Ford Escort RS1600 History

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Escort RS 1600Essex. Think about it. It’s got a bit of ropey reputation, hasn’t it? As a native of The Misunderstood County, I’ll admit that it’s not exactly the first place that springs to mind when speaking about the UK. It sure isn’t renowned for its contributions to high culture, but by god it’s the birthplace of many things and people we should be grateful for. Jamie Oliver is one and the RS (Rallye Sport) performance division that makes Fast Fords is the other. Without the RS division, there would be no Ford Escort RS Cosworth, no Ford Escort RS and no Sierra RS500 Cosworth. In short, the motoring world without this Boreham based tuning division would be very, very thin on the ground in terms of iconic machinery. But naturally, all of the legendary machinery above has to find its roots somewhere and it does just that in the Escort RS1600. This is the granddaddy of all Fast Fords and the classic car that was the genesis one of ‘The Names’ in motoring history: ‘Ford’ and ‘Cosworth’. The story began in 1970, when Ford gave full backing to the RS team to go its own way by creating the AVO (Advanced Vehicle Operations Division) and RS dealer networks as part of its marketing programme to bring performance to the every day person. The Escort, a regular, rather unremarkable family car was to be the basis for this ‘performance for the everyday bloke’ idea as well as for competitive use. That same year, the Ford Escort RS1600 was born. The idea was simple; the boys and girls from Boreham would take an Escort Twin Cam (TC), strengthen the chassis to deal with the stresses of rallying and bolt a new engine under the hood. 1971 Ford Escort RS1600 BDAThe engine however, was the most important part of the RS1600 as it was the first block that Cosworth – at the time, a very small company – had produced. ‘Cosseh’ as it became known as in later years, bored the engine of the Twin Cam out to 16 valves and dubbed it the BDA (Belt Drive A-Type). Cosworth used a clogged belt drive to spin the cams in time, and combined this with twice the number of valves. The result was the 1.6 litre engine having an increased output from 109 to 120 bhp for street use, and the RS1600 cemented its place in the hearts of driving purists over the world thanks to its light body, sharp handling and decent amount of power. The engine’s performance levels didn’t stop there either, as power could be further increased to a 205bhp with a 1.8l engine and then one step further with a 2.0l 240bhp block. It was the 1.6 however, that sealed its place in the history books as it proved not only to be a formidable rally weapon, but also gave birth to another of the most of Fast Fords; the Ford Escort Mexico. The Mexico began life as a down-tuned RS1600s with an 85bhp standard engine - that RS upgraded to 1800cc by the time of the event - which was fitted to cope with the arduous 1970 London-Mexico Rally due to its bulletproof nature. The little Escort with its modest ‘every man’ origins proved to be a success on the 16,000-mile event as Hannu Mikkola won the event, outperforming far more illustrious brands such as Porsche, Rolls Royce and Mercedes. To further seal the Mexico’s (dubbed the Escort 1850 GT for the event) status as a rally legend, the other four cars that the Blue Oval fielded finished in third, fifth, sixth and eighth. The Mexico’s success on the rally stages of the world led to a commercial version of the car being produced and once again in 1970, the world bore witness to a road going version of the car; the Ford Escort Mexico. Ford Escort MexicoFor the time, it was the ultimate boy racer machine and started off the ‘Essex Lad’ phenomenon. With a spartan interior which has been described by Richard Hammond as ‘crate like’ the little Mexico with its 0.60 time of 10.7 seconds and price tag of around £1100 turned your average bloke into his rallying hero. Without either the Mexico or its RS daddy, you could argue that there would be no Subaru Impreza, no Mitsubishi Evo, no Lancia Delta, no WRC and worst of all, no Sebastien Loeb. Proof enough should be that even today, they are still highly sought after and a good one will set you back between £12,000 and £20,000 In short, it might not be that fast by today’s standards and it might not even be that pretty with its scrunched up little face and chrome dog bone grill surround, but it is bereft of electronic sorcery which plagues so many of today’s road going rally cars. This makes it a proper drivers car. Allow me then to paraphrase Essex’s second most famous export, Jamie Oliver; “the Escort Mexico is pukka.” By George East. Year: 1970-1974 Body type: Hatchback Engine: 1599cc Formation: St4 Aspiration: N/A Transmission: 4 speed manual Top speed: 99 mph (159.3 kph) 0-60 mph (96.6 kph): 10.7 secs 0-100 kmh (0-62 mph): N/A 0-100 mph (160.9 kmh): N/A Power: 98 bhp Torque: 92 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm Kerb weight: 891kgs (1933 lbs) Drive: FWD Engine location: Front MPG: 27Tags:,