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Tuesday 1st November 2011

PH Heroes: Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Forget the bodykitted horrors it inspired, the Cossie deserves its place in the PH hall of fame




The ability of cars to reflect the personalities of the people that build them never ceases to amaze. Cue sweeping generalisations about Ferraris symbolising fiery Latin passion and Porsches the German obsession with engineering über alles. Run with the theme and apply it to Essex and, well, actually it still works.


Facts have an annoying habit of getting in the way of such lazy stereotyping, however, and the Escort Cosworth is as much Deutschland as it is Dagenham, but it's easy to go off on one about aggressive, shell-suited types and in-your-face attitudes - the 'premature ejaculation drivers' Ian Dury once sang about. And for some it's this image that'll forever cling to cars like the Escort RS Cosworth.

This is a car that should be on any PHer's radar, though. The shadow of that huge wing looms large, the imitations attached to many an unsuspecting Escort LX back in the day all but destroying the formidable competition pedigree forged in the forests by the likes of Francois Delacour and Carlos Sainz.


These days you'll too often read of those who've revisited the Escort Cosworth nearly two decades on from its heyday and come away seriously let down. An Escort-shelled mongrel built on shortened Sierra Cosworth running gear, the Cossie made few compromises and remains a more single-minded proposition than the more rounded Evos and Imprezas that followed.

First impressions of this Ford heritage fleet example don't do much to overcome that image either. This is a car that suddenly feels of another era, the Duplo dashboard seemingly level with your knees and the combination of Recaros trimmed in Granada Scorpio style ruched leather and a stocky, thick-rimmed wheel hardly dishing up the tactile delights.


Doesn't get much better when you fire it up either. No Cosworth Ford ever sounded that great, the YB engine effective enough but, at best, gruff. Like the rest of this car, it's about getting the job done with no niceties to soften the blow. Proper rally cars rarely sound anything better than a bucket of bolts at the best of times. At least the Cosworth is authentic in that respect.

In its 1992 road test Autocar praised the "delectable quality of the shift" but the gearbox in this car is a pig. Long of throw, balky and slow-witted, its partnership with the woolly clutch and mushy accelerator are hardly the thing of dreams.


This is a later 'small turbo' car with the Garrett T25 fitted once homologation rules had been satisfied and the larger, more sluggish T3/T04B required for competition-friendly 400hp power outputs could be dropped. Spool-up is apparently much quicker and, like any YB-engined Cosworth, the uninspiring engine note is more than made up for by the thrust it delivers.

The gearshift still feels more like that of a knackered old Transit than a Group A rally contender, though, and the fat steering wheel needs a fair bit of encouragement to move off the dead centre. And doesn't offer much in the way of feedback once it does.


Gradually, though, the negative first impressions begin to fall away. The ride is great, body control spot-on and - like a proper rally car - bumps, cambers and crests all get swallowed up. The brakes feel strong too.

With a bit of heat in its veins, the gearbox starts to loosen up a bit too, even if the throw remains long and the gate wide.

Hints of that legendary Cosworth pace also become apparent with a bit more commitment. On-paper stats don't look too impressive, a 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds in that Autocar road test slower than both the Delta Integrale and Nissan Sunny Gti-R it was tested against and the top speed - not helped by that barn door bolted on the back - just 137mph.


Looking at the Cosworth you expect it to nut you in the face with its performance. The initial disappointment when it doesn't lasts as long as it takes to look at that white-faced speedo with its tiny numbers. Is that really saying...? Oh heck ... it is. Blame the engine's total lack of sonic feedback, the dull whirr overlaid by forced induction whooshes and gurgles offering little sense of what it's actually doing. Without that aural reference it's very easy to rack up extremely naughty numbers, even the standard 227bhp enough to give the Cossie a proper turn of speed.


Once you get used to feeling on top of it rather than in it that speed becomes eminently exploitable too. The truncated wheelbase - 57mm shorter than the Sierra from which it was taken - and fast steering combine to make it feel super-agile, with the kind of built-in instability that a gifted driver could really exploit on some bleak gravel track in the middle of Kielder Forest.

Grip is huge, stubborn even, and if the front end does start to push on you've really gone in very hot indeed and the merest lift will tuck the nose back in. There's never any feel from the steering wheel but the Escort seems to point itself in the direction you look and, as the confidence grows, its speed as a cross-country weapon starts to really hit home. There's a reason rally cars have always made such great road cars in the UK and the Escort suddenly feels as brutally effective as those wild looks suggest it might be.


It's a car you wrestle rather than finesse but after all the negative reports most modern-day testers have returned with it's a real delight to prove them wrong. Yes, it feels its age. Yes, there are flaws. But this is a proper homologation special honed with the same expertise and ruthless ambition that made its rear-drive forebears such winners. On reflection it's good to know the RS Cosworth needs grabbing by the scruff of the neck. You wouldn't want a car with that heritage to be too much of a walkover. Edgy, a bit confrontational ... uh-oh, that Essex analogy looks to be making a comeback. We'll maybe set that Ian Dury lyric aside though.

Dan Trent
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Author Discussion

mackay45

Original Poster:

393 posts

57 months

[news] 
Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
Numberplate says it all. Escort Cosworth, FTW.

JulianHJ

7,102 posts

148 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
Had the opportunity to buy a mint example Monte from my parents about ten years ago, but bought a Griffith instead. Turned out to be a hugely expensive mistake. I'd probably still have it today.

Barkychoc

7,419 posts

90 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
With everything now so PC and with half a mind on litigation cars such as these will never be built again - which is a shame in some respects. This needed driver skill, now its electronic everything.

Fartgalen

4,996 posts

93 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
I'm from Yorkshire - so I can say it like Jezza.

Luvly cozzeh !

thejudderman

69 posts

57 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
Stunning; I love it!

Those wheels just looks so right on the car. Plus it's in my all time favourite car colour; Imperial Blue. Why son't Ford still do their performance cars in that colour???
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TonyHetherington

31,843 posts

136 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
Love it!

I'm 31 now, but had an Escort Cosworth Lux (L-reg) when I was 19. Don't even ask what the insurance was hehe

Interestingly, prices have gone up since those days (in the 2.5yrs I owned my car it went from £12k to £14k)

stuttgartmetal

6,796 posts

102 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
Convoluted stilted prose that flowed like a pinball machine.
3 out of 10

richard300

997 posts

95 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
TonyHetherington said:
Love it!

I'm 31 now, but had an Escort Cosworth Lux (L-reg) when I was 19. Don't even ask what the insurance was hehe

Interestingly, prices have gone up since those days (in the 2.5yrs I owned my car it went from £12k to £14k)
I looked at these about 10 years ago, they were around £16,000 back then, I opted instead, to go for a 4 year old Mitsubishi EVO V GSR that i paid £15,000 for..... If i still had the EVO it would prob be worth 3-4K now. The Escort would be worth about 12-14K.

Mind, thats not as bad as the E30 M3 Evo I once fancied from a garage, with 75,000 miles, lovely condition and up for £6995.00 (Wonder what crazy money thet would be worth now)? Just couldnt pull the trigger on a LHD car.

Edited by richard300 on Tuesday 1st November 12:43

thewheelman

2,194 posts

59 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
The Escort Cosworth never did anything for me, i couldn't stand that era of Ford cars, especially the idiots that called it a "Cossie". Owned one very briefly, & couldn't wait for it to sell.

RESSE

3,666 posts

107 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
richard300 said:
I looked at these about 10 years ago, they were around £16,000 back then, I chose instead to go for a 4 year old Mitsubishi EVO V GSR that i paid £15,000..... If i still had the EVO it would prob be worth 3-4K now. The Escort would be worth about 12-14K.

Mind, thats not as bad as the E30 M3 Evo I once fancied from a garage, with 75,000 miles, lovely condition and up for £6995.00 (Wonder what crazy money thet would be worth now)?
October 2011 edition of Classic and Sport Car reported a rather special (I presume "as new/mint") E30 ME selling for £82,000.

I haven't found out much about the car - anyone else have link etc?

TonyHetherington

31,843 posts

136 months

[news] 
Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
I thought they were even a little more than that now, but nevertheless - for a classic, it doesn't seem much money.

However it is probably worth remembering that the cars are 20yrs old now and not only do they feel that way inside (i.e. it's a 20yr old Escort dash) but the power (of a standard one) is less than a luke-warm-hatch today.

Nevertheless, those that want to can overlook that for bags of character and a rear spoiler straight from teenage boys' bedroom walls.

dave stew

1,502 posts

53 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
I got to drive a few of these back in the day when I was the RS Owner's Club magazine editor. Ford brought a few along to the RS Owner's Club National Day in 1991 (K plate examples) and I still remember the impact they made. I had a few track laps with Francois Delecour in a road going example going sideways around Donington at a similar time.

Glorious cars, big turbo lag but nice to drive, would be as good as a current 'modern'.

Anyone remember the RWD RS2000 prototype from the early 90s? Escort Cosworth bodyshell, N/A 2.0 16v engine, Scorpio drivetrain.

s m

10,503 posts

89 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
dave stew said:
Anyone remember the RWD RS2000 prototype from the early 90s? Escort Cosworth bodyshell, N/A 2.0 16v engine, Scorpio drivetrain.
Nope, but I remember the one with the Cosworth V6 engine

y2blade

54,388 posts

101 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
cloud9


Adz The Rat

7,586 posts

95 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
I did some photo's for a friend at the beginning of the year of his Monte edition, absolutely stunning car.
It was also the first time I had been in a Cosworth for a few years, his is tuned to 550bhp and Ive never felt power like it.

I would love one.


Rare & Powerful by Adam Kennedy Photography, on Flickr

lockup

373 posts

128 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
stuttgartmetal said:
Convoluted stilted prose that flowed like a pinball machine.
3 out of 10
Well done for volunteering to write the next article on PH.

wab172uk

904 posts

113 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
I've always loved the Escort Cosworth.

Always keep promising myself to buy a mint one. But given it's age now, I've always thought better of it.

Still, given a lottery win. I would buy one to add to the many others. In Imperial Blue of course.

GroundEffect

8,021 posts

42 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
Never saw the fascination.

4/10


dave stew

1,502 posts

53 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
s m said:
Nope, but I remember the one with the Cosworth V6 engine
Well I drove the 2.0 litre one around Boreham back in the day!

Lets Torque

10,974 posts

43 months

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Tuesday 1st November 2011 quote quote all
GroundEffect said:
Never saw the fascination.

4/10
Same here! Although, that looks a nice example.

6/10.
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