Join Date: May 2001
Ford And Rs – A Rich Heritage
RS originally stood for Rallye Sport and introduced a new breed of affordable sporting Fords. The first Escort RS1600 was officially flagged off by double World Champion Graham Hill in November 1969 from a purpose-built production line within Ford Advanced Vehicle Operations [FAVO] of South Ockendon, Essex, England.
Based on the formidable international rally and race-winning Escort, with a pioneering Cosworth-crafted 16-valve engine, the RS1600 established a line of more than 20 Ford RS-badged derivatives that would sell over 107,000 examples in the 27 years between 1969 and the last recorded UK sale -September 1996.
Now the World Championship Rally-winning Ford Focus is to inspire a revival of Ford’s most respected high-performance name.
In production trim, the RS1600 offered the deft cornering capabilities of true RS products coupled to a detuned 120 bhp engine in a light and simple layout which allowed a 113 mph maximum speed alongside 0-60 mph acceleration of 8.9 seconds, but the main point was its sports potential.
The Belt Drive A-Series BDA was a Cosworth-conceived road cousin to the gear-drive FVA dedicated racing engine. Uprated street-legal works RS Ford rally cars with aluminium cylinder blocks offered 260 horsepower and could zip from 0-60 mph in 6 seconds. Previously such performance came only from Italian exotica or American muscle cars.
The second production FAVO Escort was the 1.6 litre Mexico 1600GT. Exclusive to Ford RS dealerships, the Mexico was a straightforward performer (0-60 mph in 10.5 seconds and 100 mph top speed), with a simple and low cost layout. The car was named after the 16,000 mile London-Mexico 1970 World Cup Rally, when Ford’s 1-3-5-6-8 finishing order pulverised extensive opposition. The Mexico was popular in the showroom. More than 10,300 were sold between 1970 and 1975.
An even larger seller was the Escort RS2000. Although not conceived for motor sports, it seized a hatrick of giant-killing victories on the 1975 and 1976 Tours of Britain, whilst perfecting a balance between driving pleasure and affordability.
The first and second editions of Escort RS2000 were practical performers, developed around the Ford Cortina’s 2.0 litre SOHC engine. The four-speed gearbox was unique, as was the effective short shift gear change. The 100 bhp RS2000 was introduced in October 1973. Performance was midway between Mexico and RS1600 yet the plump power band made it an everyday favourite that sold over 30,000 units in two generations between 1973 and 1980 across Europe.
The RS1800 was a second edition Escort with advanced seventies 16-valve engine that existed to compete and was the RS hand-made rarity. One that sipped fuel at a modest 26mpg whilst delivering 0-60 mph acceleration in 9 seconds and topping 110 mph.
Not all early RS Fords were Escorts. The Capri RS2600 developed by Ford of Germany premiered fuel injection for production European Fords. Kugelfischer mechanical injection straddled the iron Ford 2.6 litre/150 bhp V6 and prompted 126 mph and a dizzy 0-60 mph time of 7.3 seconds. Racing RS2600s secured both the European and German touring car championships. Fewer than 3500 Capri RS2600s were manufactured, but demonstrated that the RS approach could also deliver a more sophisticated product.
Throughout the 1973-74 fuel crisis, Ford kept faith with the RS emblem. The Capri RS3100 entered the showrooms and was the successor to the German RS Capri, which competed around the World with an advanced Cosworth 32-valve V6 unit. Using a Ford cylinder block, this Capri harnessed over 400 horsepower and sped up to 175 mph.
Into the eighties the Escort changed over to front drive - so Focus RS will be far from the first RS to use driven front wheels - and the derivatives kept coming. They included the first production fuel-injected Escort RS1600i and Ford’s first turbocharged European Ford, the Escort RS Turbo. The second generation Escort RS Turbo, made between 1986 and 1989, established a new RS one-model production record of 37,024 units.
The mid-engined, four-wheel drive RS200 was conceived as Ford’s purpose-built reply to the powerful Group B rally cars. Technically, the RS200 was one of the most sophisticated competition and road cars of all time, a fact reflected in its design construction and execution. The 200 examples were made between 1983 and 1986. After a brief competition life due to major change in regulations, the RS200 programme closed in 1986 with many national titles to its credit. The RS200 followed an aborted Escort RS1700T project, and delivered the most rewarding road driving experience since the GT40. Like those Le Mans-winning Fords, the RS200 was a pure two-seater and had some Ford production components incorporated in a breathtaking “clean sheet” design.
Its in-line, mid-mounted BDA variant, a 1803cc BDT with turbo charging, delivered 250 to 620 bhp in varying road to rally cross specifications. Offset within a hybrid aluminium monocoque chassis, was a twin shaft FFD- Ricardo 4x4 transmission. The 2-door body was produced primarily in glass fibre supported by Aramid and carbon fibre composites.
Often overlooked in the plethora of RS Escorts, Ford also produced two RS Fiestas, the CVH-based 133 bhp RS Turbo from 1990 to 1992, and the RS1800 between 1992 and 1995. The latter packed a Zetec engine of 130 horsepower. Both RS Fiestas had similarly startling 130 mph pace allied to sub-8 second 0-60 mph sprinting abilities.
The highest profile RS car entered showrooms in July 1986. The aerodynamically extrovert 3 door hatchback was the first of the 150 mph Sierra RS Cosworths which spawned the 1987 World Touring Car Championship-winning RS500 - and the modest 4-door saloon Sierras with an even more flexible version of the Cosworth 204 bhp, 2.0 litre turbocharged power train. All were rear-drive machines combining exceptional acceleration, 0-60 mph in around 6 seconds, and handling with extraordinary round town docility.
Ford, Cosworth and Ferguson 4x4 patents were then allied in a series of sensationally stable and effective road and rally performers within the Sierra 4-door and Escort 3-door outlines. Introduced in three trim levels in July 1992, the Escort RS Cosworth set a new and adhesive cornering benchmark for production cars, incorporating Formula car down force aerodynamics. The Escort RS won 11 world-class rallies, including two Monte Carlo Rallies, and was successfully raced by privateers.
The Escort RS2000 returned to the scene in 1991, with a 4x4 version being sold between 1993 and 1995.
After 30 years of Escort competition success, the winning Ford Focus replaced it for the 1999 World Rally Championship season. The road-going Focus RS logically takes over that exciting RS pedigree when it enters the showrooms of Europe this year with an unrivalled blend of performance and handling - in true RS tradition.