One special Ford Escort Turbo captured more money in an auction than an entire fleet of these cars. Of course, this model belonged to Princess Diana.
The Escort was one of the most popular cars in the UK during the 1980s and the early part of that decade saw one such car offered to the new princess as an engagement present from Prince Charles. It might seem strange that he offered his love a car and not jewelry, but during her time as a princess, we learned that Diana loved this little car and a couple of other Ford Escort models.
The Escort Sold at Recent Auction Wasn’t the Engagement Present
Although a thoughtful gift from Prince Charles, the Ford Escort Ghia sedan wasn’t the car that fetched $850,000 at auction recently. The original engagement present had a 1.6-liter engine and 79 horsepower, which wasn’t awful, but it was a bit ordinary and boring. Does that seem like a fitting gift for a woman of Princess Diana’s station and personality? It would prove to be a lovely gift, but not the car that she would often drive when she got behind the wheel for a bit of driving pleasure.
The Turbo Model Made History
The car that was recently sold at auction was Diana’s 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo. This car is truly a performance-oriented model of one of the most popular cars offered during the 1980s. Considering the time, this was truly a hot hatch with a rear wing and a powerful engine, fitting the princess’s taste in performance on the road. This car claimed the equivalent of $857,712 at auction in 2021, which was more than ten times the price of a pristine version of this car. This price is attributed to its original owner and her place in history.
Brits Love the Ford Escort
The Escort models that Diana owned were third-generation cars with the Mark I and Mark II models that became extremely popular with collectors and rally racers. This small car became one of the most popular cars in Britain and quickly hit the top of the UK auto market. So fast was the meteoric rise of the Escort that it only took two years in this market for the Escort to become the most popular car in the country. Is it any surprise that Princess Diana loved driving this car or that she owned three of them?
It’s a Small Car With an Incredible Performance Personality
The Ford Escort RS Turbo was the fastest model of the third-generation model of this amazing car. The engine brought us an aluminum head, an improved camshaft, and turbocharging right from the factory. The result was a truly hot hatch of the 1980s that became one of the most impressive performance cars in the market. The output for this version of the Escort was 132 horsepower and 133 lb-ft of torque. These might sound like paltry numbers today, but in the 1980s, these were excellent figures, especially for a car that weighed barely more than 2000 pounds. This meant the Escort Turbo was fast.
Ford Took a Risk With One of the Escorts
It was important for Ford to fight off the onslaught in the 1980s that was the Volkswagen GTI. They did this by developing a car that was an up-tuned version of the two-door Escort hatchback called the XR3. Eventually, this car would be called the XR3i, which used fuel injection to give it even more power. The new Escort XR3 had plenty of power, but the newness of turbocharging brought about a serious divide of drivers that would either love the added power of turbocharging or stick stodgily to the naturally aspirated power of the traditional Escort.
Princess Diana Wanted To Show Off
The original Escort Ghia given to her by Prince Charles, while serviceable and nice, wasn’t quite to Princess Diana’s taste. She originally chose a bright-red Escort convertible, which would certainly show her off and let her have some fun on the open roads. Unfortunately, this car was met with some serious pushback by her security detail as a car that was too high profile for the princess.
Eventually, Princess Diana and the Royalty Protection Command found a compromise. The car she would get was the Ford Escort RS Turbo that was painted black on the production line. This hot hatch gave the princess enough cover to blend in when necessary but also enough power and sporty features to have a bit of fun when behind the wheel.
Ford Agreed to the Black Paint Color for Three Models
Nearly all RS Turbo models of the Escort from the 1980s were painted white in the UK. That said, the Ford PR Division agreed to build three that were painted black. One was the car that Diana drove, and two were for her protection detail. While you might think that black cars would blend in, these three black Escorts would certainly stand out in a sea of the same Ford car on the road. Diana drove her Escort RS Turbo many times between 1985 and 1988. She often drove this car with her young prince children in the backseat with a plainclothes detective in the front passenger seat. Ah, the life of British royalty. Taking the kids on an outing requires an armed guard in the next seat.
From the Four Doors to the Free Spirit
The transition of Escorts for Princess Diana resembled her transition from expectation to reality. The Ford Escort Ghia that Prince Charles gave her was a relatively plain sedan that was useful and dutiful in its performance. The car Diana loved to drive was the Ford Escort RS Turbo, which was certainly a bit more fun and free-spirited. These cars resembled much of what was expected of Diana versus what she was actually like in real life.
Can you imagine being the bodyguard in the next seat while Diana was pushing the revs to the redline and carving up the corners in her Ford Escort RS Turbo? That person might have felt their own life was in danger with the princess at the wheel.
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