RS Royalty: The Bonkers Collection
PH meets a man who knows his RS from his L-Plates
Provenance can be found in a picture which hangs on the wall above the car; a young Di, emerging from the driver's seat of the very same Escort, deep in conversation with a bodyguard. It hangs on the wall of the room - carpeted, soundproofed, and lit with artfully-angled spotlights - which the Escort shares with some of the finest examples in the country of Ford's RS back catalogue; and some have as few as 1,800 miles on the clock.
This room is something of a Mecca for blue oval enthusiasts. It contains 'The Bonkers Collection', probably the most interesting collection of Ford RS models in Europe, possibly in the entire world.
Rarities include a bright red Sierra Sapphire Cosworth, for example, one of only three red two-wheel-drives ever made, and the only one known to survive. Another Sapphire, this time a 4x4, the only one in metallic Mallard Green, and the last Sapphire Cosworth to leave the production line. A Focus RS500; number one, in fact, as evinced by the 001/500 plaque on the dash. A smattering of Sierra RS500 Cosworths; touring car racers for the road, and not one but two from the batch of just 52 ever made which were finished in Moonstone Blue. I could go on; there are 20 cars here at present, and the list continues to grow.
"It was about seven or eight years ago now," Mark remembers. "I'd always had a huge passion for Ford RSs, ever since that first 1600i, so I set out on this quest to buy the best RS1600i I could find." Little did he know that that RS1600i would give rise to something so big. Before long, Mark had spied a black Series Two Escort RS Turbo, and with just 4000 miles on the clock, he had to have it. That was followed by a black RS1600i. "It was a quest that turned into a hobby, and a hobby that turned into a passion, and a passion that turned into an obsession!" he laughs.
Mark says his aim is to own one example of every RS model ever produced; not an easy task when you consider some of the rare (and, more to the point, pricey) cars that list includes - the RS200 and Mk2 Escort RS1800 are just two which spring to mind. And it's not as though Mark will settle for just anything. "With all the models, the point is trying to find the best I possibly can," he says. "If I've got one that's done 15,000 miles, and I find one that's done 12,000 miles, I'll buy that one and sell the other."
One gets the feeling that owning these cars and simply being around them is more important to Mark then any wish to drive them. "The only ones I really drive are the two Sapphires," he says. "Sometimes, if it's all getting a bit too much, I'll come in here, just for half an hour or so, and sit and look. I don't need to drive them to enjoy them."
And if you see the cars that way, it's perfectly logical that they're kept the way they are - in the warm, dry, quiet confines of this room, admired and adored by their owner. For sure, this collection is an investment - by his own admission, that's the only way Mark can justify spending so much on it - but first and foremost it's the ultimate fantasy of a dyed-in-the-wool RS enthusiast, made flesh.
Bonkers it might be - but it's also brilliant.