Prized Companion
Classics Monthly|Issue 260

Originally the second prize in a national driving competition for lady drivers, this Escort XL is now a cherished family heirloom.

Iain Wakefield

In these days of over-zealous political correctness, it’s a brave soul who dares to comment on the abilities of women drivers, but back in the early Seventies it was a very different matter. Female drivers in those days came in for a lot of stick from their male counterparts and in an attempt to dispel the age-old myth that men were more competent behind the wheel than the fairer sex the Daily Mail ran a series of annual competitions to find the nation’s most proficient women drivers.

A typical headline in the paper during the period these car craft competitions were taking place claimed the contestants all had 'nerves of steel but still drove like angels'. One of the angels who took part in this gruelling driving competition three years running was Rosemary North, a telephonist and mother of four from Brampton in Northamptonshire.

The first time Rosemary took part in the competition was in 1971 when she came 17th. Encouraged by her husband to try again, she entered the 'Daily Mail Woman Driver of the Year' competition again the following year and this time came fourth, with her skilful car craft winning her a caravan. Buoyed on by the success, Rosemary decided to enter the competition once more in 1973 when the top prize was a brand-new Ford Capri. Although Rosemary didn’t manage to win the Capri, she came second and won the bright red MkI Escort 1300XL featured here.

Rosemary used the car as her everyday transport for quite a few years and during the late Eighties she would occasionally take her grandson David Green to school in the Escort. One day, David asked if could have the car when he grew up, as he really liked it. David’s grandmother stuck to her promise and eventually presented him with the car when he turned 18 – he’s owned TBY 3M ever since.

“We call him Toby due to the letters on the number plate. Grandma’s Escort became my daily transport between 2000 and 2005, at which point the car was doing over 30,000 miles a year,” explained David. “Unfortunately my pride and joy was hit head-on by a people carrier in December 2005 and ended up being written off by the insurance company”.

Although that would normally have been the end of the road for Toby, David managed to purchase the salvage off the insurance company and by 2009 the Escort had been restored back to its former glory. These days David and his partner Andrea only use the Escort on high days and holidays, with one of the last long-distance trips the couple made in the car being in June to take part in the Classic Ford Show at Santa Pod.

Last year, Andrea gave birth to a baby daughter and David had rear seat belts fitted to the Escort so they could all go out and about in the car as a family. David claims the rear seat belts are the only non-standard parts permanently fixed to the car and he's proud to have managed to keep his Seventies Ford as original as possible.

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Issue 260