By Tommy I Vestore

The dull little Ford Escort remarkably served as upscale souped up limited production version meant for racing and rallying labeled as the Ford Escort RS1600. The RS1600 was to lay Ford’s experience and path in the coming revolution of small cars. The Ford Escort, announced in 1968, was the latest in a long line of conventional small family saloons from Ford. One version of it – the Escort Twin-Cam – was a very special. Limited- production car intended for use in touring car racing and rallying. This car used Lotus-Cortina mechanicals, including the twin-cam overhead engine. It was extremely successful, but the two-valves-per cylinder engine was obsolescent.

In 1970, it was replaced by the RS1600, almost identical to the Twin-Cam except for its magnificently conceived four-valves per engine Ford_Cosworth BDA engine. This was a twin-overhead-cam conversion of the pushrod 1600 cc Cortina unit with belt-driven overhead camshafts. It was also in effect a production-ized variant of the widely successful Cosworth FVA Formula 2 racing engine. Thus equipped and with all manner of turning gear added, an escort could have up to 280 BHP (boiler horsepower unit)

The first RSc had cast-iron cylinder blocks, which could only be “bored out” safely to 1800 cc; the aluminum block adopted in 1972 allowing “boring” to give the full “capacity limit” of 2 liters.


In 1975, when the Escort’s styling was changed the RS1600 became the RS1800, with a larger but more simply carburetor fuel fed engine. All previous competition extras could be fitted. The RS1800 was dropped in 1977. Other popular Escorts for sporting purposes have the 1600 cc Mexico and the 2,000 RS2000.

Maximum torque was 112 lb at 4,000 rpm. In terms of the transmission choice was a single dry plate clutch and four speeds, all synchro-mesh manual gearbox, both in unit with front mounted engine. Gearchange was a remote control central gear change. As well an open propeller shaft to hypoid “live’ rear axle arrangement.

What of the chassis choice. The chassis was of unitary construction pressed steel two door saloon body /chassis unit. Front suspension was in the form of independently driven MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar setup. For the rear suspension the choice made was half elliptic leaf springs with radius arms and telescopic dampers. Braking was accomplished by hydraulically operated and servo-assisted front wheel disc brakes, and standard rear wheel drums. Nicely set up rack and pinion steering, a choice ahead of its time

This whole package rolled beautifully down the road on 13 inch press steel disc wheels sporting 165 x 13 inch tires.

Lastly the Ford Escort RS1600 was what was considered a “small car” at a time when small cars were a novelty from domestic American auto producers back home at Ford head office in Dearborn Michigan. The refrain of the time from shell shocked American auto producers after the first oil supply shocks in 1973 was bigger was better, or best and “we don’t want to build econo-boxes (and small cars).” There is no “money in it” and it’s not trendy or sexy. Hence this upscale limited production Ford car meant mainly as a demo product and for the rally and racing circuit indeed may be seen as a test development market to build a product in the form of a small car that had ultra high performance for its size, and could hold up to grueling motoring and driving demands.

About the Author: Tommy I Vestore

Known for over 30 years auto sales experience and credibility Bobby B Auto Sales Winnipeg Manitoba Canada car truck dealerNorth End Wpg Manitoba


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