True Road-going Racer…
In reality, road-going racecars, along with being the biggest clichés in motoring journalism, are not even remotely sensible. It’s not difficult to understand why; the gearboxes tend to hold an unfeigned hatred for anything that involves low-speed crawls in traffic, while suspensions are in a league of their own as far as motives for trips to your local chiropractor are concerned. In short, on anything that doesn’t fit the description of either a race track or an empty B-road, they simply don’t work.
However for some curious reason, well beyond the rational mindsets of those ‘civvies’ who don’t love cars, we can’t help but have a strange attraction to such cars that are, by logical definition, senseless.
In the department of ludicrous motors, enthusiasts today are presented with more choices than ever. For example, if you can’t be bothered with dental hygiene, you can most certainly go the way of topless, windshield-less sports cars, while those who fancy their face a bit more might go for something like, say, a Porsche 911 GT3 or one of its rivals. Then, for those who preference a dash of nostalgia in their irrationality soup, one can always opt to go second-hand.
And as far as second-hand ‘blasts from the past’ go, you simply can’t go wrong with homologation specials from the 1980s and 90s. Old-school (and in this case exceptionally quirky) styling, brilliant racing pedigree from an era that fills the dreams of today’s ‘petrolheads’, and enough impracticality that’ll leave non-enthusiasts questioning your sanity. What more could you ask for?
Introducing the Ford Escort RS Cosworth. After showing the touring car world who wore the snakeskin boots with the RS500, Ford decided to try yet another hand at WRC rallying. In pursuit of these aspirations, the Blue Oval dropped the 2.0-litre straight-4 from the Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth under the bonnet, linked it up with the Sapphire’s AWD system, and finally bolted the same transmission and suspension featured on the Sapphire RS. Meanwhile, on the outside, the body received more pronounced fenders as well as aero kits that truly only a mother could love.
Considering the success Ford experienced in touring car racing, as well as the prior rallying experience carried over from Ford’s RS200 and the original Escort, you might expect me to tell you that the Escort RS Cossie’s performance both on track and on road went exactly as you predicted. In other words, without competition. Well, not exactly…
With 227 bhp on tap, 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds, and a 138 mph top speed (credited to the car’s god-awful 0.38 Cd), the Escort RS’s performance couldn’t quite match that of the Lancia Delta Integrale, the Toyota Celica GT4, the Subaru WRX, or the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. And the Escort’s monstrous turbo lag certainly didn’t help its case in the presence of such stiff, and now legendary, competition.
On the upside though, it should be mentioned that when the car was on the move and in the groove (and especially if you had one of the Escort RSs from 1994 onwards fitted with the smaller Garrett T25 turbos) it could be properly good fun to drive. Credit there is due to the rearward-biased 34:66 front-to-rear torque distribution of the AWD system and the sideways occasions of tomfoolery that came as a result.
Even though the Escort Cosworth wasn’t necessarily all that it was cracked up to be, and certainly didn’t live up to the expectations set before it, it still originates from an era of racing mystique that petrolheads today speak of as if they were stories passed down through several generations. And by buying one, you are not only buying a slice of homologation desert, but you are also achieving the dream shared amongst many car enthusiasts of owning a true ‘racer for the road.’
What’s more, we’ve not even gotten to the price yet. Whereas most present-era road racers would probably require a stable job with a bank or something, this Ford Escort RS Cosworth could be yours for a sensible £11,950. And with similar cars asking for less than £16k, you can take pride in not seeming like an irrational idiot for having bought one. Finally, some common sense to convince your better half that they’re not with a complete and absolute nutter.
Engine: 1,993 cc turbocharged, DOHC, inline-4
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Horsepower: 227 bhp (224 bhp from 1994 onwards)
Torque: 220 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.2 seconds
Maximum speed: 138 mph
The good: Homologation special, fun to drive, fast…
The bad: Not as fast as rivals, major turbo lag
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