Technically this may be a variation of the Escort Mk I, but the Ford Escort RS1600 is a distinctive predator that would feel insulted to be lumped in with its decent but undoubtedly tamer siblings. For this was the fearsome competition car that battered the opposition into almost total submission from the early 1970s.
And it was the first car to wear Ford’s RS (for Rallye Sport) badge of honour, which would frequently speed to race wins in the decades ahead. Some 20 wildly different cars have been RS-badged since the Escort RS1600 appeared in 1970 — but the accolade is not awarded lightly, strictly reserved for competition-hardened thoroughbreds. Ford tries to ensure that road-going RS cars offer advanced technology, great performance, terrific roadholding and value for money.
This winning formula was pioneered by the Escort RS1600, the first Ford to use a 16-valve twin overhead-camshaft engine. It was also first to be assembled at the company’s new AVO (Advanced Vehicle Operation) factory at Aveley. The impressive hat trick was the RS1600’s status as the first car to be sold through a specialist network of Rallye Sport dealerships.
The RS1600 was developed from the Escort Mk 1 twin-cam and was fitted with a 1.6 litre BDA 16-valve engine. Stiffened body shells, sports suspension and front disc brakes helped cope with the rigorous demands of long-distance rallies. In fact, for the longest events 1860 pushrod X-flow engines replaced the BDAs, as the robust replacement never suffered mechanical failure. Road versions were detuned compared to works racers, but still offered (and still do offer) high speed coupled with punchy acceleration to thrill sporting drivers.
With the advent of the Escort Mk 2 in 1976, the RS1600 morphed into the RS1800 — an even more potent machine that would consolidate Ford’s hard-earned racing reputation.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1970 (until 1975)
1,599 cc DOHC Straight Four
Road version – top speed of 113 mph 082 km/h); 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 6.4 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Impressive competition scalps lifted by the awesome RS1600 included the East African Safari Rally of 1972, three RAC Rallies and the European Touring Car Championship of 1974.