Our Rally Escort Blitz

How often do you get an email from an insurance company that puts a mahoosive smile on your face?

Well, this one was from Hagerty and it said: “Do you fancy taking one of our rally prepped Escorts out for a jaunt around the Oxfordshire countryside, ending up at Bicester Heritage for the Sunday Scramble?” Silly question. Of course we would.

First thing in the morning, we picked up our wheels from a sleepy Bicester Heritage. The noble steed in question was YAW - a plucky little 1972 Mk1 Escort. We hopped in and headed to Towcester for bacon sarnies before grabbing the route plan and having a crack at the Drive It Day rally.

The anticipation that washes over you when lowering yourself into a proper bucket seat is electric. Firing up the fizzy 1.6L engine put big stupid grins on both our faces.

This Escort is an experienced road rally car, recently competing in the HERO Rally Of The Tests - coming 2nd in class! Driving the Hagerty route with the Escort was like having an over enthusiastic boy-scout leader running along in a flurry of compasses, OS maps and pen-knives, scruffily prepared for every eventuality. YAW was clinging to the straps of his rucksack, cheering “come along Toms” as we bounded over every bridge and junction.

Whilst busy hunting down Morris Minors, we were encountered by an E-Type. It was like something out of a film - headlamps glaring straight at us as we watched it move through the mirrors and scream past in a straight six rage. And why shouldn’t that E-Type be at pace? It was we're back in the 60s and seeing it for the first time.

Oh yeah, also, umm, we did break down. Our fan belt snapped. Things got a bit hot under the bonnet, but by sticking to more than 40mph and taking as many shortcuts as possible we made it to Bicester in the end. Having problems didn’t take away from our experience of driving this car. Yes, classics are made to be driven, and drive them we shall, but this doesn’t change the fact that they’re getting on a bit. To fully enjoy these cars, you have to be prepared for hiccups.

Rallies bring a level of excitement and determination into driving on normal roads. We were like a proper driver and co-driver team. It’s an amazing feeling, pulling into the halfway point with a squad of other classics, a slight nod of the head from other drivers for making it. Events like this remind onlookers that old cars were made to be driven. And from the people at Hagerty, it says ‘yes, classic motorist, we do care about you.’

For you Escort fanboys/girls out there: it’s a Ford Escort MK1 1600GT with the Crossflow engine. It features are a fast road cam and 32/36 Weber. We’re dealing with around 90bhp. Plenty of torque and a sweet little four-speed gearbox to rifle through on straight-aways. Other mods include bucket seats, 4 point harnesses, a strengthened shell, roll cage and a Brantz trip and stop-clock.