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Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Published: 20th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Pinto engine of RS2000 features optional Group I twin Solex carbs for up to 140bhp. Another worthy mod is the use of the Capri V Pinto engine of RS2000 features optional Group I twin Solex carbs for up to 140bhp. Another worthy mod is the use of the Capri V
Is it real or a fake? It’s easy to dress up an Escort so check with owners club (This one is the real thing) Is it real or a fake? It’s easy to dress up an Escort so check with owners club (This one is the real thing)
A proper RS2000 with standard RS alloys and body stripes. Not cheap to restore A proper RS2000 with standard RS alloys and body stripes. Not cheap to restore
RS Escorts and Mexicos feature Type 49 shell featuring these flared wings RS Escorts and Mexicos feature Type 49 shell featuring these flared wings
Original RS wheels are scarce and pricey but still look the best rims Original RS wheels are scarce and pricey but still look the best rims
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What are sporting Ford Escorts (and why should I buy one over a standard model)?

Simple. They are the faster, plusher derivatives of Ford’s best selling Mk1 and Mk2 ranges. The reason why you should opt for one over a standard model is not simply due to their superior performance suiting modern motoring better. These Escorts – be they Sports, RSs or even reputable hybrids – hold their value much better, too. So they are kinder to your head as well as your heart. Add the fact that these rear-wheel drivers are still such tremendous fun to own, maintain, tune and drive then why not join this Escort agency?

History

A full-blown history lesson could fill this entire magazine, so here’s a potted version! After the Escort’s launch back in late 1967, the swifter GT early in ’68. Based upon the 1300 Super it featured essentially a down-rated 1600GT Cortina engine, still kicking out a useful 71bhp for a similar performance. The GT also got a sports’ suspension with front discs Priced at around £900 it was decent value, too.

Around the same time Ford launched the Twin Cam. Think Lotus Cortina but in a specially uprated Escort and you’ve got it, but at some 300lb lighter it was (and still is) an amazing sports saloon, even at over £1100 in those days. The Twin Cam was soon replaced by the RS1600 (and with that the Lotus link was finally lost); a car virtually hand built at Ford’s newly opened Advanced Vehicle Operations in Essex (see story).

The advanced engine was a detuned F2 racing unit known as the BDA (Belt-Driven Anglia or Type A). This twin-cam 16-valver (a design now so common place!), 1601cc engine – still based around the trusty ‘Kent’ unit – developed 120bhp in road going tune. Using the posher upon Super trim (yet still with steel wheels and hub caps) plus with a totally reworked chassis, of course, the RS1600 cost a pricey £1500 back in 1970 but it become an icon.

Shortly after, Ford got around to doing what the tuning boys had been playing at for years – and officially slipped in the 86bhp Cortina 1600GT engine to produce the Mexico (so named after the Escort’s victory in the London- Mexico World Cup Rally in 1970). Rumour has it that this car was developed in months and ‘development’ only amounted to a ton up down the A127 in Essex before being left to idle for half an hour to check for overheating…

Whatever, it worked – so well that enthusiasts still bemoan that Ford never really replaced this car. Although stark in its De Luxe trim, the car’s simplistic design and nature ensured it was affordable (£1150), could be specced and modified to the hilt with approved conversions, yet was always tremendous fun on the road in standard guise and a massive hit in various forms of motorsport.

The Mexico was introduced around the time that the all-new MK3 Cortina MK3 was introduced and yet again, the tuning after market beat Ford into slotting the vivid Cortina 200GXL engine into the fun loving Mexico.But when Ford got around to it in 1973, it produced a superb car, effectively bridging the gap between the Mexico and the sophisticated yet prickly RS1600 with a sports saloon that was best out of the whole lot.

In fact such was the interest and popularity of the big-engined Escorts that the GT and the Sport models were effectively ignored. The Sport was launched in 1972 as a cheapskate GT using De Luxe trim and a lower axle ratio as it was aimed at the club motorsport competitor. Ford also went to the other extreme with the 1300E; essentially a forerunner to the MK2 Ghia models with Cortina 1600Etype appointments. A four-door was added to the line up in 1974.

The final big mod for the Mk1 came in 1973 when the chassis for the Mk2 was adopted early featuring rear anti-roll bar and upright dampers for better axle control. With the advent of the Mk2 Escort in 1975 came a new culture for sporting Escorts. Gone were those evocative names and the AVO factory. Now the in-house Escorts were simply called Sports. With the new, heavier, roomier and refined body (now with the option of family-friendly four doors) came more civility if slightly less raw fun. A posher take on the Sports were the similarly powered – but sumptuous Ghia versions.

In 1976 Mexico and RS2000 were relaunched. The former was – and still is – much ignored by enthusiasts. It’s a Sport but with an 95bhp 1600GT Pinto engine. It was a good car and fairly zippy too but was discontinued just two years later in favour of a cheapened RS2000. Ah yes that MK2 RS 2000! With its droopsnoot nose (resulting in some 60 per cent reduced lift and a drop in air drag by 16 per cent), this is perhaps the most liked and usable road-going sporting Escort of them all. It’s much more luxurious and civilised than the MK1, especially after the MK2 Mexico was dropped resulting in two derivatives of the RS2000 taking its place. Apart from the usual raft of Ford options, special X-Pack tuning kits (big-valve Group 1 heads, twin carbs, Rocket transmissions) a nice Custom trim pack was offered. In many was the popularity and bravado of the RS2000 rather put the RS1800’s nose out of joint.

Introduced at the time of the MK2’s ‘75 launch, but the adoption of a simpler single carb set up taken from the RS2000 reduced power to a quoted 115bhp – not much more than the RS2000’s 100bhp – although it’s tuning potential provided the bedrock of the MK2’s success in motorsport. Just over 100 were made up until its demise in September 1977 – and all but two of the 70 odd that survive are white!

Not all sporting Escorts shouted their speed. The special edition Harrier of 1979 was essentially a re-invention of the MK1 Mexico while certain last of the line basic L and GLs saloons also used the GT engine in a subtle manner…

Driving

Pure raw fun – that sums up the Escorts. In today’s terms they are rough and ready, but with those punchy engines and that classic slippery rear wheel drive handling (all using simple leaf springs remember!), few ‘moderns’ can dish up so much pure entertainment.

There are so few unmodified MK1 GTs and Sports around that you’d be pushed to find one, but even these are brisk enough for today’s cut and thrust. That said, it’s the Mexicos and bigger-block RSs that are the most coveted and deservedly so, with their razor sharp throttle responses, slick gearboxes and controllable handling.

Most reckon that the MK1s were the crisper but as so many Escorts are modified it’s unfair to make such a comparison these days. Much the same can be said for engine outputs – most seem tweaked in some shape or form – but for everyday reliability it is best to ignore the Twin Cam and RS1600/1800, as wonderful as they are, in favour of a good RS2000 or Mexico.

They’re Fords – so expect easy driving, simplistic controls and supreme user friendliness, all meaning they make creditable learner cars (if you can afford the insurance). On a motorway you’ll wish you had ear plugs as the fours peed transmissions really make these engines sing; many are now fitted with a five-speed unit taken from the Sierra and it’s a worthy and accepted modification.

Prices

Not cheap! Mk1 Mexicos cost from £2000 for a basket and perhaps£5- 7K for show car. Original RS shells alone can go for £4k! Add £1500- 2000 for an RS2000. Offers of over £25k have been turned down for concours MK RS 1600s. MK2s sell for around £6-8000 for a lovely RS2000 or £2000 for rough ones. Sports and GTs can be worth £3000, while the RS1800 will sell for £10,000 if original.

What To Look For

  • Is it real or a fake? It’s easy to dress up a base Escort and drop something better under the bonnet – and according to one club it’s getting worse as fewer genuine cars come on to the market. Check the VIN number with the numerous owners clubs if you are unsure of a car’s authenticity.
  • Genuine AVO Mk1s start with BF18 numbers although some also wore a BB49 code. On the MK2s, genuine Mexicos and RS2000s wear a GCAT chassis number (with GATR in the type box). RS1800s should be coded BBAT on very early models or GCAT with an additional GATRheaded code. Bear in mind also that the RS1800 used a similar gearbox casing to the RS2000 but fitted with different ratios.
  • Go-faster MK1 Escorts (apart from the Twin Cam and the 1300s) used that famous Type 49 stiffened shell with its special front wings. Look for the signs of an original body: strengthened gussets around the suspension mounts (top and bottom plates), flared front wheel arches, inner wing reinforcements, double-skined chassis rails, additional rear axle location arms, reinforced spring hangers and, on some, a rear splash guard (if it isn’t there then the brackets or holes should reside). Beware: some fakes are almost perfect…
  • On all RS1600s and some Mexicos the bulkhead’s rear seam is ‘cut and shut’ and flattened. On all RS1600s there is a unique welded bulkhead bracket for the throttle cable. Prior to November 1973, Mexicos and RSs had batteries fitted inthe boot.
  • Type 49 shells are available still and are being shipped over from Australia. Speak to an owners club for more details. Further indications of a genuine AVO car include special black headlining plus unique sports instruments and that RS steering wheel
  • .
  • Being a simple Ford you expect restoration and parts supply to be a simple walk in the park. Wrong! Owners clubs say that despite enjoying a strong after market back up, genuine OE parts are getting very thin on the ground (Ford discontinued supply very quickly after the cars’ demise) and restoring an RS Escort to show standard is a heck of lot costlier than perhaps you’d bargain for…
  • Rust is a big worry. Look for corrosion everywhere under window level… concentrating on the floor, inner wings, sills, floor pan, side members, boot, A/B posts, rear suspension axle hangers, front bulkheads and those infamous front struts mounts, which have probably been patched already at least once in their life.
  • Less serious rot spots are the doors, wings, outer sills, wheel arches valances, bonnets and boot lids. Did we leave out the roof! Okay but has the car been rolled…?
  • Mechanically they don’t come much simpler than this Ford, but the Twink and BDA are hybrid. Look for excessive smoking/leaking/oil usage, worn timing chains (check external adjuster for frequent adjustment), bore wear, failed water pumps and knackered Weber DCOE carbs.
  • Due to being designed with competition in mind, the BDA is a fairly tough unit. Watch for smoking, poor oil pressure and general wear. Penny to a pound it may have endured poor servicing – it’s a lot more complex than a Pinto! Original replacement pistons are no longer available by the way so expect an overbore.
  • Kent and Pintos are much simpler to check. The former is just sheer wear and tear while the Pinto’s only weak spots are (still) undue camshaft wear and worn carbs. Incidentally, the 1600GT Pinto wore a sportier tubular exhaust manifold.
  • Pukka RS2000 exhaust manifolds, although cast, wear an RS logo while the engine number should start with NE.
  • Gearboxes and axles are also long-lasting but will have probably taken a lot of stick; just the usual checks for wear and leaks suffices. Perhaps the biggest worry is that has any of these units been substituted for non-sporting units with the wrong ratios?
  • The rest of the running gear holds few surprises. Check for worn dampers, springs, anti roll bar and axle location bushes, split steering gaitiers, dud wheel bearings and general aging and decay.
  • It’s a fair bet that the car has been tweaked; few original remain – sadly. Watch for some subtle (and we have to say worthy) tuning, such as 1600GT carbs on 1300 engines, Capri V6 carbs sitting on RS2000 manifolds (a good mod), K&N filters, electronic ignitions and sportier heads/cams and so on.
  • Although there are still loads of Escorts on the roads, original panels are scarce. Ditto interior trim parts, so it may be prudent to buy a scrapper for certain bits. Authentic replicas of particular items such as the RS stripes and badging are not so much of a problem, thankfully.
  • Period tuning gear - such as X Pack and Ford homologated parts – are worth seeking out as they will help increase the value of a car, such as World Cup cross members, Gp1 twin carbs, Atlas back axles any Boreham bits and so on. The trouble is that most sellers know their worth too…
  • A MK1 Mexico or RS2000 estate? As AVO made bespokes, technically these were available to order but only a couple were officially made – as was a Mexico camper! GT estates were produced for a short time.

Verdict

Dagenham dustbins (yes we know they were also built in Germany and Spain) indeed! Escorts are fine uncomplicated classics and never better than in sportier form. If you’re after something that’s low on complexity and yet big on smiles per mile then you could do a lot worse than this Ford. The problem really lies in finding original cars these days.



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