The Ford Escort XR3, introduced in 1980, garnered popularity as a competitor to the Volkswagen Golf GTI. With its 1.6-litre CVH engine and distinctive cosmetic enhancements, the XR3 boasted impressive performance and aesthetic appeal, solidifying its status as one of the best-selling hot hatches in the UK. However, despite its initial popularity, surviving examples of the Halewood-built XR3 have become increasingly rare, with fewer than 200 carburettor models still navigating UK roads.

Tolman, a company known for its restomods on older hot hatches, has revealed its latest masterpiece, bringing one of those 200 cars back to its former glory. The meticulously restored 1981 Ford Escort XR3 is said to be even better than new after a thorough 18-month restoration process. 

Gallery: 1981 Ford Escort XR3 by Tolman

Acquiring the car as an unfinished project from another restorer presented its own set of obstacles, with missing parts and uncertainties surrounding the previous work done. Employing innovative techniques such as additive manufacturing for hidden clips and smart repairs for sun-damaged plastics, Tolman ensured that every aspect of the XR3 restoration met the highest authenticity and quality standards. 

The 1.6-litre engine under the bonnet featured a twin-choke Weber carburettor and generated 95 bhp and 98 pound-feet of torque. Those early hot Escorts – before the arrival of the fuel-injected XR3i models in October 1982 – had four-speed manual transmissions. Power was routed to the front wheels for a 0-62 miles per hour acceleration in 9.6 seconds.

The owner of the restored Escort XR3 intends to showcase the vehicle at various car events and concourses in 2024, allowing enthusiasts to appreciate its genuine 1980s hot hatch vibes.