The Ford RS brand has been flying the flag for performance Blue Ovals in the UK since 1970 — here’s our pick of the 10 things you might not know about the Rallye Sport cars
1: The Escort RS1600 was the very first British RS-badged Ford, and was launched in 1970. It was a direct replacement for the Escort Twin-Cam, running parallel with it, in the showrooms, for more than a year, though the Twin-Cam was not assembled at the AVO plant, but at Halewood on Merseyside.
2: Made in Germany, the Capri RS2600 was the most successful of all RS-badged Fords for some years. This model was entirely developed by Ford of Germany, and was officially never imported to the UK. Several privileged Ford managers ran RS2600s for a time — all of those cars having left-hand-drive.
3: The Capri RS3100 was made at Halewood on Merseyside, in 1973/1974 — the very last Mk1 Capri type ever produced there. The plant was just about to be converted to build Capri Mk2 hatchbacks instead. According to FIA regulations of the time, for the RS3100 to be homologated, at least 1000 cars had to be produced: Ford swore that this had been done, but it seems that only 248 cars were actually built.
4: Every beaky-nosed RS2000 was built at the former Ford factory in Saarlouis, Germany between 1975 and 1980. It was a huge marketing and financial success, with well over 25,000 cars eventually produced. Many survive to this day.
5: The limited-production Escort RS1600i was the very first front-wheel drive RS-badged Ford, and was originally engineered by Ford-Germany. Announced in 1981, it was only produced with left-hand-drive at first, but the delivery of right-hand-drive cars began in the UK in the winter of 1982/1983. This was the first fuel-injected derivative of the CVH engine for the mass-market — the XR3i didn’t follow until late 1982.
6: Exactly 200 RS200s were built between 1984 and 1986. All were white at first, but a handful, like this red example, were re-painted before delivery. The first six cars were prototypes, built at the Boreham motorsport centre. The balance of the run (194 cars) were all assembled at a factory at Shenstone, near Lichfield, which had once been a Reliant plant. The story that RS200s were built by Reliant is quite untrue, though that company did indeed provide some of the bodyshell mouldings. Nevertheless, one or two scurrilous cartoons of three-wheeler RS200s were drawn up at the time!
7: Race prepared Sierra RS500 Cosworths were so powerful, with reliable 550bhp 2-litre engines, that the sporting authorities eventually re-wrote the rules to ban them from motorsport! By the time the engine was finally discontinued in 1997, approaching 40,000 of all types had been manufactured.
8: When Francois Delecour’s Escort RS Cosworth won the 1994 Monte Carlo, it was the first time a Ford-badged car had won this classic event for forty-one years.
9: From the 1980s, Ford first tried to have its XR series take over from the RS brand, and later tried to use the ST instead, but the RS badge would not die. First there was the original Focus RS, and later the Mk2 and Mk3 Focus RS followed up. Be assured that new RS badged Fords may yet appear.
10: Renault tried to muscle in on the act with an RS200 version of a front-wheel-drive hatchback, and was widely abused for this. It was never going to work. RS – Rallye Sport, as every enthusiast knows – was, and always will be, firmly linked to the Blue Oval.
Words Graham Robson
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