End of the road for Ford's family favourite

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The Independent Online
Old cars do not die, they just change their names. The latest badge to fall from favour is one of suburban Britain's most loved: the Ford Escort.

Considered to be the marque's most popular name ever, Ford confirmed yesterday that production will cease in 2000. To add injury to insult, the company will waste little time easing the Escort out - and will be promoting its new model, the CW170, next year. Of course, we have been here before. The Mondeo replaced the Sierra, and the Escort itself replaced the tail-finned Anglia. Few thought the car would so effortlessly rise above its humble beginnings as a family saloon when launched in 1968.

The Mark I Escort (below) rolled off the production line as a sedate saloon which crawled from 0-60 in a hair-lowering 22.3 seconds, and eventually attained a top speed of 75 mph. Since then, the Escort has undergone five reincarnations. The latest 1.8 injection two-door cabriolet reaches 60mph in 10 seconds and has a top speed of 120 mph.

Rarely has a car been so successful. More than 18 million have been made since the original launch and 4.5 million have been sold in Britain, where it has become synonymous with boy racers and "first-car" families.

Thanks to its sporty overtones, it was guaranteed star appeal. The late Diana, Princess of Wales, was the proud owner of a 1.6 litre model and the former Chancellor, Ken Clarke, raced around in a red XR3i.

For Ford, which once revelled in the Cool Britannia image generated by the unique Britishness of its car fleet, Europe's shores are much more alluring. Instead of being built at Halewood on Merseyside, the Escort's replacement will be manufactured in Cologne and given its world debut at Paris next autumn.

And what's in a name? Quite a lot. Ford are paying an advertising agency pounds 500,000 to come up with a new one. Manufacturers know that if you choose the wrong moniker, the punters will vote with their wallets.

Etched on the tombstones that litter the great motor-makers' graveyard, are the improbable sounding Vauxhall Velux, Riley Elf and Sunbeam Stiletto. But it is not just yesterday's motorists that have suffered sniggers and wry smiles from fellow drivers. After all who admits they once owned a Nissan Charade or the unfortunately pronounced VW Sharan?