Go­ing Club­bing

Classic Cars (UK) - - The Big Test -

Au­tocross founder John Cross on the Es­cort’s grass-roots mo­tor sport rev­o­lu­tion ‘The Es­cort MKI re­ally hit the club ral­ly­ing scene in 1972 or there­abouts, when the new MKII was just about to come out,’ says John Cross. ‘I’d started ral­ly­ing in a Lo­tus Cortina MKII, but the Es­cort was like no car be­fore it, and I doubt we’ll see its like again. It was af­ford­able – you didn’t need an RS to go ral­ly­ing – and you could tune it in stages, with parts avail­able off the shelf. The af­ter­mar­ket in­dus­try around them was huge, big­ger than the Mini, and you could go a lot faster in an Es­cort. I started home-build­ing rally Es­corts in a coun­cil lock-up garage, bought and sold a few, and set up Au­tocross in 1978.

‘Es­corts were read­ily avail­able sec­ond­hand back then, es­pe­cially old po­lice cars, iden­ti­fied by the zip in the head­lin­ing for the light con­trols and the liv­ery, pale blue with white doors. Kevin Videon once en­tered the RAC Rally in a liv­er­ied ex-pa­trol car and got a bol­lock­ing from the or­gan­is­ers for us­ing the blue lights to make up time on a road stage!

‘Things changed in the Eight­ies, first with the Group 4 RS1800S, then the com­ing of Group B. The Works-spec RS1800 you’d need to stand a chance of win­ning a rally cost £25k – the price of a house back then – so many com­peti­tors switched to ral­ly­cross. Ini­tially I ran Es­cort MKIIS in ral­ly­cross. They were just light­ened to start with, but ra­di­a­tors and en­gines started get­ting bro­ken so we moved them fur­ther back, and shifted the front cross­mem­ber for­ward – you could make mod­i­fi­ca­tions like that so long as you kept the orig­i­nal wheel­base, and it was still cheaper than go­ing ral­ly­ing.

‘They were de­vel­oped to the point some held their own against Group B op­po­si­tion – but it wasn’t cheap any more.’

RWD me­chan­i­cals in a MKIII shell: the ul­ti­mate ral­ly­cross Es­cort

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.