1982 FORD XR3View vehicle description
Project “Erika”, the development of the third generation of Ford’s successful Escort model, produced a very different car from the first two versions. It had front-wheel drive with independent suspension and the hatchback format replaced the booted saloon as the most common variant along with estates, cabriolets and vans.
Launched with the all new car in autumn 1980, were the all new overhead camshaft CVH engines for the mid-range 1.3 and more powerful 1.6 models. A car to suit everyone, the Escort was available in Ford’s usual trim hierarchy of Popular, L, GL and Ghia. To compete in the burgeoning “hot hatch” market, Ford also introduced the XR nomenclature (reportedly derived from “eXperimental Racing”) giving the warmed up version of the Escort the moniker XR3.
The XR3 had uprated suspension and various cosmetic enhancements and was initially powered by a tuned version of the 1.6-litre CVH fed through a twin-choke Weber carburettor which produced 96PS. In early 1982, a track-inspired limited edition RS1600i (115PS) was produced with, as the suffix suggested, fuel injection. This was then fitted to what became known as the XR3i from October 1982 producing 105PS. Two years later, the final Mk3-based performance model arrived - the 132PS RS Turbo - but production was again limited and the car wasn’t a huge success, largely due to criticism of the underlying Mk3 chassis.
In 1986, the fourth generation Escort - essentially just a facelift on the model it replaced - continued production of the updated XR3i and second-series RS Turbo until 1990, although remaining stocks sold through to 1992.
Built at Ford Germany’s Saarlouis plant in February 1982 for the French market and first registered in April the same year, this left-hand-drive XR3 is one of the last non-fuel-injected hot Ford Escorts.
There is little documentation from its time in France, but we understand that it had two owners, the second giving the car a number of cosmetic additions and modifications. Didn’t many of us enjoy doing such things in the ‘80s and ‘90s though?
The car has reportedly been tucked away “dans un garage” near Perpignan in the south of France since the mid ‘90s - the “vignette automobile” sticker in the windscreen is from 1995 and it was mandatory that cars should display this proof of vehicle tax until 2000. The registered owner lived near Laon, 35 miles northwest of Reims in the far north but kept the car at their holiday home near the Pyrenées.
It was bought by a dealer in July 2020 and brought to the UK. It has been given a light service, new battery and tyres and the engine is running again. The HMRC NOVA (notification of vehicle arrivals), the first step on the way toward UK registration, has just been completed.
It is now looking for a new owner to recommission it back to full road-going condition and, assuming a love of originality wins the day, the removal of its aftermarket styling in favour of the factory look. Read on for more detail on what does and doesn’t work and what is and isn’t original.
On the Outside
At first sight, this XR3 looks a bit of a jumble of parts but, on closer inspection, you can see that most of the original body panels and parts remain underneath the multifarious body kits, styling add-ons and decals.
Those who know their fast Fords from this era will be able to spot the aftermarket front valance, wheel arches, side sill skirts, rear hatch wind deflectors, bonnet intake shrouds and front grille with integral driving lamps. Most of these look to be secured merely with self-tapping screws so could be easily removed to take it back towards its original look.
Cognoscenti and the layman alike will also pick out the RS1600i bonnet graphics and, if they open the boot, see the now-detached “Escort XR3” rear reflector panel - none of which are original Ford. There are also Griffe RS stickers around the car which may refer to the supplier of some of these customiser parts (Peugeot buffs will be familiar with Griffe special editions) and they might be desirable to retain.
The car’s factory colour was Sunburst Red and much of what you see seems true to the original, if perhaps subject to slight fading compared to the less exposed paintwork in the engine bay and door shuts.
The exterior paint is cracking and peeling in a number of places, especially across the bonnet and scuttle and there are small bubbles of rust in the lower door corners. Some of the black window surrounds are also a little corroded. In terms of other defects, the driver side door mirror glass and bracket are broken and the front bumper appears to be slightly bent. All this aside, this XR3 seems remarkably solid; not completely rust-free but likely the best you’d find unrestored.
The car sits on what look to be its original 14-inch Cloverleaf alloy wheels, which are in a fair condition and have been recently refitted with Haida tyres all round.
On the Inside
The inside appears in better condition than the exterior and largely original. Yes there are some additional instruments which have crudely sprouted from the dash where a central mono speaker would have been, and the odd bit of extra switchgear in the centre console, but everything else seems to be original, or as near to it as possible, including the minimalist 2-spoke steering wheel.
The interior trim looks like the original Shark Grey with Red cloth - although possibly looking a bit more blue than it did when new - and the seats are in a good condition all round. A little stained on the driver seat but otherwise tidy and intact throughout. The carpets too could do with a clean but seem in good order.
The dash top has cracked in several places, especially across the instrument binnacle and the rear parcel shelf has the tell-tale holes of an earlier entertainment upgrade, as many cars of this era suffered at the hands of more plugged-in second or third owners.
The car was factory-fitted with electric windows, manual sunroof and “remote” mirror adjustment via small joysticks on either side. We have tried most of the electrical equipment and whilst some things are working (front wipers and fan), some are not (electric windows and rear wiper). The new owner will have to work their way through the car’s equipment as part of their recommissioning.
Under the bonnet - which itself is in remarkable shape underneath - the engine bay is honest-looking and nothing appears to be missing. There are no signs of corrosion around the bodywork inside and the engine and ancillaries all appear in pretty good condition considering the quarter-century it was laid up somewhere. There is only surface rust on a few items such as the brake servo, the back of the fan housing and the headlamp bodies.
The undersides of the car are pretty clean and, aside from patches of rust on some of the structural bracketry and steering/suspension linkages, it appears in reasonable order with no obvious signs of previous welding. The underbody is well covered in underseal, so we can’t be certain what condition the floor pans are in, but clearly a new owner should expect to carry out a number of renewals or repairs down below.
Opening the boot, the hatch gas struts hold up well and the rubber seal appears intact. With the carpet missing, the condition of the metal floor can easily be seen. Again, it is remarkably solid and only in the spare wheel well are there a couple of patches where tiny tin-worm holes are starting to appear. There’s no spare wheel present, but there is a jack and wheel brace. One of the rear light cluster bulb holders is broken, preventing the clip from engaging, so it would need replacement or repair.
As ever, especially with a project car, we have tried to be thorough with our description and photographs but would encourage a personal inspection of this XR3. We have it with us at our new HQ near Abingdon and would welcome any potential bidders using the ‘Contact Seller’ option to arrange a visit. Those not wishing (or able) to travel can request a video call and we can walk and talk you around the car.
There is very little paperwork with this car. The French registration “carte grise” document shows the previous ownership title, important for re-registration in the UK.
Additional paperwork shows the NOVA submission and the purchase of a new battery, plugs, oil and filters just last month. We can report that the engine starts and runs but has a noticeable ticking coming from the top end. The brakes are barely functioning though so we wouldn’t recommend that anyone tries to move it far under its own power.
The odometer currently shows 58,563 km (36,000 miles) which is plausible if the car hasn’t been out and about for 25 years - but in the absence of any corroborating paperwork this cannot of course be warranted.
We’ve checked the codes on the slam panel VIN and build options plates and we are satisfied that they validate this car to be what it claims to be - a 1982 Ford Escort XR3, with a 1.6-litre engine and a 5-speed manual gearbox, in Sunburst Red made in Germany for the French market.
What We Think
Carburetted XR3s are not so easy to find now, especially ones that haven’t been restored. There are believed to be fewer than 400 XR3s in the UK and only around 1 in 6 are registered for the road. This remarkably solid and relatively unmolested left-hand-drive example offers a great opportunity for a new owner to give it a full mechanical recommissioning and to either repair and renovate the trick bodywork or return it to its original shape and spec.
This characterful and probably low mileage XR3 is being offered with NO RESERVE but we think its value will sit somewhere between £5,000 and £15,000. Once sorted, these cars are very usable and superb fun to drive.
Although left-hand-drive cars aren’t made for the UK’s roads, the Mk3 Escort has great all round visibility, so it shouldn’t prove much of an issue, after all you wouldn’t be using it every day. It’d be perfect for a continental trip too - maybe a homecoming tour around France?
Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the ‘Contact Seller’ button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance, Classic Concierge for storing your car plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.
BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.
Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.
Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.
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