Escort RS 1700T

Development :- 1980 to 1983

The Escort that had promise.

The Works Escort Rally Programme 1983


In 1980, following the launch of the MKIII Escort, Ford plans were started to produce a rear wheel drive Escort to replace the MK II Works rally cars, the RS1700T, with a full programme expected in 1983. As all Ford rally enthusiasts will know, the development was hindered by all kinds of problems, and ultimately the project in the UK was cancelled.


Ford Germany had initiated the development of a MkIII Escort with a view to circuit racing, and produced the RS1600i. Right hand drive versions were completed in late 1982, and homologated on January 1st 1983.


Peter Ashcroft announced the decision to run a limited program of Rally events with the GpA RS1600i, for contracted driver Malcolm Wilson, and the up and coming Louise Aitken. However, due to the commitments of Fords Rally HQ at Boreham with the RS1700T, the program was passed over to MCD of Widnes (later to become Rally Engineering Developments or R.E.D.), fresh from their success with Ari Vatanen in 1982


RED took delivery of the first vehicle on Christmas Eve 1982, and had to have both cars built and ready for the first round of the British Rally Championship, the Mintex, on Feb 25th - a tall order by anyone's standards.

The Ford Escort RS 1700T was under development for 2 years. The plans for the 1700T were to be the successor to the ultra successful Mk2 Escort RS1800. The RS1700T was to be entered into the up and coming Group B category for the World Rallying Championship.


This was Ford's first attempt at a turbocharged rally competition car, a brief spec below :-

  • 1778cc, BDT engine, 200 Bhp (Road) 350 Bhp (Works), aluminum block, developed by Ford & Cosworth.

  • Engine mounted longitudinal unlike the transverse mounting for the Escort Mk3 road car. 

  • Rear Wheel Drive.

  • Full independent suspension all round.

  • Top speed 140 mph

  • 0-60 mph 4.2 (350bhp)














There is still one at least

The RS 1700T Program was canceled along with the C100 Sports car project when Stewart Turner was offered control of Ford Motorsport for the Second time. This gave rise to one of Ford greatest cars the RS 200. This car to showed promise, and could of well have blitzed the World Rally scene. The group "B" category of cars was closed in the mid 80's.

Most of the 18 RS 1700T examples were crushed, but a few remain.

The 200 engines that had been developed for the 1700T ended there life being re-developed
with a revised spec and fitted to the RS200 project.

The Ford Escort - Most successful rally car in the world
In 1968 the newly launched Escort Twin Cam kicked-off a 30 year winning spree with a spectacular first season scoring enough international rally victories to secure the coveted World Rally Championship for Makes. Ford Escorts of all types, competing at all levels, were successful rally winners up to the turn of the century, and even today are still occasionally winning events all round the world.

When those original Escorts first appeared, Ford cars were already known as fine rally cars, following high-profile victories in the world's most important rallies - Monte Carlo, Safari, Acropolis and RAC. The birth of the Escort was to boost Ford's motorsport fortunes still further: by any measure it would go on to become the world's most successful rally car.

In 1968 the original 1.6-litre Escort Twin-Cam started its competition career in an astonishing opening season - by winning the Circuit of Ireland, Dutch Tulip, Austrian Alpine, Acropolis and Scottish rallies, all within eight weeks. By the end of its first season, the Escort had also won the famous 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland, which helped Ford secure the World Rally Championship for Makes. Ford Escorts won the World Championship again, in 1969.

The 'works' Twin-Cam Escorts continued to win all round the world in 1969 and 1970, while special overhead-valve-engined cars dominated the toughest ever event the 16,000-mile London-Mexico World Cup rally of 1970, taking first, third, fifth, sixth and eighth places. As a result of this victory, the Escort Mexico production model was developed.

As the Ford Escort was developed through the 1970s, the 1.6-litre 16-valve RS1600 took over from the Twin-Cam. By this time, the cars had an amazing reputation for strength and reliability. Engines for motorsport were progressively enlarged, first to 1.8-litres with 205 bhp, and later to 2.0-litres with up to 250 bhp.

By 1975, RS1600s had won world-class rallies as different as the East African Safari (1972, when Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm became the very first European-based crew to win this long and gruelling event), the British RAC (three times in succession, 1972 - 1974), the Finnish 1000 Lakes (five times), the Arctic Rally in Finland and New Zealand's Heatway Rally.

No matter what the competition, the surface, the conditions, or the nation, the Escort was always successful, at all levels of the sport. Near-standard Group 1 Escorts (this is the 1970s equivalent of today's Group N 'showroom' category) were also often victorious, memorably with three consecutive outright wins in the 1974, 1975 and 1976 Tour of Britain events, which combined racing with rallying.

A new-style Escort, the 1.8-litre RS1800, emerged in 1975, and within months the Boreham-based 'works' team had turned it into a formidable World Championship machine. Its first outright victory came in the 1975 RAC rally, when Timo Makinen completed a personal hat-trick, and the Escort took its fourth straight win. Ford retained the RAC trophy in the following year, 1976, when Roger Clark won for the second time in an Escort - four years after his first RAC triumph.

Roger Clark, Hannu Mikkola and Bjorn Waldegard spearheaded the 'works' team's international charge in the following years. As ever, the Escorts were still the class of the field. Bjorn Waldegard won three of the world's most punishing World Championship rallies in 1977 - the East African Safari, Acropolis and RAC events, and the Swedish in 1978, while Hannu Mikkola also won the RAC rally in 1978.

Throughout this period, drivers used Escorts to win hundreds of events at World, European and National Championship level. One of those Ford rally experts, Gilbert Staepelaere of Belgium, won more events than any other individual driver in Europe. The Ford Escort was also unbeaten in the British Rally Championship for eight consecutive years, from 1971 to 1978.

In 1979 the Ford Escort then made a clean sweep of the World Rally Championship. By the end of the year, the well-developed and versatile RS1800s had won five World Championship rounds, in Portugal, Greece (Acropolis), New Zealand, Canada and the UK (RAC) - the RAC being won for the eighth consecutive occasion.

Not only did Ford win the World Manufacturers' Championship in 1979 - for the third time in twelve years - but Bjorn Waldegard also became World Drivers' Champion, with team-mate Hannu Mikkola close behind him.

As the 'works' team concentrated on developing new models for the 1980s, another member of that famous team, Ari Vatanen, spearheaded a privately-financed Escort rally team which contested the World Rally Championship in 1980 and 1981. After winning the Acropolis rally in 1980, Ari went on to win three more World Championship events in 1981, and became the first, and only, privateer ever to win the World Drivers' Championship.

At the same time the production Escort range went front-wheel-drive and was clearly never going to be competitive at a world level and with the introduction of Group B all the 'works' effort went into the four-wheel-drive RS200s followed later by the Sierra RS Cosworth, but the Escort was never forgotten.

In 1993 a new-generation of Escorts triumphantly returned to International rallying. In its very first World Championship season, the turbocharged four-wheel-drive Escort RS Cosworth won no fewer than five World Championship rounds, with four second places to back up that achievement. It was an amazingly versatile machine, for there were victories on Portuguese gravel, on the twisting tarmac of Corsica and San Remo, and on one of the toughest of all World Championship rallies, the hot and dusty Acropolis event.

In 1994 Francois Delecour's Escort RS Cosworth won the Monte Carlo Rally, while Tommi Makinen's victory in the 1000 Lakes proved the strength of the modern-day Escort. As in 1993, this success was matched by many victories in European, British and other International Championships.

In 1995, the Escort RS Cosworth won rallies all around the world, both in Group A and Group N form. Not only did this Escort model win 25 European Championship rounds, but it also won Championships as far apart as Africa and Austria, Switzerland and Portugal, Finland and Turkey.

Two more World Rally Championship victories followed in 1996. A privately-prepared Escort RS Cosworth, driven by private-owner Patrick Bernardini, won the Monte Carlo rally, while Carlos Sainz won the Rally of Indonesia.

To suit the latest World rally regulations for 1997, Ford then evolved a new version of the Escort, the World Rally Car. This 300 bhp turbocharged model won two World Championship rounds, one being the toughest of all rallies, the Greek Acropolis: both wins went to double World Champion Carlos Sainz, who had joined the team in 1996. In a desperately hard-fought series, the Escort WRC also took second place in the World Rally Championship for Makes.

Further improved for world-class motorsport, the Escort WRC was used by the Ford 'works' team and many private teams during 1998, and recorded several podium positions during the season. Even at the end of its career, and as in every one of the previous 30 years, the Escort was still one of the world's most formidable rally cars.

The Ford Escort, in its many forms, has won 46 world-class and World Championship rallies, and innumerable national and International series - privately-owned Escorts continue to record victory after victory, and will surely add fresh entries into the record-books in the months, and years, to come.


The Ford RS Owners Club
PO Box 280, Upminster, Essex, RM14 9BP.
Tel: + 44 (0)8702 406215
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