During the 70’s, the Ford Escort and its sporty RS versions (driven during several participations but also Rally victories) had bewitched a generation of apprentice pilots. With the transition towards traction in this category, things had changed: Volkswagen with its Golf GTI, asserted new standards, followed by Peugeot and its 205 GTI, early 80’s. However, the oval brand struggled with its Escort XR3, XR3i but also RS1600i. To fight against a level playing field, Ford decided to add a turbo to its compact Sedan, by forgetting a mere detail: “without control, power doesn’t mean anything”, to quote Pirelli.
For those like me, who got the chance to drive a Focus RS of the last two generations, mainly the second to last, who had a hard time getting beyond 305 horsepower) on the sole front axle (the following one cheated a little, with an all-wheel drive but 350 horsepower), it is very tough to get back into the context of the early 80’s. However, one must admit: Ford was completely overwhelmed, when it came to the running trains of the distant predecessor of Focus, Escort so-called “mk3. If the misguided ways of the framework could have been discreet with its “reasonable” power (and yet), 96 horsepower for the XR3, carburetor until 115 for the RS1600i, it was completely different when one had to get past 132 horsepower, with a response time of the turbo, those days.
Power and lightness, but unpredictable road holding
On the paper, once again, the Escort RS Turbo could compete with the German or French competition, with a weight of 900 kg and an equivalent power of the sportiest models of the category. This would imply, getting a sound grip on what’s key: roadholding. One may not have cared perhaps, but this didn’t prevent RS Turbo from being successful.
Made for confirmation in Group A, it wasn’t necessarily about teasing the modern GTIs’: a production of 5000 models was enough to make Ford happy, but starting from a rather elastic base, with a blurry direction and unpredictable road holding (despite the limited slip differential), it seemed obvious that between a 205 or a Golf GTI, even Renault Supercinq GT Turbo, and the most sporty Escort of the range, there was no contest. Nevertheless (as Aznavour sang).
Despite this retrospective unflattering picture, the Escort RS Turbo indulged in an amazing feat: prolonging its life beyond 1986 restyling and blithely surpassing the goals of the Ford company. With 8 604 models, one was far from a failure. Let’s not forget the strong presence of Ford in England and Germany, considered to be almost-national brands in these two countries. Moreover, the flaws of this car, could turn into qualities: to be efficient behind the wheel, one needed a hell of a driver and to be in good hands, if so, she could turn out to be the one of the best of her category.
Indeed, the little Escort wasn’t nasty to look at. In her XR3 and XR3i versions, one skimmed past elegance and discreet sportiness with a rather balanced curve and was fashionable. With the RS Turbo, it was a little more tuned (her inheritor, RS Cosworth used almost the same strings, with her “pie server” spoiler): a kind of Escort with a perfectly adapted physique for the German taste, less for the French, as the latter preferred the elegance of a 205 GTI (certainly due to national chauvinism as well).
The first Escort RS Turbo series was available in only one color, white and dressed in blue stickers or fender flares in plastic. With the second series, benefiting from re-styling, other colors like black or red made way inside the catalog. In terms of famous celebrities, one came across Lady Diana, theoretically an amateur of thrills.
Produced from 1984 until 1986, the Ford Escort RS Turbo is sold for around, 12 000 euros today (LVA 2018). This is quite close to the prices of Golf GTI and 205 GTI. But with a Turbo RS, one enters the world of exclusiveness, given her low production, especially since a lot of them were mistreated by the Sunday sportive or the crazy tuners. One still hasn’t found the rare gem, but this little German could be a more advanced alternative, with the standards of the little sports cars of the 80’s.