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Almost 40 years after buying rallying legend, Bill Gwynne’s Escort RS2000, then campaigning it for over three decades himself, Ian Caddy has now restored the infamous Mk2. 

Ian Caddy vividly recalls the crash he had in his red Millington-powered Mk2 Escort. It was August 2016 during a stage of the Mewla Rally. Watching the in-car video the smash looks violent as without warning the car slides left, then snaps back to the right. But it’s only when you see the footage from outside, witness the car tumbling three times, then see the driver’s door pinned backward against the front wing and the dented sill, you realise how Ian’s side of the car took the brunt of the impact against a large rock…

“My co-driver, Alan Thomas was OK,” remembers Ian, “and he thought I must be too, so he jumped out to slow the cars that were following. We’d landed on our wheels but I was trapped inside with cars going full speed past us because we hadn’t been able to put out our SOS board signalling we needed help. I was terrified another car might hit the wreck.” Not that Ian could do anything about it. “I broke my back, dislocated and broke one shoulder, my ribs, ankle and lower leg” says Ian. “The impact put the offside front wheel virtually inside the car. I was in hospital for three months.”

escort rs2000

Ian’s rallying career had started many years before: “I did various Welsh rallies, Motoring News rallies and a few in Ireland between 1980 and 1981. Bill Gwynne, who would go on to be five-time British rally champion, was my hero. We were good friends although I didn’t see Bill much outside of the rallies. In March 1980 I bought HWL 1S, the white 1978 Escort RS2000 Bill campaigned with Hartford Motors and one of his most successful cars — it’s won multiple championships including Motoring News, Welsh and BTRDA. There’s a rumour it was the car used to develop the Dunlop STR3 tyres. So when it came up for sale I had to own it no matter what, despite the £5000 price.

“Hartford were partway through a repaint when I went to view it, but I told them to stop. I’m a paint and body man by trade, I started out working at Gilberns, so the first thing I did when I got it home was paint it properly — the following week I was driving it on a Welsh Championship Rally…”

The Escort had been rallied hard in Bill’s hands. “One section of floorpan on the passenger side had been hammered completely flat,” remembers Ian, “Bill had no recollection of when he’d done that. I can’t imagine how much noise that must have made!” 

One careful owner

Ian rallied the Escort throughout 1980 until the gearbox broke, in 1981 he campaigned it in the National Forest and Tarmac Championship. “When I rolled the Escort several times on a stage in Dalby Forest it was Bill who was first on the scene, put the fire out and got Alan into an ambulance.” After that Ian stopped using it for a number of years and instead drove an Escort 1300 between 1985 and 1987. Meanwhile HWL gradually evolved into a flat-fronted Tarmac car. “It got arches and then a 2.4-litre Millington engine, although I always intended to restore it back to the 1979 condition so I kept everything we took off the car.” 

The rebuild began in 2014 in Ian’s workshop at Pontypridd Accident Repair Centre. “I did it myself with Malcolm Thorne, who has worked with me for over three decades. In 2015 I let Bill drive the unfinished Escort at Cadwell Park for his 75th birthday, which put a massive smile on his face. In fact he ended up taking it home and keeping it for a week. I was expecting him to list all the things that needed altering to make it more competitive but it turned out he reckoned it was set up just right.” 

HWL drove well, but after three decades of racing it had needed some restoration. “I was getting the Escort perfect for Bill’s 78th birthday when he sadly passed away,” says Ian. “I couldn’t attend the funeral but HWL was there for his friends and family to see, although it didn’t have the engine fitted at the time.”

One deviation from the previous version of the Escort is the lightening. “The entire shell is strengthened with swages and lightened to the best of our abilities — all the fixing brackets, the wiper motor, heater bubble, strut turrets, even the pedal box. I drilled holes and any moving parts were lightened. It’s things like that you could not do in period, everything is now Rose-jointed and we added a Watts linkage whereas previously it was just anti-tramp bars. Watch the old footage; all those Escorts go round corners sideways because there was no way of stopping them, they had vented discs but only single-pot callipers.

Inside out

“We tried to make the interior as correct as possible although in truth the probably the only original piece carried over is the TerraTrip on the dashboard. The old Recaro seats are replaced by Kevlar ones, but virtually everything else is RS2000. The wheels we used are 8 inch Star Spec Minilites modified with a different offset to tuck them under the wide arches. I love the look of those. I didn’t have many period photos but found some images in one of Mick Bryant’s books so Flagship Signs were able to make up all the period decals. We worked on the restoration a week or so at a time between jobs at the garage, I’m really pleased with what we achieved.”

Still recovering from his accident three years later and barely able to move his right ankle up and down, I wonder if Ian will ever race again. “Yes,” he answers, without hesitation. “I’ve driven the Escort recently but it’s virtually impossible with the standard accelerator so we’re building a rally car that I can left foot accelerate and brake.” 

escort rs2000

Which does mean Ian’s beloved Bill Gwynne Escort is now for sale to help pay for it. “I can’t easily drive HWL 1S any more so it’s just in the way here,” admits Ian. “I’d sooner the car went to someone who can enjoy it. Although I actually hope no-one rallies it — it’s too nice now, and I’d hate to see it crashed. Mind you if someone had told me in 1979 that 40 years later I’d still be rallying Mk2 Escorts I’d never have believed them…” 

Words Mike Renaut

Photos Adrian Brannan

See more photos and get the full spec on this Escort RS2000 in the November issue

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