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“Around the same time, Ford entered the sport with what has arguably gone on to become the most successful rally car of all time: the Ford Escort RS. Rally legends including Hannu Mikkola, Björn Waldegård, Ari Vatanen and Roger Clark all helped to take the World Rally Championship to a new level with their popular ‘sideways’ driving style.” The Early Years: 1973 – 1981. WRC.com
Since the very first huffers ‘n’ puffers of the late 19th Century, cars have been way more than a means of getting from A to B (or in the early days, a bit of the way to B). No, mankind’s competitive nature resulted in them quickly becoming the tools with which to demonstrate one’s ability and one such prowess barometer was Rallying. Gaining traction in the early 1900’s it morphed from simply finishing being the goal, through the regularity, endurance and navigation biased events of the 1930s to 1950s, into ones which rewarded outright speed. This was epitomised in the 1960s and 70s through to arguably international rallying’s peak with the mad and bad Group B of the 1980s. A victim of its own success, spectator interest manifested in massive, impossible to control crowds eventually did for those technological tour de forces, but for a halcyon period machines that had a more than passing resemblance to what you could buy in your local dealer’s showroom were the darlings of non-circuit based motor sport. Aside from the odd exotic (take several bows the Lancia Stratos and Alpine A110) throughout the 1970s, the winningest machines were based on humble family cars which of course was the whole point; win on Sunday (to do which you had to have had a pretty good preceding few days too), thereby proving your offering had reliability blended with speed and more than a dash of panache, sell on Monday. The very epitome of this was the Ford Escort in both MK 1 and bodily sharpened MK 2 forms; powerful (thanks to Messrs Costin and Duckworth), robust and light with all the mechanical bits and bobs in the right places it was arguably the dominant rally car of the 1970s. Popular and successful on the international stage (winning the Driver’s World Championship in 1979 and 1981), the Escort was also the clubman’s weapon of choice, especially in its country of manufacture where outstanding support from Ford of Britain’s competition department at Boreham made a competitive, home built rally car a feasible proposition.
Registered on 4th August 1977 as a humble two door 1.3 Popular, apparently within a week this Escort had suffered a ding to one of its rear wings. The current owner, then working in Ford’s parts supply chain, spotted it at the Chesterfield Main Dealers and was anticipating the sale of a new rear quarter panel to repair it but was surprised to hear the Pop was to be disposed of, despite being only lightly damaged; it turns out the first owner worked in insurance… Having acquired the now redundant shell the owner placed it into storage until 1983 at which point he embarked on the Escort’s transformation from utility run-around to full Works Group 4 specification rally car. As a Ford man he had access to all the drawings and parts from Boreham required to replicate the full house Works rally cars; these features are still evident on the car today and are detailed below. At this time the owner was well supported by sponsors such as Norwestern Turkey Breasts and Semperit tyres who maximised their investment by having the Escort on show at various public events and even using it to stage wheel changing competitions as shown in the photo gallery.
Based in North Nottinghamshire, ultra-competitive National Club rallying on the likes of the Dukeries Rally was available on the owner’s door step, though just three such events were entered, all during in 1984 (please see the photo gallery) before the car’s Pinto engine grenaded itself. It is worth noting that the Escort had by this stage covered something in the region of just 1,500 miles.
Undaunted the owner commissioned ex Downton Engineering Works engine guru Bill Quine of Manx Racing to build him a ‘bells and whistles’ replacement. Reputed to deliver a comfortable 200+ BHP and spin to over 9,500 RPM, the engine was only briefly test run with the intention of blooding it in 1988 on the Escort’s International debut in Iceland. Sponsored by Lloyds British and with travel and accommodation paid for by the organisers, things were looking good; unfortunately the event was cancelled when the rally’s funding fell through. Sadly the owner then sustained a serious arm injury so further rallying exploits were put on hold and the Escort never turned a wheel in anger again.
A plan to go circuit racing in the car was hatched and work to convert it for this purpose was carried out resulting in the lower and wider Continental liveried machine shown in the photo gallery. Regrettably the plan to race the Escort never reached fruition and it was eventually parked in the owner’s garage in the early 1990s where, aside from one house move, it remained until recently exhumed; please see the photo gallery.
Built with the very best of everything (and doubtless a hefty Ford employee discount) the Escort’s specification is hugely impressive. The body shell has been de-seamed with 30mm sections of MIG welding, gusseted, flitch plated, fitted with four link suspension boxes, a Panhard rod mount and outboard spring/damper turrets, while the front turrets have been reinforced with plates. An Alley Bars full roll cage is bolted in and a fireproof rear bulkhead has been installed. A Gartrac (the original supplier to the ‘Works’) Group 4 alloy front spoiler and front wheel arches have been fitted along with their “Monte Carlo” width rears. The bonnet and boot are lightweight fibreglass items with quick release catches while the correct front 1/4 bumpers and fibreglass boot spoiler are fitted. Minimal interior trim and plastic side windows also keep the weight down. Attention to detail is illustrated by the neatly shaped aluminium plates fitted over the leading edges of the rear lights to prevent them being ripped off by the local flora if you over do it with the oversteer.
Yet to be used in anger but doubtless needing a time-elapsed refresh, the Manx Racing 2.0 litre Pinto engine is described as ‘Full race’. It sports a steel crank and rods courtesy of Cosworth, Omega forged pistons with Esslinger 71 gram gudgeon pins, an EN36B steel flywheel and a sintered bronze paddle clutch. A Manx racing inclined port cylinder head running roller bearing camshaft fingers, Schmitthelm valve springs and titanium valve caps sits under a Manx Racing cam cover and a Lumenition ignition system is present. Though not currently fitted, twin Weber 48 DCOE carburettors complete with a Magard twin throttle linkage are mounted on a Lynx manifold while a Peter Gough exhaust manifold is also with the car. Replenished via a Monza filler cap of dustbin lid dimensions, the Titan dry sump lubrication system with Pace scavenge pump is hooked up to a remote oil filter and nineteen row Serck oil cooler.
Rebuilt by Rod Quaife the gearbox is Ford’s classic four speed unit though its ‘Rocket’ ratio gears are Quaife’s straight cut items, selected via a quick-shift lever. A disc braked Atlas axle containing a ZF limited slip differential is fitted.
The front suspension is via Bilstein strut inserts with a “Twin Cam” anti-roll bar (for improved castor angle) secured via a three double width mounting point anti-dive kit. A “World Cup” cross-member and Works quick rack are also fitted. The rear end is to Works specification; four linked with a Panhard rod and roller box single leaf slipper springs sporting alloy lowering blocks plus trick turreted dampers to which coil over helper springs have been added for circuit use.
Brakes are ventilated discs all round with AP Racing four pot callipers on the 10.4” fronts, an adjustable balance pedal box and hydraulic handbrake.
The Escort currently sits on some ‘slave’ alloy wheels but six genuine Revolutions in what looks like 8” and 10” widths accompany it.
Inside pretty much only the dashboard remains of the original trim and this contains just three instruments monitoring engine revolutions, oil pressure and water temperature with a supplementary switch panel to the driver’s left. A period deep dished Formula GT steering wheel, race seat and Luke harness plus plumbed in Halon fire extinguisher complete the interior.
In the boot a race capacity fuel tank has been fitted along with twin fuel pumps and two 12 volt batteries for 24 volt starting while the rear bulkhead has been fireproofed.
A quantity of loose parts accompany the Escort; the aforementioned Revolution wheels, a front strut brace, prop shaft, exhaust system, sump guard, a pair of Bilstein strut inserts, a pair of Wipac Hair Raiser spotlights, a heater assembly, steels wheels, brake disks and a box of assorted bits and bobs.
Various photographs accompany the Escort along with details of the Quaife Developments ‘box, results from the Dukeries Rally and a detailed specification sheet from the owner. A V5 showing the Registration Number VLO 643S is present and though the owner recalls noting back in the 1980s that all the quick rally cars seemed to have Irish Registration Numbers, no paperwork has been found relating to ‘LIA 6954’ currently shown on the car.
Given the Escort’s minimal use it is unsurprisingly in very sound, solid condition though having been idle for so long, it really needs more than just a light re-commissioning but at least it is “all there”. As far as the body goes, there is a little surface rust in places and the underside has picked up a few minor dents from its use on loose surfaces but it appears to be a very solid shell indeed. Mechanically one could expect there to be relatively little wear and tear but a precautionary strip-down and reassembly would seem to be a sensible course of action. With work having been carried out to convert it into a circuit racer, this remains an option though a return to the world of rallying is also an appealing proposition. Either way, we consider this to be a very rare opportunity to acquire a superb specification period Group Four machine that has remained untouched for some thirty years.
Registration number: VLO 643S (See text)
Chassis Number: BBATTA39734 (Obscured by turret plating)
Engine Number: See text