The Big Sleep
It’s been hidden away untouched for over 30 years, but now the owner of this genuine, Haynes Of Maidstone Group 2 rally Fiesta reckons its time to shine has come again.
W TF! is not a very retro expression, but when it comes to this classic Ford’s story, it’s a very suitable opener. Why? Well, because what we have here, is a Mk1 Fiesta Group 2 rally car that did just one event, broke down, passed through a couple of hands in the early ’80s and has been tucked away in its current owner’s garages pretty much ever since. But now, thanks to a nod from Mitesh Parmar (the main man at www.fiesta-mk1.co.uk), who discovered the car’s existence, we have been able to unearth this ultra-rare piece of Ford motorsport history…
Those three opening letters are also appropriate, because past those basic facts, Ray O’Neil, the aforementioned owner, knows only very little more about his constant companion of the past 30-odd years — he can’t even remember quite how many years that is now, but does recall that it has moved home with him three times. Ray’s hoping that this article may stir a few memories in Classic Ford readers, who can fill in some of the blanks.
Here’s the potted history bit first… By 1978 the Mk2 Escort was (wrongly) thought to be getting a bit long in the tooth by Ford’s competition men, as was the rallying career of legendary rally driver, Roger Clark, who had been with the firm since 1966. With other drivers signed up for the Escorts that year, Boreham decided to use Roger as a guinea pig in the front-wheel-drive Fiesta. Thanks to the US market having a 1600cc version of the car (this was in pre-XR2 days) a 1600 Crossflow could be used in some Group 2 Fiestas that Ford was hoping were the future of its rallying programme. A number of cars were built, rallied and developed during the 1978 season.
To cut a long story short, the Fiesta wasn’t a great success. History will show that there were more breakdowns than finishes, and the season was, sadly, the last one for Roger at Ford. The Fiesta programme limped on for a couple more years but with little enthusiasm it was soon clear that the new front-wheel-drive Escort would be the car to concentrate on for the future.
Working in conjunction with Ford during the Fiesta experiment, however, was one of the big names in British rallying at the time, namely Roger Taylor and his Haynes Of Maidstone team. While all the Ford factory cars used the Kent engine, Haynes, had a go at installing 16-valve BDA engines in to the Fiesta’s bay. Sadly, these cars didn’t have much success either, as despite (or perhaps because of) the engines’ extra power, the front-wheel-drive and short wheelbase made for a car that wasn’t particularly nice to drive or tame in the handling department.
And here’s where the early history of Fiestas in rallying crosses with Ray’s Group 2-spec Fiesta, as it was built by Haynes Of Maidstone in 1981. So despite the problems with the BDA-engined cars, the firm obviously kept faith with the small hatchback for some time after Ford had given up on it. But this time they stuck with the Crossflow for power delivery, with DTW Engines of Harlow building and supplying the 1600cc dry-sumped race motor on twin Webers, which would have been around the same 150 bhp output that the works cars were making a couple of years before.
An enigmatic hand-written card that came with the car states that this racer was built for Tim Brise to use on European events, but never used. Why? Ray hasn’t a clue. What is known, though, is that later on that year Ulster rally star, Dessie McCartney and co-driver, Peter Scott were entered in the Manx International Rally in the car… but if the pair were expecting to turn the reputation of the Fiesta round, they were sadly mistaken. It lasted just six stages before retiring, with what Ray thinks was a broken gearlever.
And that was it for this Fiesta. With just over 1000 miles on the clock and some stone chips from the Isle of Man, it was flogged off by Haynes to motorsport enthusiast and
Marc Stretton Adrian Brannan
Interior of the car is as-bought. Ray has done his best to stop rodents from chewing their way through the fabric...
1600 Crossflow was originally built by DTW Engines, and Ray’s not touched — or even started — it in the 30 years he’s owned the Fiesta.