|Ford Escort RS1600|
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The Rallye Sport name has been applied to 21 models, which often proved their worth by winning in motorsport as well as in the market-place. Along with the "ST" badge, the "RS" designation has never been applied lightly, with each and every RS model and derivative offering a special blend of performance, roadholding, vehicle safety, refinement - and great value for money.
RS-badged Fords have been built in many different forms. There have been front-engined and mid-engined types; front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive cars; and four-cylinder or six-cylinder engines, either normally-aspirated or Turbocharged.
Many have used wind-tunnel testing to evolve innovative aerodynamic features, such as the rear aerofoils fitted to Sierra and Escort RS Cosworths. All have pushed the boundaries of technology, and have provided exceptional stability and handling.
The original RS-badged Ford was the 1970 Ford Escort RS1600, the first-ever Ford road car to use a 16-valve twin-overhead-camshaft engine, and the first to be assembled in the new Advanced Vehicle Operation factory at Aveley, in Essex. It also became the first Ford model to be sold through an expanding network of specialised Rallye Sport dealerships.
Like many RS models, the RS1600 (and its close relation, the single-cam engined RS2000) matched its success in the market place with wins in races and rallies, including the East African Safari rally of 1972, three RAC rallies, and the European Touring Car Championship of 1974.
The Ford Capri RS2600 and RS3100 models were high-powered flagship versions of Ford's best-selling coupe range of the 1970s, which also won scores of races, including the European Touring Car Championships of 1971 and 1972.
In the late 1970s, the distinctively-styled quad-headlamp Ford Escort RS2000 became the best-selling RS model of all time, while the Ford Escort RS1800 won more rallies than any other British car. It won the World Rally Championship for Makes in 1979 and provided power for both Bjorn Waldegard (1979) and Ari Vatanen (1981) to win the Drivers' titles. Such Escorts are still popular among rallying clubmen.
In the 1980s the front-wheel-drive RS1600i was the first Escort to use a fuel-injected engine, and the first to use a five-speed gearbox, while the RS Turbo of 1984 was the first to use a Turbocharged engine, and a viscous-coupling limited-slip differential. Both models became successful in Touring Car racing, especially the RS Turbo, whose 1.6-litre engine could produce up to 270bhp.
The mid-engined RS200, of which only 200 cars were ever made between 1984 and 1986, was an impressive two-seat supercar, intended for Group B rallying. It featured a race-bred steel and carbon-fibre chassis, a Turbocharged Cosworth BDT engine and four-wheel-drive. Strikingly styled, the RS200 was exclusive and the most expensive RS model so far.
During the 1980s, the Cosworth YB-engined 150mph Sierra RS Cosworth family became so successful as fast, value-for-money, road cars that they became a target for thieves. The RS500 derivatives (of which just 500 examples were built) were so dominant in motor racing that the rules of entire Championships had to be re-cast to make sure they did not win every race, every time.
Even so, and before this could be done, the 500bhp RS500 race cars won the World Touring Car Championship in 1987, the European Touring Car Championship in 1988, along with hundreds of successes at National level.
The final Sierra RS Cosworth of 1990 had a sophisticated four-wheel-drive powertrain and a shortened version of that car's chassis platform, along with a 227bhp engine, was used in the Escort RS Cosworth three-door hatchback. This car's extrovert aerodynamic package ensured positive downforce at all road speeds.
In the mid-1990s the Escort RS Cosworth returned Ford to the top of the rally standings, including victory in the 1994 Monte Carlo Rally - and it also inspired the birth of the Escort World Rally Car of 1997-1998, which brought that pedigree to a nostalgic close.
During the 1990s, two superfast versions of the front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta were marketed - the RS Turbo with a Turbocharged CVH engine, the RS1800 with the award-winning 1.8-litre Zetec 16-valve twin-cam unit.
At the same time the distinctive front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre Escort RS2000 became the first Ford to use the smooth and torquey 16-valve engine which was later fitted to many Scorpio and Galaxy models. A later derivative, which also carried the RS badge, the RS2000 4x4, was the first of the 1990s Escort family to use four-wheel-drive.
No sooner had the Focus been introduced, than work began on a high-performance RS version. To match the much-praised front-wheel-drive chassis of the Focus, this model, equipped with a Turbocharged 212 bhp derivative of the Ford Duratec engine, and a sophisticated transmission, offered 143mph performance with impressive levels of traction and roadholding.
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