When is an RS Turbo not an RS Turbo? Well, if you un­bolt the turbo and throw it away, you’ll find out…

Fast Ford - - Contents - Words DAN BE­VIS / Pho­tos ADE BRANNAN

Series Two RS Turbo with­out the turbo, but a 'charger in­stead.

Re­mem­ber the days when tur­bocharg­ing was a big deal? The 1980s were a proper turbo boom-time, as man­u­fac­tur­ers found new and ex­cit­ing ways to make boost vi­able as an ev­ery­day op­tion. And it wasn’t like it is to­day, when ev­ery­thing’s tur­bocharged be­cause it helps get emis­sions down; hav­ing a whistlin’ snail used to be a badge of hon­our. Stretch­ing way back through the mists of time, early tur­bocharg­ing was a real dark art; the road cars that pi­o­neered the ev­ery­man turbo – the BMW 2002, the Oldsmo­bile Jet­fire, the Chevro­let Cor­vair Monza – were al­most wil­fully scary, lulling you into a mis­guided sense of ease with their yawn­ing chasms of turbo lag be­fore sud­denly com­ing on boost mid-cor­ner and forc­ing you to make your peace with the almighty while si­mul­ta­ne­ously jet­ti­son­ing your

break­fast through the near­est avail­able ori­fice. Th­ese bonkers lit­tle boost de­vices sym­bol­ised brav­ery, in that they were tem­per­a­men­tal and could gre­nade your en­gine with­out a mo­ment’s hes­i­ta­tion, along with a cer­tain thick­ness of wal­let (to pay for all the re­builds and the in­sur­ance) and, most of all, spiky ex­hil­a­rat­ing thrust. It was a thrilling, glow­ing Pan­dora’s Box bolted on to un­leash the in­ner po­ten­tial of in­ter­nal com­bus­tion via some kind of voodoo. That’s why the word was glued to the hairychested vari­ants of so many hot hatches in the 1980s and ’90s: Ford Es­cort RS Turbo, Re­nault 5 GT Turbo, Fiat Uno Turbo, MG Mae­stro Turbo – it was a thing to be damned proud of. You still find the word ‘turbo’ writ­ten on Gil­lette ra­zors and Ikea clothes racks and Cil­lit Bang to­day, it has a proper halo ef­fect.

It’s a bit of an old switcheroo to re­move the turbo from one of th­ese iconic hot hatches then, isn’t it? If you un­bolt

the boost­maker and dump it in the bin, does that not ir­repara­bly tar­nish the car’s in­her­ent char­ac­ter? Ah, not nec­es­sar­ily… for what you’re see­ing here on th­ese pages, if it has a name, is an Es­cort RS Su­per­charged.

Yep, you can prob­a­bly guess what’s hap­pened here. But be­fore there’s any wail­ing and gnash­ing of teeth from the con­cours purists, rest as­sured that Peter Clark didn’t bel­liger­ently mu­ti­late an RS Turbo just for the bad­ness of it; no, in fact he saved it from an un­pleas­ant fate of rot­ting away to noth­ing in a field.

“I al­ways did lit­tle bits to cars when I was younger, low­er­ing and ex­hausts and so on, but noth­ing ma­jor as I never had the money,” he re­calls. “I al­ways loved the S2 RS Turbo in par­tic­u­lar, but I could never af­ford to buy one.” But then this one pre­sented it­self at an af­ford­able price and, now in his for­ties, Peter was able to re­alise the dream.

The rea­son that it was af­ford­able, how­ever, was that it had es­sen­tially been aban­doned and left to crum­ble back into the base el­e­ments from whence it came. “I bought it from eBay, and it was in a very sorry state,” he re­mem­bers with a gri­mace. “It had sat in a field for eight years, the en­gine was seized, the body was rot­ten…” But it was an RS Turbo, that was the main thing, and given that he’s a me­chanic run­ning a work­shop and bodyshop, Peter had the skills, the tools and the venue in which to ef­fect the Es­cort’s re­birth.

“It came with white rear lights, which I got rid of, al­though I kept the ’90-spec spoiler – and ba­si­cally it was just a case of cut­ting out all the rust and weld­ing in new pan­els,” he says. Right, sim­ple as that eh? Ac­tu­ally, it took a hell of a lot of el­bow grease, as you can imag­ine what an eight­ies Ford’s un­der­gar­ments would be look­ing like

af­ter the best part of a decade moistly com­muning with na­ture. A lot of fresh metal and re­place­ment pan­els were drafted in, al­though Peter was keen to try to re­tain as much of the orig­i­nal steel as pos­si­ble; the new pan­els were chopped up to fill the holes rather than grafted in whole­sale. The straight­ness of the shell now is tes­ta­ment to the man’s skills, and of course fin­ish­ing it in Ra­di­ant Red is a pe­riod-per­fect touch.

The prob­lem of that seized en­gine re­quired a bit of de­ci­sion-mak­ing – would it be sal­vage­able, or should he source an­other stan­dard-spec boosted CVH to bring the RS back to its roots? In the end, Peter opted for a bit of lat­eral think­ing, and we’re very glad that he did: “I wanted more power, and I wanted to do some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent, so I de­cided to fit a su­per­charger,” he grins. And that’s all the jus­ti­fi­ca­tion you need re­ally, isn’t it? “I love the blower, it gives you a faint but no­tice­able whine, and the car just pulls con­stantly. I bought the su­per­charger from TTS in Sil­ver­stone – they’re the ap­proved Rotrex dealer for the UK.” And what’s more im­pres­sive is that it isn’t just a stan­dard-spec 1.6-litre CVH that he’s bolted it to… af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, Peter’s built up a pretty hot 2.1-litre ZVH. Hid­den away be­neath that Stage 3 cylin­der head are be­spoke Kent cams and a set of C20LET pis­tons; fu­elling’s taken care of by some meatier 650cc in­jec­tors, and there’s an OMEX 600 call­ing the shots and shuf­fling those bi­nary dig­its into or­der. Work­ing with a cus­tom man­i­fold and ex­haust sys­tem and a vast in­ter­cooler, the Rotrex C30-94 su­per­charger al­lows the fire­ball mo­tor to un­leash a mighty peak of 234.7bhp, which is a hell of a per­cent­age in­crease over stock. And of course, with a su­per­charger you don’t re­ally have to worry about lag!

“TTS sell a Zetec fit­ting kit, but ob­vi­ously that’s not ex­actly a bolt-on with a ZVH,” says Peter. “It would have po­si­tioned the charger in the way of the en­gine mount, so I made a bracket and fit­ted it to the sump where the air-con pump would be on the Zetec, and raised the al­ter­na­tor up so the su­per­charger sits neatly un­der­neath it.” The whole in­stall is in­cred­i­bly neat, and Peter’s fas­tid­i­ous­ness in keep­ing the en­gine bay clean re­ally shows it all off. It wasn’t easy to get the whole thing run­ning smoothly and re­li­ably, as a cou­ple of years of trial-and-er­ror have ably demon­strated, but Peter now finds him­self with a mo­tor that is unique, clever, re­li­able, and – most im­por­tant of all – hi­lar­i­ously pow­er­ful.

“I use the car daily in the sum­mer, and it gets lots of at­ten­tion,” he says, “peo­ple wind­ing down win­dows at traf­fic lights, point­ing at it as I drive past, chat­ting in petrol sta­tions, and wav­ing from pass­ing cars. I love a run-what-you-brung too, it’s done a 15.3-sec­ond quar­ter at 98.54mph at Santa Pod.” Talk about ful­fill­ing those child­hood dreams! Af­ter many, many years of wish­ing, Peter’s found a way to own his favourite car; it wasn’t the eas­i­est route in and it re­quired a lot of hard work, but along the way he’s de­vel­oped some­thing that’s a real talk­ing point. The no­tion of a su­per­charged RS Turbo is, by its very na­ture, a mas­sive con­tra­dic­tion in terms, and that’s ex­actly what makes this car so bril­liant.

A ‘Turbo with­out the turbo. How cun­ning is that?

“...what you’re see­ing here on th­ese pages, if it has a name, is an Es­cort RS Su­per­charged...”

It looks like an RS Turbo, but it’s miss­ing one cru­cial com­po­nent - the turbo! OC­TO­BER 2018

Look­ing gor­geous to­day in front of our cam­eras, you would never be­lieve this RST was left rot­ting in a field for eight years!

Orig­i­nal al­loys have been di­a­mond cut for a fa­mil­iar look with a twist - which is this car’s forte

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