In the late ‘Seventies Ford Escorts were certainly everywhere but it was the humdrum Kent-engined, flat-painted, skinny-tyred versions that were on every British street. Just like this beige two-door 1100L in fact – almost certainly more of a rarity in 2015 than an ‘exclusive’ RS model.

In 1980 this was fairly near the bottom of the Escort ladder, but when you realise that the added equipment that marked out an ‘L’ model included front disc brakes, silver-painted steel wheels, reversing lights, houndstooth cloth seats and a laminated windscreen, you have to wonder exactly what (if anything) went into the lower Popular models. Although an Escort L had the option of 1.3- and 1.6-litre engines the original buyer of this one stayed with the 1100 Kent engine. He also talked the dealer, Godfrey Davis of London, into fitting a passenger’s side door mirror (for £15) and putting four gallons of petrol (at £1.14p per gallon) in the tank for a grand total of £3348 including all taxes. The Escort was to remain in the same family’s hands until late last year. Despite having covering only enough miles to warrant a couple of services ‘by the book’ the family had the car serviced very regularly and this Escort comes with a bulging history file recording 19 full services at the same garage between 1988 and 2008, and one that proves that in 2014 the Ford only covered 25 miles.

This Escort looks as good as you’d expect from a car that has covered so few miles, without a spec of rust to see outside and, more remarkably still, almost unbroken black undercoat protecting the vulnerable undercarriage. The chrome trim (another crucial part of the L specification) is still bright and the black plastics in the grille and air vents are still, well, black, rather than that dusty grey that most Ford external parts turned after a few years outside. The same goes for the inside; there’s no fading to the vulnerable vinyl and the brown/beige seat material has no wear, tears or fading.

To drive, the Ford feels as fresh as it looks, and it only takes a few hundred yards and a couple of roundabouts in this, one of the most basic and least powerful Escorts of its day, to see why so many of its brethren were snapped up to be turned into rally cars. The controls are all nicely direct without being too heavy on the one hand or over-sensitive on the other. The narrow tyres mean that the unassisted steering is beautifully communicative. The ride is a little on the firm side (perhaps ‘unsophisticated’ is a better word – there’s some constant fidgeting from the rear axle over all but the smoothest roads). The non-servoed brakes have absolutely no slack in the pedal (although they need a hefty shove before they start biting) and the gearshift is slick, light and manages to hit the sweet spot between letting you feel what’s going on without being notchy or difficult – it’s utterly unworthy of being in such a pedestrian car.

And pedestrian the Escort 1100L is. The Kent engine has a reputation for being rather coarse but here, in one of its smaller sizes, it is sweet and willing. You can work it hard across its rev range, taking every advantage of that perfect gearchange to keep it on song. After many, many seconds of busy and booming progress (despite the L model boasting ‘extensive soundproofing’ it still feels and sounds very tinny) you glance down at the speedometer and realise you’re doing all of 40mph. But the same qualities that make the Escort such a good candidate for a rally car also make it entertaining and involving to drive in its lower-power forms.

The vast majority of this Escort’s siblings were sent to the scrapyard years ago and a good proportion of the ones that have survived are now enjoying a second life tearing around the Welsh countryside. It would be sad if this one ended up with the same fate. Not just because it still has plenty of life left in it as it stands but because, surely, at least some of the more lowly Escorts should survive and be cherished?

The performance models may have secured the Escort’s iconic status but it was lowly models like this that people actually bought and used. That has to count for something? 

POWER:               48bhp
TOP SPEED:         84mph
0-60MPH:            19.8 secs
ECONOMY:         29.4mpg
GEARBOX:           4-sp man