News : Press-launch Ford Escort XR3 up for grabs

We make no apologies for loving the Ford Escort Mk3 – it was a sharp-looking car, and just what the doctor ordered for Ford in 1980. Of course, the fast Ford Escorts are a different proposition, and loved by the classic car crowd for their ridiculous investment potential. We’re flagging up this one, though, because it’s storied, and well, we like how the XR3 looks…

This example is interesting, and is for sale at Barons upcoming Classic Winter Warmer sale at Sandown Park on 27 February. It’s said to be the oldest Ford Escort XR3 in the UK, with 85,000 miles on the clock and one of just three remaining original launch-spec cars. This XR3 was registered on 21 November 1980, and sent to Brooklyn Ford of Redditch as a demonstrator.

It’s been thoroughly restored using Ford Motorcraft parts and, since completion in 2017, it’s gained two best in class show wins. During this time, 1000 miles have been covered and the car is said to drive superbly. During the restoration, all new panels were used, and the interior is superb, free from sagging or tears, the dash free of cracks and the correct Shark Grey headlining in place.

Definitely one to watch, as the estimate is £11,000-£15,000

Keith Adams


  1. Lovely to look at,but wouldn’t pull the skin of a rice pudding,and let’s not mention the suspension of the early XR3 models!
    Still there’s plenty of people out there with deep pockets and rose tinted specs.

    • And there were plenty of people who queued to buy them too when launched.

      In volume production, its NEVER about the cars ability or lack of it, its about the public perception. And its here that Ford just steamed ahead.

      They knew their costings, their market and exactly WHO would buy them. Love `em or loath `em when it came to marketing… they had ALL their ducks in line.

  2. And there were plenty of people who queued to buy them too when launched.

    In volume production, its NEVER about the car, its about the perception. And its here that Ford just steamed ahead.

    They knew their costings, their market and exactly WHO would buy them. Love `em or loath `em when it came to marketing… they had ALL their ducks in line.

  3. 109 mph was nothing to be sniffed at from a two litre car in 1980 and the XR3 sold in healthy numbers. However, gaining fuel injection gave the XR3 a useful increase in performance and refinement.
    Would I be right in thinking that the XR3 was made in Germany and the XR3i in Britain?

  4. Yes – as I recall the Press had no issues with the original twin choke carb XR3’s performance, it was its ride that caused problems. I have a 1981 Motor long term test article that is very complimentary about their early example and consider it a worthy replacement for the RS2000 and right up there with the Golf GTi. XR3 and XR3i where built exclusively at Saarlouis until around 1985/86 when Halewood was allowed to have a go. Up to then the Merseyside plant wasn’t trusted with anything more complex than a GL.

    • Ford dealers always preferred to sell German built cars as they were more reliable and Dagenham and Halewood had seen considerable job cuts and production moved to Germany and Belgium in the late seventies and early eighties due to strikes and poorer quality. Also a factory in Ireland assembling Cortinas from kits was used for a while.

      • By the mid eighties build quality in German built Fords was no better than Dagenham, though Halewood was always dubious. The difference was the management of the plants. At Dagenham if a part was wrong they would run the line until the parts were cleared then go and refit the part (or sometimes not!), while in Germany they would stop the line and sort the problem. In fact Dagenham got its quality a higher than Cologne on Fiestas, and considerably better than Spain when the plant was closed – it was more about politics than quality in the end.

        • However, Halewood must have had something going for it in the end as it was chosen to produce Jaguars and the quality on the last of the Escorts was far better than the early nineties cars. The plant lives on successfully now producing Range Rovers, while Dagenham Assembly died in 2001.

  5. Is this a press demonstrator though or just dealer launch stock? Ford Press cars from this era all had Essex registrations (HK etc like the Sweeny’s Granada). This doesn’t and the fact it was despatched to a dealer in the Midlands suggest it was just their customer demonstrator.

  6. Having spent my formative years as a car spotter in Essex I still remember all the local reg plates including the “imposter” ones from Southend that became Essex plate in later years. TW is an Essex plate just like HK and VW often seen on Ford’s own cars.

  7. What this car reminds me, is how crisp the original styling was and how it was ruined on the facelift and orion. At the time because they were fresh they looked better but once they became familar they just looked unbalanced compared with the original.

  8. A mate had a B Reg 1600 Escort in the 80s. Fairly low mileage but it sounded like a bucket of bolts. I don’t have much love for them.

  9. It’s worth watching Jackie Stewart driving a very early XR3 back in 1980,believe it was at the Ford test track at Lommel in Belgium and saying it was a ‘horny looking thing’
    Good old Jackie!

  10. Ford always had a knack of making average cars (imho) look the business. These looked amazing compared to a 1.3L or lower model, with its snazzy alloys, tuned engine, front driving lights, and so on. Its a formula which served Ford well in the 70s and 80s I think


  11. I had 2 company Escort MKIV’s A 1.3 Popular & a 1.3L. (60bhp). Yes, basic mundane cars perhaps but they did the business for me and were reliable. The XR3 was an aspirational model, more so the XR3i but my employer wasn’t likely to get me one of those!

    This featured XR3 looks great and takes us back to that era… good memories

  12. I wouldn’t have had one of these ford tin cans back in the day so would deffo not have one now. I often wondered what the attraction was with these underpowered things I never understood it.

  13. My best mate’s dad had a new black XR3i. it looked the mutts nuts! Travelling in the back of it made me feel car sick, something I didnt normally suffer in good old BL products. 🙂

  14. It really isn’t about what was good or not it’s all about what made an impact in our formative years, whether those be the cars your dad (or Mom) drove whilst you were a kid or the ones you lusted after once you’d passed your driving test. For me it was late 70’s Vauxhall as my old man sold them so came home in loads of diff company cars so I saw the lot and then it was late 80 sporty stuff as I was driving by then. It was only later when he work for a MGR dealer I came across MGR and we now have interesting BL stuff ranging from the late 60’s to the early 00’s.

  15. My favoured late 70s Vauxhalls would be the Cav Coupe & Sportshatch and mid 70s Magnum saloon either 1800 or 2300

    • 40 years since the XR3 launched and back then, Ford could do no wrong as everything they made sold in huge numbers and they had the sort of relationship with the motoring press the Germans have now. Actually, there wasn’t much to fault Ford on as their cars were quite good and the Mark 3 Escort was a leap forward from the Mark 2 with its hatchback, fwd and touches like fluted rear lights.

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