60mph in 2.1 seconds! Styling by Ghia, built by Reliant - Ford's Group B rally car.
Two point one seconds, that's 2.1 seconds, a little over two seconds. Less than three seconds. In the time it's taken you to read this, a Ford RS200 Evo can reach 60mph!
Four wheel drive and 650bhp from a mere 2.1 litre engine made Ford's rally car an instant legend which few cars have come close to catching.
This all to brief venture into supersonic cars occurred back in the early 80's when work started on the supercar which would conform to the Group B rally requirements and would go on to compete against the incredible Metro 6R4, Audi Quattro Turbo etc. FIA rules dictated that two hundred cars needed to be built within a twelve month period to conform with their homologation regulations.
The chassis was designed by former Formula One designer Tony Southgate. Fellow ex-Formula One engineer John Wheeler helped develop the car from the early days right through to the awesome Evo incarnation.
The car was constructed using a steel platform with a monocoque centre section bonded and riveted onto it. Three tubular steel subframes bolted onto the platform forming a chassis which was maintenance friendly in anticipation of quick fixes and changes needed on the rally stages that the car would be subjected to.
The body was styled by Filippo Sapino of the famous Ghia Design Studios in Turin. Ford had no experience in working with the lightweight glass fibre necessary and turned to Reliant (of three wheeler fame) for the expertise.
A production line was set up in Reliant's factory in Shenstone. What a contrast - helping to produce one of the quickest cars ever alongside some of the slowest cars ever! The Ford parts bin was raided for many ancillary parts with the rear lights being borrowed from the Sierra.
The engine was a 16 valve DOHC turbocharged unit which was installed longitudinally at the rear of the car. Based on the respected Cosworth BDA engine but with stronger components, the displacement was a mere 1803cc. Coupled with a Garrett turbocharger this produced a rather palatable 250bhp. Turning up the boost on the turbo would relieve much more power however. The works rally cars operating at this boost produced somewhere between 380 and 450bhp.
Four wheel drive was provided using a Ferguson patented system using viscous couplings to power all four wheels. 37% of power was provided to the front wheels as standard although a centre differential lock could alter this to provide 50/50 front/rear split if necessary.
The gearbox and final drive ratios could be swapped out to provide anything from a 110mph top speed up to a theoretical 206mph.
Left and right hand drive cars were produced and the cars were built in two states of tune and trim. The lesser powered (lower boost) road cars were trimmed by Tickford to provide increased levels of comfort and civility. They featured Sparco seats in red or black, with a leather trimmed XR3i steering wheel. The road car also had fitted carpets and door inserts. Essex police toyed with the idea of using them as traffic cars at one stage - anything to blag a test drive eh?
Group B rally cars had performance comparable to Formula One cars of the same era.
In the 1986 season Henri Toivonen lapped the Estoril circuit in a Lancia Delta S4 during the Portuguese rally. His fastest lap would have qualified him in the sixth position of the F1 Grand Prix that same season.
The death of spectators at rallies forced the FIA to ban Group B rally cars leaving many of these supercars without homes as the rally teams looked for other cars. The rush to build the cars in time for homologation meant that the quality of many of the cars hadn't been up to scratch. When the cars were banned, Ford needed to recoup as much of the £10million it had invested in the project. Around forty cars were dismantled to use for spares whilst around ninety were reassembled in road trim and gradually sold off (at about £50,000).
Rare cars indeed, the type of which we are unlikely to see again.