Escort Upgrades - Suspension & Steering

Suspension
Nearly all suspension components from all the models of the MK3 and MK4 escorts and Orions are interchangeable as the setups are virtually the same with the following exceptions.

Front strut tops on pre-may 1983 cars
Front Track Control Arms on pre-may 1983 1.1 litre cars
Front Track Control Arms between MK3 & MK4 (different lengths)
Front Anti-Roll bars between MK3's and MK4's
RS1600i & Series 1(MK3) RS Turbo Front Anti-Roll bars
MK3 & 4Rear Tie-bars (slightly different length and location)
Shock and Spring ratings

The rear wishbones from some later (MK4) cars are also slightly modified with an additional bracket to which an anti-roll bar is attached, but these can still be fitted to earlier cars without an anti-roll bar fitted.
Some of the angles of the suspension geometry were changed for the mk4 car such as the camber on the front wheels. This was achieved by lengthening the Track Control Arms, hence them being different. Another area that was changed was the location of the front mounting/pivot point of the rear suspension tie bars which resulted in these being of a different length also.
The front strut tops on pre-may 1983 cars have a different mounting using two retaining bolts for the top mount as opposed to later cars that have a reformed top mount on the inner wing and use the shock strut top bolt to hold it in place.

The front track control arms (TCA's) on pre-may 1983 cars fitted with a 1.1 litre engine where of a pressed steel design with a separate replaceable ball joint at it's end. It also used a different tie-bar setup with no anti-roll bar fitted. These parts can be fitted in whole to other MK3 cars but there is little point in doing so. The standard suspension set up found on higher spec and later MK3 cars can be fitted to vehicles with this set up already in place (i.e. if your car is a pre may '83 1.1 litre model it is possible to bolt on the front anti-roll bar and TCA's from a MK3 XR3i).

The next alteration is between the MK3 cars anti-roll bar and the MK4's. As far as I am aware the actual anti-roll bars themselves are the same but the mounting plates are different. The difference is in the number of and location of the plates mounting bolt holes. The MK3 cars plates are secured to the shell with four bolts on each plate, two securing it to the front cross member on each side of the car and two securing it to the respective inner wing. The MK4 car however has only three securing bolts with only one bolt locating in the inner wing.

The shock absorber and spring ratings differed according to the specification of the cars, the XR3 had a harder setting than standard Escorts and the XR3i was lower and stiffer still. The MK4 XR3i was actually fitted with a softer setting of shock absorbers and springs so fitting these to your MK3 would actually be a down grade. However, apart from the front struts of the pre-may '83 cars as already mentioned, it's all transferable. More information can be found in the relevant page of this section.
The rear suspension is identical on all models (except MK3 & 4 Rear Tie-Bars) with the exception of those fitted with a rear anti-roll bar. In this case the rear wishbones have been modified with an extra bracket welded to them to facilitate attachment to the anti-roll bar. Other than the extra bracket, these wishbones are the same pressing as all other rear wishbones MK3 & 4 and so can safely be fitted to a car that does not have a rear anti-roll bar. For instructions on fitting a rear anti-roll bar to your vehicle see the relevant page of this section.

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Steering
There have been few changes to the steering system on the MK3 & 4 Escorts/Orions throughout the vehicles production life and none were ever fitted with power steering. However, those parts that did change are worth mentioning. They are:
Steering column outer between MK3 and MK4 cars
Steering Rack on post September 1988 cars
The steering rack of pre-may 1983 cars is also slightly different but this only comes to light if you try to overhaul it. For all intents and purposes it is identical in operation and directly exchangeable for the post-may '83 rack.
The steering rack on post September 1988 cars is of a 'variable ratio' design to try to give greater response at high speeds and allow easier maneuvering when parking. It too is a direct swap for the original.
The steering column outer fitted to MK4 cars has a different top casting to those fitted to earlier cars to accommodate the new switch gear. The MK4 column will bolt into the MK3 but isn't a straight swap. You'll have to use MK4 switch gear which means swapping the electrical connectors on the wiring loom, and you'll also need to use the MK4 steering wheel for the horn and the MK4 column shrouds. I suspect you'll find that it will all foul the MK3 dashboard as well as the column apertures are of different sizes. However, if you are planing on a MK4 Dash conversion then you will need this part.
There is one other 'extra' to be found on Escort Cabriolets from January 1987 onwards. An additional steering column brace is fitted to these cars between the column and the drivers door post. This is intended to stiffen the column and reduce vibration. It can be fitted to any car and the bracket is still available from Ford dealers. It simply entails the drilling of a bolt hole in the door pillar, the position of which is determined by holding the brace in place and marking the position of the hole.

Upgrades

The mk3 & mk4 Escorts were well catered for in their day by the aftermarket tuning companies but there were also improvements to be made from the Ford parts bins depending on the spec of your car.

Bushes
I bought a set of budget poly-bushes for my car. After much difficulty in trying to achieve a satisfactory fit I relegated them to the dustbin and invested in a full compliment of Superflex poly-bushes instead. There was a rather large difference in price but it was definitely worth it. Remember, there is more to a poly-bush than just the polyurethane part itself; the steel sleeves are just as important and form the main load bearers between the suspension components. The cheaper efforts that I first try'd simply didn't bother using an outer sleeve which beggars belief! Instead they were designed to use sheer bulk to try to fill the gaps. Once the car was completed and back on the road (with lowered stiffer suspension to really work those bushes) the handling was superb (for a floppy bodied cabriolet anyway).

Springs & Dampers
There are various Spring & Shock packages available for the Mk3 & 4 Escorts and all are interchangeable with the exception of early front struts as described in the compatibility section.
One thing to bear in mind if your car is a cabriolet like mine, some manufacturers of suspension kits list the Cabriolet alongside the Orion variant. This is because they supply slightly higher rated rear springs for these two cars to allow for the increased weight at the back of these models.

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RS1600i / Series 1 RS Turbo Front Tie-Bar Assembly

Proper motorsport pedigree suspension for the front of your mk3!

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Rear Anti-Roll Bar

More common on Orions than Escorts so you probably haven't currently got one.

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The contents of this website are purely a reflection of my own experiences and knowledge gained whilst working on my various projects. Anything you do based on what you have read here is done so entirely at your own risk.
Personally I wouldn't trust some like me with a lawn mower! You have been warned! Flapper-bat!

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