But plans changed when Ford bought Volvo and their five-cylinder engine became available instead.
When Ford launched the new Escort in 1991, Autocar and other magazines were unsparing in their criticism of it. Ford was shocked to its core and promised to do more than better; it vowed to make the Focus the absolute best.
Behind the scenes there was a lot of thought about what to do: reskin the Escort or start afresh? One star in Ford’s range was the Puma, designed by Ian Callum, so thoughts turned towards tapping in to that car’s magic. This was one of the 1994 ideas from that programme, codenamed CE99. If the Puma had had a four-door sister, then this would be it.
But when the American arm of Ford joined forces with the Europeans, everyone across Ford’s world decided it was better to start afresh rather than reskin the Escort. This slippery-looking thing was cast aside and the Focus kicked off.
Long ago, before SUVs ruled the earth, there was an emergent category of road-biased 4x4s like the Land Rover Freelander. Then Ford boss Jac Nasser wasn’t going to let Land Rover or competing brands from Japan gobble up market share, so he tasked the Ghia studio with finding a solution.
Their inspiration – if you can’t guess by the colour – was a vehicle of JCB-like, go-anywhere toughness. The Italians made two full-sized clay models and this one was Jac’s favourite. Ghia’s special skill was making one-off, fully drivable prototypes. They carefully picked apart a mid-’90s Escort RS2000 4×4, then rebuilt it as the Alpe and painted it metallic olive rather than JCB yellow. The compact off-roader looked fresh, but murky green wasn’t a good colour for it. It was displayed twice, but after Ford bought Land Rover it was never seen again.
Mass-market manufacturers had been producing large executive cars for decades. But as the new millennium dawned, the prestige German brands were beginning to dominate the class. Ford had a choice to make: did it launch a replacement Scorpio based on the Mondeo, or a 2+2 coupé spun off the family car? Ford’s German design team was tasked with creating something every bit as graceful as a Mercedes-Benz. They succeeded, too, in a greatest-hits style of German premiumness.