Bringing Back the MK2 Ford Escort
For my final Honours project, in my 4th Year studying Industrial Design, I was encouraged by my lecturer to head in the automotive direction. This was due to the fact that he had witnessed annoyingly persistent interest in car design, first hand. If a project didn’t have wheels, I was bleak, and scraped by on the skin of my teeth, (Minor exaggeration). Below is a quick summary of some of the major elements of my dissertation, and it's final design outcome.
Due to studying in South Africa, the project had to have local relevance. So I scanned through several car magazines, looked at trends and sales statistics and identified a gap in the South African automotive market. This gap, was small, affordable sports coupe’s. At the time (2016), we had only two options, a Kia Cerato Koup or a Toyota 86. Neither of which sold particularly well. A third, being the Mazda MX-5 NF was planned for our shores but I have still yet to see a single one on our roads or in a local magazine.
TIMELESSNESS & EMOTIONAL CONNECTIONS
A major part of my research was tackling planned obsolescence and timelessness. My design and the vehicle that was selected had to ignore short-lived automotive trends and aim to make a true emotional connection with future consumers. Both of these, via my findings, could be achieved through a revival of sorts. Reviving a car that was massively impactful in South Africa would automatically tug at the heart strings of consumers who were fond of the original, thus ensuring they’d hold onto it for longer than a maintenance plan would typically last.
And in order for this revival to be emotionally and visually successful, the design had to have very strong visual links to the original car too. When speaking of the Ford Escort, there was a prime example of how this wasn’t achieved back in 2014. Ford launched a sedan using the Escort nameplate which, on paper, had none of the sporty characteristics of its forefathers. And visually, I didn’t see much of a link to any of the previous Escorts, more of a baby Ford Focus sedan than anything. In short, using the word “Escort” doesn’t make it a revival, rather call it something else if it can’t live up to its name.
Now how did I get to the Mk2 Ford Escort becoming my design subject? Well, it couldn’t come from my own opinion, no, that would be bias. I had to interview a bunch of relevant industry professionals from owners of classic restoration garages, to automotive designers in industry. I asked all of them in my interviews what cars would be fitting to revive. All different answers, but from this I created a list. This list was then used to generate public surveys where a bunch of South Africans voted for their favourite car. This landed up being the Mk2 Ford Escort. It has major history in our country and was a huge sales success. I still see tons scattered on our roads today.
The Cherolet Chevelle actually had more votes, but the Escort votes had much more reasoning and local relevance.
PLATFORM SHARING & SUSTAINABILITY
Another big part of my research was the green word, “sustainability”, which has more and more relevance to design nowadays, automotive design included. So in order for my proposal to be sustainable, I looked at current industry solutions for cutting costs, modularity and R&D reduction. I found that platform sharing has major advantages, and is commonly used in the industry. For example, the Ford Focus and Volvo V40: same platform. The Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 124 Spider: same platform. Now while some may argue that this takes away from the car’s origininality and imposes tons of proportional restrictions, it also allows the car to be placed on a tried and tested platform, and makes it much more affordable to produce, and ultimately sell. Given that the Mk2 had a FR (front engine, rear wheel drive layout), it seemed only fitting to base my modernized Mk2 Escort on the Toyota 86 platform. When looking at the side-profile of the original Mk2 Escort VS the Toyota 86, they are very similar and made this an ideal match.
Thereafter initial designs were created. Pages upon pages of sketches and eventually some quick coloured renders were produced. Now being a dissertation, I had to keep ensuring no bias was involved, and sent out additional surveys of my designs to Mk2 Escort owners, enthusiasts and the general public. Once the votes were in, I was on my way to creating a final design. Tons more sketches were created, and then hitting some quick 3D prototypes using high-density polyurethane foam. The foam is super quick to shape and foam and allowed me to get my first physical feel on my designs, albeit in really rough form.
Next, the clay modeling began. A polyurethane base had to be used to take up the majority of the shape, because the Y2 clay I used was insanely heavy…and expensive. Basically, the clay was just for the outer surface. Weeks of sculpting, and tons of mistakes (being the only clay model I’ve ever made), the final design emerged. The details, like the wheels, grilles, etc, were all 3D printed from quick CAD models I created. Sadly, I was running under some serious time constraints to meet my final deadline and the final clay model had some funky proportions I didn’t have the time to fix. Even for my final setup and assessment, my Photoshop renders were done in virtually no time and on no sleep, and thus, were severely mediocre. But who am I to complain?....
So once graduated, and figuring out what to do with my life and my newly acquired degree, I had a lot of time on my hands, and thus, the Escort finally got the time and effort it deserved. Every CAD 3D model I produced for the clay model was reworked, redesigned and refined. I wanted to be happy with every detail on this car. I ditched the “drilled hole” grilles and went for a honeycomb mesh throughout.
Using the clay model as a base for my final (final) Photoshop renders, I created visuals I was finally happy with. I clearly couldn’t get enough of working on this considering this was no longer for marks, nor striving for distinctions. No, this was purely for my personal portfolio and attempting to push my design skills to new levels.
I hope this has given some insight into some of my design process and has peaked some personal interest. What is your take on my final outcome? Are you a fan of the Mk2 Ford Escort? And was the right Escort redesigned? Let me know in the comments below!