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Ford Escorts RS2000

Ford Escorts RS2000 Published: 2nd Nov 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Escorts RS2000
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Terrific performance-bred family of Escorts that offer pure and simple fun. Easy to own but prices are soaring across the board and as a result fakes are rife so buy with care

Who doesn’t love a Fast Ford? The Blue Oval has had the knack of producing fun family cars for more than half a century, starting with the Lotus Cortina. But it’s the evergreen Escort that’s offered wider appeal since the late 1960s care of highly affordable prices and an easier time running one that really was no harder or dearer than the neighbour’s company car 1100L…

With Lotus Cortinas now well out of reach of most enthusiasts. the appeal of performance Escorts hasn’t escaped enthusiasts of late – both of the classic and max power fraternity – and as a result values of these more exhilarating Escort have soared in values to eye-opening proportions. It’s 35 years since the much loved rear-wheel drive Mk1 and Mk2 ranges were replaced by the all new front-wheel drive XR3 but don’t delay a day longer if you want one before prices, already fast rising, really spiral out of reach.


1967 Escort launched that November to replace the Anglia (which briefly remained in service) but earlier in the year Ford’s competition department had already instigated fitting the Lotus Twin Cam engine to produce a smaller, nimbler and 300lb lighter race/rally car than the Cortina. The Twin Cam also saw the first ‘RS’ bodyshell, called Type 48.

1968 1300GT joins range, the engine essentially being a Cortina 1600GT unit downscaled to 1.3-litres and a useful 72bhp. The GT was based upon the plusher Super models plus boasted disc brakes and a closer ratio gearbox.

1970 RS1600 introduced to replace the Twin Cam, which survived for another year. It used the iconic Type 49 shell, housing a detuned 120bhp Formula 2 1.6-litre 16-valve racing engine based upon the 1600GT block, albeit classed as 1601cc. Built at AVO it cost some £1500. Mexico launched to commemorate the Escort’s victory in the London-Mexico (World Cup) rally; essentially an RS1600 fitted with the 86bhp Cortina 1600GT engine. Costing just £1150 in 1970; 9382 were made.

1971 Often forgotten 1300 Sport introduced for the enthusiasts after a less expensive road and weekend competition car. Cheaper than the 1300GT, the Sport used a halfway house Type 49 shell with flared wings to accept 13inch wheels but with a basic 1100 interior.

1973 Luxury Sport joins range, badged 1300E complete with Cortina 1600E-style appointments and a vinyl roof. But the big news that year was the logical RS2000; an upmarket, more refined Mexico using the 100bhp Cortina 2000 GXL engine. At £1586 it wasn’t much slower than the RS1600 and far more reliable, small wonder 4324 were made.

1974 Around this time floorpans from the forthcoming Mk2 are adopted featuring upright rear dampers and an anti roll bar.

1975 The year started off badly with the closure of AVO making the new Mk2 mainstream builds. 1300/1600 Sports replaced the Mexico while the 1300E was displaced by the Ghia that was also available in 1.6-litre guise. The RS1600 was superseded by the RS1800 which used a new lighter all alloy BDA (Belt Drive, Type A) engine yet with slightly less power thanks to the deletion of the twin Weber DCOEs for a single unit from the V6 Capri.

1976 RS2000 and Mexico are launched, the former identified by more aerodynamic look with front and rear spoilers. The RS Mexico was basically an RS1800 now fitted with the ‘Pinto’ Capri 1600GT engine. However, this lower rank Escort wasn’t liked and dropped in 1978 after 2290 sales, in favour of a basic steel-wheeled RS2000 – in total over 10,000 versions were made.

1979 Run out sporting Escorts now included the special edition Harrier which was based upon the 1.6 Sport, officially said to have been marketed to commemorate Ford’s success in the RAC Rally. However, we have it on very good authority that it was instead marketed on the back of a special Escort devised by Ford’s PR dept that was to be used by ‘Terry MCann (Dennis Waterman) in a new TV series called Minder…

Also sneaking in to mop up Mk2s were Escort 1.6 GLs which may have looked like an ordinary family saloon but were 1600 Sports in disguise!


Fast Fords are fab to drive and none did it better than a well sorted rear-wheel drive Escort. Typically Ford, even the most highly tuned versions, such as the RS1600 and RS1800 could be used just like a 1300L if need be and almost as simple to maintain.

Real fun starts with the Mk1 Mexico with RS2000 the best all rounder, more so the excellent Mk2; it’s strange that the RS Mexico was so cooly received as it wasn’t a poor performer although the 95bhp 1600cc Pinto engine was never as lusty or free revving as the larger unit.

Common to all are slick gearboxes, predictable handling (if not roadholding) and an enormous feelgood factor. The droop-snooted RS2000 was so well sorted from the outset that it rather put the more specialist flat-faced RS1800’s nose out of joint, probably because with that 16-valve engine detuned to 115bhp it kicked out roughly the same as a good 2-litre and much easier to maintain Pinto.

Autocar called the GT with its “Superb gearchange… a very satisfactory little performer, it has a cheerful character full of eagerness” and the cheaper 1300 Sport, at less than £1000 “remarkable value… a good basis for a rally car” although thought the steering ‘sticky’ and – like all Escorts – prone to sidewind deflection.

Motor regarded the RS2000 “a delight to drive quickly along winding roads”, praising its “sparkling” performance and economy although was critical of its spongy brakes due to smaller rear drum brakes, as required on German cars then (to enable snow chain fitment, apparently).

Autocar felt that the Mk2 1600 Sport was a “stepping stone” sporty Escort to the RS models being “very economical and fun to drive”. Cars and Car Conversions broadly agreed calling the Sport “a very nice package” but considered the RS1800, now feeling strangled by just a single carb and certainly not worth the £1000 asked over the lively Sport. “It’s difficult to see exactly who will buy an RS1800… perhaps the RS2000 – when it appears – will be the ideal compromise,” it said. And so it was with plaudits gushing from all quarters including Motor: “This big-engined version of Ford’s best-selling family saloon is an excellent example of the sporting model.”


To cover every model and aspect would fill this magazine so we’ll just highlight the basics. Real power only starts with the 1600GT engine; you can’t enlarge a 1.3 but the larger unit can be taken out to almost 1900cc. There’s shed loads of tuning gear for the old ‘Kent’ ohv engine although if you want in excess of 100bhp then the Pinto engine is a better starting point. A cheap and effective alternative is to use a Mondeo Zetec engine which can be picked up for pennies. In 2-litre 136bhp guise, it kicked out more than an RS1600 ever did and nut and bolt fitting kits are available. The engine even mates up to a standard gearbox.

Few bothered fitting a Capri V6 engine, and this includes expert specialists such as Superspeed and Uren once the Cortina Mk3 Pinto engine came on stream because without serious chassis and geometry mods to make the Escort handle acceptably they are pigs; if anything the lighter Rover V8 makes a better proposition.

The beauty of all Escorts is that they accept modern ultra low profile big wheels and tyres without spoiling the looks.

One ‘mod’ that’s become almost a given is fitting a Sierra five-speed gearbox. It slips in nicely and that added overdrive cog makes a world of difference – the problem is finding one as most are now gone…

What To Look For


  • Spot a 49 shell. Look for strengthening gussets at suspension mounts (top and bottom plates), flared front wings, inner wing reinforcements, doubleskinned chassis rails, additional rear axle location arms, reinforced spring hangers etc.
  • Other pointers include special bulkhead rear seam. On RS1600 there is a welded bulkhead bracket for the throttle. Prior to Nov ’73 battery located in the boot.
  • Second-hand shells change hands for £5000 or so and new ones up to £20K if you find one! Incidentally the romance of a Type 49 shell is more prosaic as it was simply a code for a heavier duty shell used in some tougher terrain markets like Australia. Now every part you need to make a 49 are made but will never be worth as much.
  • Rust is a major worry beneath the window level so look everywhere paying close attention to the floors, A and B posts, inner wings, side rails, axle location points, bulkheads etc which is why many have been reshelled – perhaps not with a pukka Type 49 body…
  • More cosmetic than structural are sills, wings, door bottoms, valance panels, wheel arches and the double-skinned boot. Magnum Classic Ford Panels (01706 359666) sells Mexico wings for £340, Type 49 inner front wings for £306 and heater bulkhead repair panel (£84) for example. Ex-Pressed Steel Panels can also help
  • Watch for ex-race and rally cars bearing bad damage from a previous hard life. Check the screen surround for stress cracks
  • Despite their immense popularity AVO parts are thin on the ground as Ford discontinued supply quickly after the models were discontinued.


  • Starting with the Kent engine, these are faithful units that are easy to spot wear on in the form of smoking, fuming and undue noises. Parts supply is good but not exceptional.
  • Once the Pinto kicked its habit of eating camshafts it proved to be durable although the usual checks should be carried out and watch for worn carbs. Is it the right engine as it could be that a Cortina or Sierra unit has been fitted? Also, the RS Mexico, in common with Capri GTs had a tubular sports exhaust manifold.
  • The Twin Cam is pricey to repair and overhaul but thanks to modern materials you can build one that’s better than ever. Usual faults prevail; dodgy water pumps, worn timing chains (is the adjuster screwed right in?) and they are a known leaker. Are the carbs in good order and in tune? BDA is a case of two engines – former used 1600GT cast iron black while the 1.8 was all alloy. On all watch for smoking, bore wear, undue noise etc. Gosnay’s of Essex (see Trade Talk this issue) says it can find them easily enough.


  • Whichever gearbox is fitted (the 1300GT differs from the Mexico) there’s a good chance second gear will be worn and noisy. The lever bushes also wear, leading to a sloppy change.
  • Clutches take a pounding but a routine replacement plus you need to know what ’box is fitted. Is a wide ratio standard one now residing in the tunnel?
  • A vibration signifies the propshaft centre bearing has worn, if fitted but it’s an easy enough fix.
  • Suspensions are orthodox and just need routine checks for worn bushes, shot shockers, listing and so on. There’s a good chance that it’s been uprated and wearing poly bushing already so check.
  • The brakes were always disc/drum and may have been uprated either, for example, with Ford Capri 2.8i bits or aftermarket alternatives. Rear drum self adjusters fail leading to a long pedal travel.


  • Watch for fake RS models. Check VIN number with numerous owners’ clubs. AVO Mk1s start with BF18 numbers although some also bore a BB49 code. Mk2 Mexicos and RS2000s carry a GCAT number, RS8100 BBAT or GCAT with added GTAR code. Useful contacts are, www.resownersclub. and
  • Totally original cars are very rare as some form of tuning and altering has been carried out for road or competition work. Period tuning gear is worth seeking out as they will enhance the value.
  • Pukka RS2000 engines start with NE lettering while the exhaust manifold, while cast and similar to a Cortina/Capri one wears the RS logo.
  • Homespun Mexico and RS2000s are widespread and while they don’t command the value of an official car are perfectly okay – at the right price.
  • Aftermarket trim available. Watch for split dashs and sun ruined seats. RS badges cost around £30 a go (Newford Parts Centre) Classic Trim (http://www.classictrim. and On line, RS2000 decal kits can be had for £65 Mexicos over a tenner cheaper.

Three Of A Kind

The Capri outlived all rear-wheel drive Escorts and in general are usefully cheaper to buy, especially the strangely unloved Mk2 (1974-78) and most folks go for the Mk1 (69-74) and the Mk3 (78-87). Arguably not as sporty or as swift as equivalent Escort but superb in V6 form; cultured 2.8i Injection even boasted five-speed transmissions and limited slip diffs. Parts supply is as equally good as an Escort.
The XR3 took over from the RS line and – thankfully – was as good as a Golf GTi, especially when it gained fuel injection and a revised suspension. The RS badge returned in the motorsport-bred RS1600i and spread to the cracking RS Escort Turbos, culminating in the RS Cosworth (which also included a 4x4 RS2000 spin-off). All are cheaper than earlier RSs and equally good fun – the time to buy a good one is now.
Always in the shadow of the Escort, but soaring prices of the fast Fords has awakened interest in Vauxhall's rival which scores not only with significantly lower values but also a superior chassis. Best in lusty 2.3-litre form (which also includes saloons, fastbacks and estates) and none more so than the rare, rapid Firenza HP. Parts supply isn't anything like as Ford prolific but club support is good.


You can’t beat any fast Ford for fun and frolics and hot Escorts provide it in spades. Sadly, soaring prices (think £60k plus for top Twin Cams, RS1600/RS1800 and 25+ grand for RS2000s – and 50 per cent less for good examples) mean most RS models are no longer the working class wheels they once were – unless you’ve already got one, that is.

The RS Owners’ Club, who helped with our feature, says most cars are sold by word and mouth and few now come onto the open market – unless it’s a fake and this is something that you must watch out for.

Get past that hurdle and the rewards of buying a proper example are as good as they ever were and as their values are unlikely to fall you can’t afford to dither.

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