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Ford Escort RS2000

Published: 31st May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Escort RS2000

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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their name on rally stages and race tracks, and still provide a fine drive today

Blame it on Ford’s resounding success in the 1970 World Cup, the one from London, through Europe and South America to Mexico City. Four years after the euphoria of 1966, England failed in its efforts to hold on to football’s greatest prize, but the Blue Oval took four out of the top six places on the world’s longest rally - and a new car was borne.Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz came out clear winners in Central America with the hybrid 1850cc, pushrod-powered version of the Escort BDA, and it set Ford thinking. In double quick time (rumour has it that the only ‘development’ the finished car had was a blast down the famous A127 Arterial Road in Essex and a half an hour ticking over to check the cooling ability!) the Escort Mexico appeared, with the simple buteffective 1600cc engine from the Capri GT replacing the complex (and expensive) 16 valve alloy head BDA in the Mk1 bodyshell. And queues formed at the special Rallye Sport dealers who sold the car. Within a short time, the Mexico had established itself as the car for club motorsport. Simple to maintain and run, eminently tuneable, strong and reliable, it spawned one-make race and rally championships and was the springboard for many a driver aiming for the top, such as 1979 world F1 champ Jody Scheckter. At the instigation of Ford motorsport supremo, Walter Hayes, a special ‘bespoke’ factory was established at South Ockendon, Essex, in 1970. Ford AVO (Advanced Vehicle Operations) assembled first the RS1600 and then the Mexico on the ’mini’ production line.
Then, in 1973, came the RS2000 with the 2.0 power unit from the Mk3 Cortina GXL , which proved to be an even bigger seller. But a year later, with the coming of the Mk2 Escort, AVO closed. The fans could not understand it. In only four years Ford had created not one, but two legends and then it had shut up shop. The new shape RS2000 was a great car (the Pinto-engine Mexicos that followed, not so accomplished) but it wasn’t the same heart-thumping thing. In essence the Mexico (and Mk1 RS2000) were versions of the RS1600, with the same, famous, strengthened ‘Type 49’ bodyshell. The three-rail gearbox and ratios, 3.77 rear axle, front disc and rear drum brakes, coil-spring strut front suspension, leaf sprung live rear axle, and rack and pinion steering were all pure RS, too. Only detail trim changed. It was the engines that made the difference. The 1599cc ‘Kent’ cross-flow unit with single, dual choke carburettor produced 86bhpin the Mexico; the 1993cc single overhead camshaft unit of the RS2000 (which started life in the USA in the Ford Pinto) was rated at a (then) heady 100bhp.Nowadays Mk1 Mexicos and RS2000s are much sought after, for road or historic motorsport. In a way they were Ford’s ‘Mini Coopers’, and like the Mini a whole industry grew up supplying tuning parts - something that’s still going on. Not bad for a car made in a ‘skunk factory’.

Ford Escort RS2000 Summary


Production (1970-74); Mexico Mk1: 9382; RS2000 Mk1: 4324


Engine: Mexico - in-line, four-cylinder, (Kent) crossflow, pushrod. 1599cc. Power: 86bhp. RS2000 - in-line, four-cylinder, (Pinto) single overhead camshaft. 1993cc. Power: 100bhp.
Gearbox: Four speed, all-synchro, ‘three rail’ shift.
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front, MacPherson strut type with coil springs and anti-roll bar; rear live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and radius arms. Inclined tubular shock absorbers (vertical for ‘73).
Brakes: Front 9.625in dia. discs; rear 9.0in dia.drums. Servo assistance.

Claim to fame

Developed from 1970 World Cup Rally winning Escort.
Star of Ford-promoted one-make race and rally championships.
Celebrity race cars (Ford and Shell).
RS2000 version achieved 1-2 (Roger Clark & Gerry Marshall) on 1974 Tour of Britain.
Hugely successful club competition car from 1970-on. Still going strong in historic rallying and racing!

Where to buy

Watch the For Sale columns of the numerous specialist Ford publications. Cars with history sometimes appear at auction. Search the net!

What to look for

1100 and 1300 Escorts with bigger “Mex” engines! Real Mexicos or RSs have Type 49 bodyshells with flared wheel arches, 2000E-type gearboxes and big disc brakes. If you’re an RS virgin, talk to someone at the RS Owners Club for advice.

What to pay

Tricky one this. Anything below £5000 is not likely to be an original. If you want a historic rally car, several specialists will build one from scratch for £40,000. Don’t be tempted to ‘customise’ a standard car - you’ll lose value and won’t be the same.


RS Owners Club;; Tel: 08702 406215.
Sporting Escorts Owners Club;; Tel: 01359 231384.

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Great for Post-Historic category (1968-74) rallying and several classic saloon race championships. A well-prepped car will hold its own in any club auto test, trial or sprint, even now. A great mass of tuning goodies is still available. Take a Mexico to 1760cc (85mm pistons) and add twin sidedraught Webers for 120bhp; the same carbs, head mods and a change of camshaft have an RS2000 knocking on 150bhp. Kent engine is very strong, a badly tweaked Pinto unit can suffer from camshaft and valve gear failure.

Competitive Rating: 9

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