Styling the icon

De­signer Har­ris Mann was part of the team that cre­ated the Es­cort MKI. He re­calls a tur­bu­lent, if creative, time at Dun­ton

Classic Cars (UK) - - The Big Test - Thanks to: Jay Leer, hamp­shire­and­berk­shir­ersoc.com

‘The Es­cort was re­leased a year be­fore the Capri, but they were ac­tu­ally de­vel­oped along­side each other’

The Ford Es­cort MKI was ac­tu­ally based on the Ha-gen­er­a­tion Vauxhall Viva,’ re­veals Har­ris Mann, ‘the boxy one with the out­ward-flanged bodyshell and spot-weld­ing down the sides. Ford was al­ways clever at sav­ing money – even if it was just pence here and there – and had what it called the ‘Blue Book’, a bi­ble of cost­ings for ev­ery part of the car, based on the cost of the Viva.

‘Be­cause of this, when­ever some­one in the de­sign depart­ment came up with a part, fea­ture or styling idea, its cost was checked against this book, and if it was more ex­pen­sive than the equiv­a­lent part on the Viva, they’d have to find a way to get the cost down if it was to be adopted. Iron­i­cally, when the HB Viva came on sale, it turned out Vauxhall had de­cided to take it up­mar­ket and priced it ac­cord­ingly. This played straight into Ford’s hands be­cause it re­alised it could price the Es­cort to un­der­cut its clos­est com­peti­tor while still mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant profit.

‘Stylis­ti­cally the Es­cort fol­lowed the Capri. Al­though the Capri was re­leased the year af­ter the Es­cort, they were ac­tu­ally de­vel­oped along­side each other, based on a Gil Spear-de­signed 1965 con­cept model that had been sent over from Ford’s Amer­i­can styling depart­ment to guide the cor­po­rate styling in a new di­rec­tion. That’s where the dog-bone-shaped grille on both the Es­cort and Capri comes from. Things like the tail­lights were shared be­tween the mod­els in or­der to save money.

‘Styling Fords at this time was a bit of a con­vo­luted process. The man­age­ment would come over from the US to cri­tique and make com­ments, but the ba­sis of the car came about as a re­sult of an in­ter­nal competition at Dun­ton. The ba­sic me­chan­i­cal and in­te­rior pack­age was de­cided upon, then four styling mod­els were com­mis­sioned from var­i­ous peo­ple and the Ford UK man­age­ment ended up choos­ing Ron Brad­shaw’s. He was put in charge of the de­vel­op­ment team.

‘Ron was good to work for. He’d come to Ford from the Rootes Group, and was ami­able, not a pain in the arse and al­ways open to new ideas rather than ob­ses­sively cor­rect­ing peo­ple. Be­cause of the way the styling depart­ment op­er­ated it’s hard to work out who re­ally de­signed what, but I’d say the Es­cort MKI was pri­mar­ily Ron’s work, re­fined by Char­lie Thomp­son – who’d styled the Cortina MKI, he added the Coke-bot­tle curve – while I did var­i­ous de­tails in­clud­ing the front-end treat­ment. I ac­tu­ally reused an ear­lier pro­file sketch I did for the Es­cort when de­sign­ing the Mor­ris Ma­rina a cou­ple of years later.

‘The Es­cort came out al­right, but I still think that with­out the sporty wide arches and big­ger wheels from the competition depart­ment it looks a bit chubby. At the time I thought it wasn’t much dif­fer­ent from other sa­loons in stan­dard form. The Amer­i­cans weren’t happy with the way the rear three-quar­ter win­dows ta­pered at the back and wanted to change the pro­file to make them big­ger, but the de­sign process had pro­gressed too far by that point. I still no­tice that when­ever I see one though!

‘The Es­cort was de­signed at an awk­ward time for Ford UK. It co­in­cided with the cre­ation of Ford Europe as a sep­a­rate en­tity from Ford USA, and this meant Ford Germany was in­creas­ingly in­volved, with tonnes of styling mod­els go­ing back and forth across the North Sea. Even­tu­ally they split things with Germany do­ing interiors and the UK do­ing ex­te­ri­ors, al­though they had sep­a­rate mar­ket­ing de­part­ments. The first car de­signed un­der this regime was the Cortina MKIII; the next was the MKII Es­cort.

‘I left at this time – 1967 – to go to Long­bridge. The men­tal­ity there was chang­ing. They’d farmed a lot of work out to Fa­rina and Mich­e­lotti in Italy and they wanted to bring it in-house, but their fa­cil­i­ties were bet­ter and they recog­nised the work of in­di­vid­ual stylists more read­ily. Ford by con­trast had a more cor­po­rate, top-down culture.

‘I must con­fess, I’ve never ac­tu­ally driven an Es­cort!’

Through­out our day so far, af­ter sam­pling the one-that-got-away Twin Cam, Richards has been gaz­ing long­ingly over at Ja­son Wall’s Sig­nal Orange RS2000. In this 16-per­cent drag-cut­ting droop-snoot form, it rep­re­sents the last of the rear-drive Es­cort breed. But its 2.0-litre Pinto-en­gined me­chan­i­cal pack­age had been part of the range since 1973, the cheap rugged­ness of the 110bhp Amer­i­can-de­signed en­gine in the strength­ened AVO bodyshell ef­fec­tively eclipsing the Mexico. That name­plate sur­vived un­til 1978 as an en­try-level Rs-shelled model most con­sid­ered un­der­pow­ered with its 1.6-litre 95bhp Pinto. But for Richards, the RS2000 – par­tic­u­larly in roll-caged form with Group 1-type per­for­mance tweaks, like this one – helped him to one of his favourite vic­to­ries. ‘It re­minds me of the car that Tony Pond and I used to win the 1975 Avon Tour of Bri­tain,’ he ex­plains. ‘It was a mix­ture of races and rally stages, with race ver­sus rally crews, and the ral­ly­ists came out on top – we beat James Hunt, driv­ing a V8 Chevro­let Ca­maro at the peak of his ca­reer.

‘The rally driv­ers al­ways had the ad­van­tage, sim­ply be­cause it’s far eas­ier to make up a 10-sec­ond time dif­fer­ence on a rally stage than it is on a cir­cuit, but beat­ing Hunt in a competition that in­cluded race­tracks in the era when he be­came For­mula One World Cham­pion still feels very spe­cial.’

The car feels as though it’s picked up where the Mexico, rather than a more spe­cialised RS, left off. There’s a painted-metal fin­ish to the dash­board adding to a sense of sparse­ness, and the en­gine un­der the bon­net, al­though phys­i­cally large within the bay, looks less spe­cial, just a big sin­gle-cam lump rather than ex­otic head­gear adorned with pur­pose­ful badges.

We pull away rather jerk­ily be­cause the clutch pedal bites quite high, the Pinto gen­er­at­ing a deep, gut­tural booming noise. ‘Once it clears 3000rpm you can re­ally feel the power ar­riv­ing,’ says Richards as we hur­tle out of a tight bend on Chob­ham’s han­dling route. ‘It’s funny – it’s clearly a lot less so­phis­ti­cated than the RS1800, and yet it feels ex­actly the same in terms of han­dling. The chas­sis is lovely – it’s bal­anced like a proper competition car should be. The en­gine may not be so evolved or re­spon­sive to tun­ing, but it’s far more af­ford­able and, in the con­text of a tar­mac rally in Group 1 spec­i­fi­ca­tion like those Avon Tour cars, far more than ad­e­quate. Even the sen­sa­tions of the drive are ef­fec­tively the same as the RS1800 – the steer­ing is iden­ti­cal, as is the pre­cise, short-travel gearchange.’

It’s only when pushed very hard in cor­ners that the RS2000 re­veals its mi­nor short­com­ings. The weight of the iron-block en­gine drags the nose wide, so you have to ad­just your cor­ner­ing line ever so slightly, lift­ing off and brak­ing ear­lier. In­ter­est­ingly, Ford re­moved the anti-roll bar for the RS2000, re­plac­ing it with a pair of ra­dius arms, and this one wears slightly wider-thanusual 175/60 R13 tyres for ex­tra grip. I get the im­pres­sion that if the front end were made stiffer, the un­der­steer would be far more pro­nounced. But Ford per­formed a care­ful jug­gling act to re­tain Rs1800-style han­dling.

‘The RS2000 is clearly a lot less so­phis­ti­cated than the RS1800, and yet it feels ex­actly the same in terms of han­dling’

It’s typ­i­cal of Ford’s cost-fo­cused ap­proach to engi­neer­ing that’s re­sulted in a car that feels so com­pa­ra­ble on the road to its more so­phis­ti­cated sis­ter, achieved through care­ful use of low-tech so­lu­tions rather than ex­pen­sive and be­spoke engi­neer­ing. When it was new, this re­sulted in a car that cost £1000 less than an RS1800 – the same as a Ley­land Princess – yet is only 5bhp and 1lb ft short of an RS1800’S quoted fig­ures, and de­liv­ers its peak torque at a far more road-friendly 3500rpm.

‘Ob­vi­ously the RS1800 was a ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial, made to be mod­i­fied so Ford could win the World Rally Cham­pi­onship, but you could forge just as ef­fec­tive a ral­ly­ing ca­reer in an RS2000,’ Richards con­cludes. ‘It’s no less se­ri­ous a competition car, and no dif­fer­ent on the road.’ This is not only high praise in­deed from a man who helped the RS1800 to its finest hour, it also demon­strates what great value the RS2000 is to­day. Whereas once it was two-thirds the price of the RS1800, as a clas­sic that dif­fer­ence is down to just one third.

‘At 5000rpm with the raced­erived valveg­ear work­ing, it re­ally comes alive’

Ev­ery­thing changed for the Es­cort in 1981. Rear-drive gave way to front, saloon to hatch­back, car­bu­ret­tors to elec­tronic fuel in­jec­tion, four speeds to five. And yet as David Richards set­tles into this RS1600I – another ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial, this time for Group A tour­ing cars – he finds it fa­mil­iar. ‘There’s a sense of DNA here, a feeling of what I can only de­scribe as “Ford­ness”,’ he says, rally nav­i­ga­tor’s per­spec­tive quickly switch­ing to that of car firm boss. ‘It’s in the driv­ing po­si­tion, the gen­eral lay­out of the con­trols, the shape of the in­stru­ment bin­na­cle, even the smell and tex­ture of the ma­te­ri­als – it’s im­por­tant for a firm to do this. It helps en­gen­der a sense of con­ti­nu­ity among the cus­tomers while mov­ing things on.

‘Speak­ing of which, they’ve fi­nally fit­ted an ad­justable steer­ing col­umn!’ He grasps the lever be­neath the wheel. The wheel doesn’t move, but there’s a clunk be­hind the bulk­head and the bon­net springs open. Richards rocks back in his seat in a fit of laugh­ter.

But Ford had to be care­ful when re­leas­ing the MKIII Es­cort, es­pe­cially in sport­ing form. Al­though the Volk­swa­gen Golf GTI ex­isted in 1981, it was largely in a class of its own. Af­ford­able sports cars were coupés and small rear-drive sa­loons. Hatch­back bodyshells were in­her­ently less rigid too. Ford, in its mar­ketlead­ing sales-chart po­si­tion, couldn’t af­ford to upset any­one.

As a re­sult, the MKIII was part rev­o­lu­tion, part re­as­sur­ance ex­er­cise. Park this de­sign by Uwe Bahnsen along­side the shovel-nosed RS2000 and it looks more like a gen­tle up­date than a rule­book-shred­der. A lot of it has to do with a body style dubbed ‘slatch­back’ by the press. Ford said the bus­tle tail was an aero­dy­namic de­vice to re­duce drag, but it also helped ease con­ser­va­tive-minded saloon buy­ers into a new two-box world.

With fuel in­jec­tion and a much plusher in­te­rior than its pre­de­ces­sors, it purrs off the line, the no­to­ri­ously ‘Coarse, Vi­bra­tory and Harsh’ CVH (Com­pound-valve Hemi) hum­ming sub­dued through its midrange. ‘It feels so much more mod­ern than the RS2000, es­pe­cially in terms of re­fine­ment,’ Richards notes. ‘It ac­cel­er­ates so smoothly, then at 5000rpm with the race-de­rived valveg­ear work­ing, it re­ally comes alive.’

But then we en­ter a com­plex of S-bends, and Richards’ ini­tial en­thu­si­asm for the RS1600I starts to evap­o­rate. ‘Well, you can tell it’s front-wheel drive can’t you!’ He de­clares. ‘The steer­ing has a hor­ri­ble dead spot in the mid­dle, de­signed for cruis­ing on mo­tor­ways like a Mercedes. It’s lost that im­me­di­acy that they all had from Twin Cam to RS2000, es­pe­cially in the tran­si­tion from left- to right-hand turns. You can tell it’s hav­ing to deal with some­thing else as well as di­rec­tion.

‘At least this time they fit­ted a fifth gear,’ he says, al­though the up­shift comes with a gri­mace. ‘It feels very vague though.’ In the name of com­fort, Ford put sev­eral inches of rub­ber be­tween the gear­knob and the lever’s metal – some­thing I found out while mod­i­fy­ing the shift in a Ford-based kit car I used to own. ‘I’m afraid this, com­bined with the steer­ing, com­pre­hen­sively lets it down,’ says Richards, unim­pressed. ‘But it’s an in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and they clearly worked won­ders with the CVH en­gine. I have to re­mind my­self that this was built as a ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial. All th­ese things I don’t like – the steer­ing rack, the gearshift – they would all have been changed for rac­ing.’

Once he’s out of the car, wan­der­ing round it, tak­ing in the race-in­spired parts in­clud­ing the very first ap­pear­ance of Ford’s in­fa­mous bi­plane wing in its sub­tlest form, Richards re­mem­bers some­thing that sets the RS1600I in a more sig­nif­i­cant con­text.

‘When I was on the TOCA board, de­vis­ing the Su­per Tour­ing rules, the RS1600I played an im­por­tant role in fram­ing them be­cause it proved that a nor­mally as­pi­rated sub-2.0-litre fron­twheel drive saloon could make for a con­vinc­ing racer – an ex­treme ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial like the Sierra RS500 wasn’t re­quired.’

It cer­tainly punched far above its weight on track dur­ing its brief ca­reer, with Richard Long­man’s iconic Dat­a­post-liv­er­ied RS1600I blitz­ing the 1984 Bri­tish Saloon Car Cham­pi­onship, com­ing sec­ond over­all, beat­ing big V-en­gined Group A heavy­weights. But this unas­sum­ing lit­tle ground­breaker was soon over­shad­owed in the power-crazed Eight­ies, when Ford de­cided to send the Es­cort chas­ing af­ter its fire-breath­ing big-brother Sierra…

While the Sierra Cos­worth re­placed the su­per­an­nu­ated Capri on tour­ing-car grids and went on to com­pletely dom­i­nate the BTCC’S Class A sub-cat­e­gory, the RS1600I was suc­ceeded by the Es­cort RS Turbo. This fought it out in the lower pow­ered but ar­guably more com­pet­i­tive Class B cat­e­gory, along­side a surg­ing tidal wave of con­stant de­vel­op­ment from other man­u­fac­tur­ers, in­clud­ing the Alfa Romeo 75, Re­nault 5 GT Turbo, Mercedes-benz 190E 2.3-16, and its great­est neme­sis, the BMW M3, run in the BTCC by David Richards’ Prodrive team.

‘I’m very in­trigued to drive this car be­cause if I’m hon­est I didn’t pay it much at­ten­tion at the time – I didn’t have the chance be­cause we were more pre­oc­cu­pied with win­ning – but it’ll still be in­ter­est­ing to see what the op­po­si­tion was up to,’ says Richards.

I’m look­ing for­ward to the op­por­tu­nity too. When me and my friends were young petrol­heads, thrash­ing the valveg­ear off our par­ents’ shop­ping cars, a down-at-heel Es­cort RS Turbo Se­ries 2 was the cheap­est prop­erly fast car you could buy. Two friends bought them, one los­ing his li­cence at­tempt­ing a hand­brake turn on the lo­cal high street. Brag­ging about wrestling vi­o­lent torques­teer was the Nineties equiv­a­lent of Seven­ties-men pow­er­s­lid­ing their RS2000S into the gravel car park of the Malt Shov­els.

In­side it’s far more civilised than even the RS1600I, with the quiet fizz of the fuel in­jec­tion muf­fled fur­ther by soft velour and squidgy soft-touch plas­tic. ‘This is very re­fined, whereas rau­cous­ness was a con­tin­u­ous theme of the rear-drive cars,’ notes Richards as he steers it smoothly away.

‘It’s hard to be­lieve that the en­gine is just a tur­bocharged 1.6-litre CVH – there’s lots of torque, and you can tell it’s got a small tur­bocharger be­cause there’s very lit­tle lag – the ur­gency is present all the way through the rev range.’

It seems daft to com­pare the RS Turbo to a con­tem­po­rary twice the price that sent its drive to the op­po­site end of the chas­sis, but RS Fords have al­ways been gi­ant-killers and in the con­text of the Eight­ies BTCC this raises a ques­tion – is this Ford’s E30 M3?

Its per­for­mance is cer­tainly com­pa­ra­ble – it’s a sim­i­lar size to the BMW, firmly-bol­stered in­side, and with an eas­ily-at­tain­able top speed north of 120mph. But the M3 is fa­mous for hav­ing won­der­fully di­rect and com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing.

‘The steer­ing is very good,’ Richards re­ports, sur­prised af­ter the RS1600I ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘It loads up a bit mid-cor­ner, but it’s very pre­cise. It’d han­dle a long tar­mac stage in Cor­sica well, al­though with­out power as­sis­tance you’d know about it af­ter­wards.’

And the on-boost torque steer? I tackle a se­ries of hair­pins with it, ac­cel­er­at­ing hard away from the apex. As the revs climb above 2500rpm and the Gar­rett TO3 starts boost­ing, if the wheel’s not com­pletely straight you can feel a sud­den kick through the wheel­rim, as though the car is threat­en­ing un­der­steer. But hold on tight, force your line, and the chas­sis ul­ti­mately obeys.

‘I’m very in­trigued to drive this car – it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see what the op­po­si­tion to our E30 M3 was up to at the time’

It’s the hot-hatch equiv­a­lent of flick­ing a Capri side­ways, I sup­pose, but what re­ally helps is the de­sign of the RS Turbo’s steer­ing wheel. Nowa­days for some rea­son ev­ery car on sale seems to have a T-shaped wheel boss, but in the Eight­ies the trend for this chevron-shape meant you could wrap your fists around the quar­ter-to-three po­si­tion. It’s ideal for con­trol­ling the RS Turbo’s power de­liv­ery, and you phys­i­cally punch the car through bends. The gearshift is bet­ter too – al­though the lo­ca­tion of fifth is still vague, you can feel the steel lever run­ning all the way to the top of its in­su­lat­ing rub­ber, aid­ing a more pos­i­tive shift ac­tion. It’s part of an in­te­rior that looks a bit dull and low-rent by to­day’s stan­dards, but is ac­tu­ally ex­tremely com­fort­able and su­perbly er­gonomic.

‘I should have given this car far more credit than I did in the Eight­ies,’ says Richards. ‘It’s well ahead of its time both in terms of com­fort and the ease with which it gath­ers speed – I’d hap­pily drive one ev­ery day. It’s great!’

If it weren’t for the RS Cos­worth, the Es­cort story might have ended in ig­nominy. The 1990 MKV saw Ford get com­pla­cent. While it might have boasted more in­te­rior space within its 2525mm wheel­base, Ford did away with the in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion that made the MKIII and IV so nim­ble. Leaden han­dling com­bined with age­ing CVH en­gines and a dull in­te­rior made it only as good as the bland Toy­ota Corolla. Vauxhall’s As­tra out han­dled it and boasted more so­phis­ti­cated en­gines, whilst Rover’s ‘R8’ 200-se­ries brought af­ford­able ego-mas­sag­ing lux­ury to the lower mid­dle class. For the first time in its life, the Es­cort was no longer Ford’s big­gest Bri­tish seller.

But mo­tor sport came to its res­cue. Ford’s rally car de­vel­op­ment meant the Cos­worth YB en­gine could be com­bined with the Sierra Xr4x4’s four-wheel-drive sys­tem in a lighter­weight, shorter-wheel­base plat­form. There was very lit­tle Es­cort left – me­chan­i­cally it was all Cos­worth and even the body needed com­pletely re­design­ing by Stephen Harper in or­der for it all to fit. Al­though it was long over­due and its in­ter­na­tional im­pact was cor­re­spond­ingly limited, Mal­colm Wil­son still made it a hero, win­ning the 1994 Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship in Miche­lin Pi­lot Sport-liv­er­ied style.

‘The RS Cos­worth was com­ing to the end of its World Rally Cham­pi­onship ca­reer just as we were de­vel­op­ing the Subaru Im­preza at Prodrive,’ says Richards. ‘How­ever, around about that time I bor­rowed one from Ford prod­uct de­vel­op­ment chief Richard Parry-jones for a week­end, and it was ter­rific.

‘It’s a se­ri­ous bit of kit – you know that as soon as you see that wing in the rear-view mir­ror!’ Richards com­ments as he straps him­self into the heav­ily bol­stered driv­ers’ seat, ‘how­ever it’s also in­ter­est­ing to note how far re­moved even a Fo­cus MKI is. It’s not ac­tu­ally that much big­ger than some of the rear-drive Es­corts.’

The en­gine emits an en­er­getic fizz, ris­ing stri­dently with the car’s pace. There’s a great sense of fa­mil­iar­ity about the driv­ing po­si­tion – the steer­ing col­umn, fi­nally, is ad­justable – which in­spires con­fi­dence to push the Cos­worth hard. Richards has only been in the car a few min­utes and yet we’re al­ready do­ing 100mph. A broad smile breaks across his face.

‘Wow,’ he says, ‘The power comes in at 4000rpm and it feels re­lent­less.’ Im­pres­sive for a man who ar­rived at the cir­cuit to­day in an As­ton Martin DB11. ‘And yet,’ he jinks the steer­ing to em­pha­sise his point, ‘it’s man­aged to re­gain that same sharp­ness to its steer­ing that the rear-wheel drive cars had, de­spite send­ing some of its drive to the front and be­ing tur­bocharged. In fact, if you over­look the noise it doesn’t feel tur­bocharged in its power de­liv­ery at all. There’s no kick in the steer­ing, and the gear­box has a far more pos­i­tive feel than the rub­bery shift in the RS1600I.’

He edges the Cos­worth to the higher edges of the high-speed cir­cuit and buries the throt­tle. ‘Oh! There’s so much power at the top end!’ he says as we ap­proach the same 5000rpm where the orig­i­nal Twin Cam started to wake up. ‘This re­ally is the equal of so many far more mod­ern per­for­mance cars – the power, the brakes, the steer­ing, and so much grunt! I can feel the in­flu­ence of Richard Parry-jones all over this car.’

I didn’t ex­pect the man who made a world-beater of the Es­cort’s arch-ri­val, the Subaru Im­preza, to be so im­pressed with this car, so I dare to ask him whether it’s bet­ter than the WRX. ‘I’m not go­ing to ad­mit that!’ he laughs. ‘But even in its twi­light years the Es­cort stood up well to its newer ri­vals, both on the road and in ral­ly­ing.’

David Richards paces slowly along the line of Es­corts, ar­ranged by their own­ers in chrono­log­i­cal or­der for his fi­nal ver­dict. Al­though the styling shows a gen­tle evo­lu­tion un­cor­rupted by ex­ces­sive safety reg­u­la­tion, there are two pre­dom­i­nant themes here: rearand front-wheel drive, ul­ti­mately com­bined in the RS Cos­worth, which feels like a great­est-hits com­pi­la­tion of all its pre­de­ces­sors.

The car that sur­prised Richards the most is the RS Turbo. ‘I suspected it would pale in com­par­i­son to its Bavar­ian ri­val, but it was far more pol­ished, so­phis­ti­cated and well-bal­anced than I pre­dicted.’ That makes it look like an absolute bar­gain when com­pared to its sta­ble­mates – it’s also the cheap­est car here.

But then he turns around and walks back down the line, stop­ping at the yel­low Mexico. ‘For me, the raw­ness of the reardrive cars makes them unique. The lack of torque and heavy steer­ing are fea­tures, not faults – the driver has to master them. The Mexico, more than any of the oth­ers, sums up what a sport­ing Es­cort should be. It drives just like a Twin Cam and could be made as fast as an RS2000. But cru­cially it’s also sim­ple, re­li­able, af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble – as vi­tal to an Es­cort as its per­for­mance.’

New face brought a much-re­duced drag co-ef­fi­cient In­te­rior was de­signed by Ford of Germany Pinto en­gine has competition mod­i­fi­ca­tions

The droop-snooted Es­cort cost a use­ful £1000 less than its pre­de­ces­sor

The bus­tle tail helped tra­di­tional saloon buy­ers take a half-step to­wards the hatch­back rev­o­lu­tion

Few un­mo­lested Rs1600is sur­vive Richards picks out the steer­ing as an RS1600I weak point CVH en­gine is un­re­fined but very re­spon­sive to tun­ing

1.6-litre turbo four­cylin­der is boosty but man­age­able Hold on tight and you can out-mus­cle the torque steer A whale-tail in wait­ing... There was a no­table step up in re­fine­ment from MKIII (above) to MKIV

Twin Cam steer­ing, RS Turbo torque, the mod­ify-me in­vi­ta­tions of the RS1800 and RS1600I taken to their log­i­cal con­clu­sions – the RS Cos­worth was pure Es­cort ex­cel­lence

Richards is stirred by the Cossie’s driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – and he dailies a V12 As­ton

Richards eval­u­ates the later Es­corts from a ri­val’s persepc­tive

Later Cossies had a smaller, more re­spon­sive turbo, but lost some drama

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