Next year is three decades since the Cossie launched; time has done nothing to dim the appeal
By John Howell / Tuesday, December 14, 2021 / Loading comments
Everyone loves a homologation special. Well, judging by the stirring the Toyota GR Yaris caused, I’d say that’s the case. But if you were a spotty little oik in the 1990s (and according to my old school teachers, I was) the king of the homologation harem was surely the Ford Escort RS Cosworth. Technically, it was a flop, but that doesn’t diminish its standing as one of the great fast Fords. By flop, I mean it was designed to win the Group A WRC title, but it never did. In the end it won just eight rounds of the WRC between 1993 and 1996. Still, that wasn’t for a lack of investment on Ford’s part.
By the start of the 1990s, we were on to the fifth generation of Escort, and deep into the front-wheel-drive era that had started with the Mk3. The problem here was two-fold: firstly, by then front-wheel drive was useless for a top-flight rally car and, secondly, the Mk5 Escort was a pretty useless road car. Even Ford determined as much, and to make it a Group A great the tweaks went well beyond a strut brace and larger turbo. The decision was drastic. In essence, it involved angle grinding around the floorpan, dropping it out, drivetrain ‘n’ all, and throwing the whole lot in the bin.
The job of creating it fell to the SVO department, under the direction of Rod Mansfield and John Wheeler. They decided that the best way to achieve the objectives was to use the proven formula of a Cosworth YBT engine and four-wheel-drive. The trouble was, that couldn’t be accommodated in the Mk5 Escort chassis. That’s why the Sierra RS Cosworth chassis was drafted in and shrouded in a Mk5 Escort body. By the time the arches were flared, to accommodate the wider track, the only panels that could be picked straight off the regular Escort production line were the doors and the roof. Everything else was bespoke, and the job of building it was contracted out to coachbuilder Karmann. In all, they made 7,145.
The first 2,500 units were “homologation specials” built to achieve FIA Group A certification. Rather like the Sierra Cosworth RS500, the focus on competition meant these were built with a water injection system (although it wasn’t working on the road cars) and were hamstrung by the Garrett T34 turbo. In detuned, road-going form, it produced a lot of lag below 3,500rpm. Once the FIA was satisfied with its quota, in 1994 the customer road cars were made more useable, with a quicker-spooling Garrett T25 turbocharger. This made the Escorts’ performance far more accessible.
This 1995-built model is one of those modified cars – and one of the last, with production finishing in 1996. The tea-tray rear wing had become an option by then, but the first owner clearly couldn’t resist ticking that box. It’s said to help deliver 24kg of downforce at over 110mph, but to many it’s the defining Escort Cosworth signature. The rest of the specification is rather subtler, though, and the Imperial Blue paintwork looks fab along with the seemingly immaculate, leather-wrapped Recaros. That’s to be expected. This Lux example has covered almost 60,000 miles, said to be backed up with a fully stamped service history book and old MOT certificates back to the 1990s. It’s being sold with a fresh MOT and service, plus recent new brakes.
I can remember driving Ford’s heritage Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth 4×4. It was the last car off the line so, in theory, as fresh as they get (it wasn’t even registered at the time) so I was expecting it to drive like new. I hope that wasn’t the case, because it felt pretty poor and left me quite disappointed. However, the Escort Cosworth that I drove straight afterwards was infinitely better. So if my experience is anything to go by, this car should satisfy its new owner on all counts.
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