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
Model tested: Escort RS1600Chart position: 6
In this review
- 1IntroductionThe Blue Oval’s performance hits From 1963-2009.
- 2New Focus RSThe latest – and possibly greatest? – addition to the blue oval’s stable.
- 31st Sierra RS CosworthAs with all the best fast Fords, the Sierra RS Cosworth exists because blue oval bosses wanted to go racing.
- 42nd Escort RS CosworthIf our top fast Fords were picked on visual impact alone, then the Escort RS Cosworth would be a clear winner. With its bulging wheelarches, aggressive nose and wild rear wing, it looks like nothing else on the road.
- 53rd GTIntroduced to celebrate the blue oval’s 100th birthday, the GT has the performance, power and looks to take on exotic rivals from Ferrari and Lamborghini.
- 64th GT40The sunning GT40 took Le Mans victory spoils four times between 1966 and 1969 – and racing pedigrees don’t come much better than that.
- 75th RS200Jaw-dropping styling, fearsome performance and rarity – the RS200 has it all.
- 86th Escort RS1600 - currently readingTo the casual observer it might appear to be a humble entry-level model, but the plain looks hide thoroughbred racing mechanicals.
- 97th Escort MexicoWith racy looks, a lightly tweaked engine and a family-friendly saloon body, the Escort Mexico served up a winning blend of performance and practicality.
- 108th Lotus CortinaFor many fans, this is the first fast Ford. With its powerful engine, motorsport pedigree and affordable pricing, it set the template for the blue oval’s future high-performance models.
- 119th Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4It looks like a sober-suited saloon, but beneath this four-door Sierra Sapphire’s low-key lines lurks supercar-rivalling performance.
- 1210th Racing PumaWith bulging aluminium wheelarches, a deep front spoiler and 17-inch multispoke alloy wheels, the Racing version is certainly a head turner.
- 1311th Focus RSWith looks inspired by the firm’s World Rally Championship contenders, the RS is a real head-turner.
- 1412th Capri 2.8iBilled as the car you always promised yourself, the rakish coupé was a sales hit the minute it was launched in 1969.
- 1513th Escort RS2000 MkVShocked to see the MkV Escort RS2000 finish so high up the order? Well, you shouldn’t be – this is a fast Ford through to its very core.