Who’dathunkit? Historic Ford values go interstellar
When your dad broke the bank in the 1960s buying a £1,200 Ford Escort TC, which was twice the price of your mum’s Ford Anglia, highlights Iain Robertson, nobody would have guessed that 50 years later it might be worth 80 times its invoice value.
Collectibles are immensely popular. Promoted by various antiques shows on the television, plus a nascent desire not to chuck things away, as we once used to, glass and ceramics are enjoying a massive resurgence in values that are capable of providing pension plan options for the most ardent buyers and sellers. Of course, furniture fluctuates like fury, although items made by artisans like Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson, or Hepplewhite and Chippendale are always ‘solid gold’ in investment terms.
The thing is, as soon as anyone mentions ‘classic cars’, thoughts rush to black, dark green, or burgundy models of the 1930s and 1940s, complete with cycle-wings and soft-tops. They are the traditional classics and, ironically, some of them are even being lined-up controversially for futureproofing electrification, by enterprising repair shops. Yet, next year, it will be 60 years since 1960, which makes the largely disposable, built-in obsolescence of that period somewhat more relevant to its survivors, which, let’s face it, are going to be few and far between.
While the original Mini has its supporters and detractors, the lure of an original and unmolested example, worth many times more than its new invoice price of less than £500, is strangely compelling. Yet, it is the competition examples, the models that contested events like the Monte Carlo Rally, that can turn in handsome profits for owners.
The 1960s and 1970s were a turning point for many carmakers. The dawn of the E-Type, Dino and Muira, the exotica of their day, were classics-in-the-making. It was more than clear, apart from their sky-high list prices, that they might have a future of significantly grander status. Yet, it is the run-of-the-mill stuff, the Fords, Vauxhalls and Hillmans of the same period that are starting to build their showpiece values, none more so than Ford Motor Company.
At the forthcoming Lancaster Insurance Classic Car Show, being held at the NEC (9/10 November 2019), not one but four immaculate and now quite rare Ford models will go under the hammer in the Silverstone Classics auction. There is a distinct charm attached to each of these remarkably clean and low mileage Fords, which were the sportiest in their class during the period.
Perhaps the most desirable is the 1972 Ford Escort RS Custom (Mark One); one of just 1,137 original examples produced by Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Operations facility, its race-bred twin overhead camshaft engine develops around 120bhp, with a tuning potential of up to 270bhp. It rides on 13.0-inch diameter alloy wheels and is suspended by a leaf-sprung rear axle and coil-over front struts. A low ride height and kerbweight of less than 750kgs ensured 0-60mph in 8.0s and a top speed of around 120mph, accompanied by the air-sucking burble of two, twin-choke Weber carburettors. Its pre-sale valuation is put at £68,000 but, with its rarity, it could easily top £99,000, which would be phenomenal for a car of this class.
On the other hand, a pair of immaculate RS2000 ‘droop-snoot’ Escorts, a red one from 1980, the other a beige run-out example also from 1980, were popularised by TV shows of the period and by their use as ‘fast pursuit’ police cars in major conurbations, like Liverpool and Central London. Although both of them have been restored sympathetically, the red example retains its original bodyshell, which is an amazing feat, when you recall how rot-prone these cars were, and is a virtual guarantee of it reaching and exceeding its posted valuation.
Epitomised by dropping a nose-heavy ‘Pinto’ 2.0-litre, 109bhp single overhead camshaft engine into its restyled front, the RS2000 was never the best handling of nippy Fords, being prone to severe understeer, despite its rear-wheel drive. It might top 110mph, given a decent downhill and tailwind, while it could scurry from 0-60mph in around 9.2s, thanks more to low overall gearing than engineering sophistication. Ford played its market ingeniously at the time, introducing a catalogue of extra cost RS ‘desirables’ that included bolt-on tuning kits and the inevitable blue-striped rally jacket. Yet, the RS2000’s sheer affordability made it exceptionally popular. With estimates in the region of £45,000 for either car, their escalated values are abundantly clear and are certain to be exceeded.
The final Escort of this group is the 1983 front-wheel drive RS1600i. Typical of Fords of the period, it was a tremendous showroom car, which always looked fantastic beneath the piercing lights of a dealership. Once again, in reality, it was a breathed-on version of an otherwise ordinary family car. Ford was exceptionally good at creating great appeal, supported by the firm’s weekend endeavours on racetracks and rally stages.
While the XR3i, also of the period, was a tamer but not much slower option, the RS1600i fell into the classification of ‘homologation special’. In other words, it was built and marketed to enable Ford to modify it more easily for competitive purposes, a factor that kept production volumes at a modest level. Completely original, it is one of just 560 examples finished in Sunburst Red. Not so many survive today. Complete with boxes of receipts and other ephemera, it is valued at around £40,000 but is sure to exceed its estimate by at least 50%.
The ‘big money’ Fords are still the Cosworth generation Sierras and actual ex-works rally cars, which change hands away from the auction scene for six-figure sums. However, if you want a stake in these lesser-generation but no less important mainstreamers, it is worth noting that their values continue to drive upwards.
Conclusion: During the heydays of these old Fords, buyers seldom considered the classic values; they were daily drivers in the main but, now, as genuine rarities, they are worth a king’s ransom. Visit the NEC in early November and you can see a wealth of classic cars and even indulge in the odd snap purchase of something collectible!