and its bellhousing (borrowed from the Ford Corsair) were made to fit by literally adjusting the transmission tunnel with a few hefty blows from a lump hammer! The rear axle from the Lotus Cortina was transplanted completely including the latter's radius arms to allow positive axle location. In short, by the end of that busy weekend, the mechanics at Boreham had solved all the major problems. Now their manager had to work on Ford's production staff to convince them to build the Twin Cam alongside Halewood's main Escort production line.

The authorities at Halewood eventually agreed to produce Twin Cam bodyshells (known as Type 49) at their factory. Essentially the Type 49 shell was a strengthened and slightly modified Escort GT (Type 48) shell. At a strategic point on the production line, the modified Type 49 shells were whisked off to a side workshop where dedicated staff turned them into Twin Cams. The all-important Lotus engines were shipped in from the Lotus plant at Hethel in Norfolk.

For the vast majority of its life, the Twin Cam was only available in White. Also, to simplify production and to keep costs down, Twin Cams were fitted with similar interiors to the Escort GT. The early cars were also fitted with rectangular headlamps as the product planners insisted on the Twin Cam having commonality with other "top of the range" Escort models - it didn't matter that all the rally drivers hated them as their performance was pitiful when compared to the cheaper Escorts' round units!

To ensure that the Twin Cam was available to "works" and other works-supported rally teams as soon as possible, the first 25 models were assembled at Boreham in early 1968. Mainstream production then transferred to Halewood during Spring 1968, with the car's official launch price being 1,162.78. The Twin Cam's specification only altered in detail during its short lifetime. Apart from the headlamp change, only minor revisions took place to the interior trim, although a potential owner could specify competitions-developed items at extra cost.

Approximately 883 cars were built in total but no Escort Twin Cam was ever built at AVO. However, as all subsequent AVO Escorts used the Twin Cam as a basis, it now has a special place in the AVO OC as a father figure. Production of the Escort Twin Cam ceased in June 1971 as by this time, Ford was already producing an exciting new Escort, the 16-valve Cosworth BDA-powered RS1600.

 

Escort Twin Cam - Specification
Engine

4-cylinder 1558cc Ford pre-Crossflow block fitted with DOHC Lotus cast alloy cylinder head and twin sidedraught dual choke Weber 40 DCOE carburettors
Peak power: 109.5 bhp @ 6000rpm
Peak torque: 107 lb ft @ 4700rpm

Transmission 4 speed manual “2000E” gearbox with 8” hydraulic clutch and 3.77:1 final drive ratio
Suspension Front: Coil sprung independent arrangement with McPherson struts, track control arms and anti-roll bar
Rear: Live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, radius arms and telescopic dampers
Wheels and Tyres: 5.5” x 13” Lotus Cortina steel rims fitted with 165x13” tyres
Braking

Hydraulically operated
Front: 9.62" discs

Rear: 9.0" x 1.75" drums

Performance 0-60 mph: 9.9 secs, Top speed: 113 mp