Escort RS1600

To the casual observer it might appear to be a humble entry-level model, but the plain looks hide thoroughbred racing mechanicals.

This is where it all started for the legendary RS brand. Unveiled in 1970, the Escort RS1600 was intended to be Ford’s latest rally weapon. To the casual observer it might appear to be a humble entry-level model, but the plain looks hide thoroughbred racing mechanicals. Under the bonnet is the first example of the famous BDA engine. Designed by Cosworth, it featured in the firm’s rally cars for nearly 16 years. In its final 2.0-litre, fuel-injected guise, this legendary motor was pushing out more than 240bhp.

Turn the ignition key, and it is clear that this example is a competition machine through and through. The 1.6-litre motor is unhappy at low revs, coughing and spluttering with each prod of the throttle. Move away from a standstill, and you’ll notice the heavy controls and a stiff ride that causes the car to crash over even small bumps. But stretch its legs and the RS1600 comes alive.

The steering is direct and the slick gearshift is a delight. Push a bit harder and you’ll revel in the rear-wheel-drive chassis balance. Yet it’s the hard-edged wail from the exhaust that dominates the experience.

The RS1600 started the blue oval’s long domination of rallying, which lead to the all-conquering Escort MkII of the mid to late Seventies. As a result, this model’s place in history is assured.

* Performance: 3/5 * Heritage: 5/5 * Style: 4/5 * Driver appeal: 4/5

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Details

Model tested: Escort RS1600Chart position: 6

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