When it launched the Escort as the replacement for the long-running Anglia in 1968, even Ford could not have imagined the scope of success the model was to achieve. The Ford Escort went on to become one of the most popular family cars in Europe and Britain’s bestseller for the next couple of decades. Its clever mix of compact exterior dimensions, decent passenger and cargo space, rewarding dynamics and a reasonable price tag made it an instant hit among buyers. And fuelling its popularity was its spectacular record in rallying.

This successful streak continued for four generations, but Ford fell victim to the problem that has plagued many a successful car manufacturer — complacency. It let the Mk4 Escort go on for a bit too long and by the late Eighties its age was all too obvious, both in terms of styling as well as the mechanicals. Although late, a thoroughly redesigned and upgraded replacement would have kept the momentum going and brought the Escort right back into the game.

But the Mk5 Escort was anything but that. The new iteration’s styling was extremely uninspiring and more shockingly the engines were carried over from its predecessor. This, along with unfavourable reviews about its lacklustre handling dynamics sullied the Escort’s image further, and despite a hasty design makeover in two years and a new generation in five years, Ford couldn’t stall the slide. The Mk5 Escort marks the beginning of the end of a momentous model line for Ford, and is an example of a botched opportunity by the Blue Oval.