The Ford Escort Cosworth ticks every box as a modern classic. For starters, it combines two of the most sought-after names in the fast car firmament, plus those pumped-up 1990s rally-bred looks. There's also genuine motorsport pedigree behind the car, and the road versions weren't slouches either.
As you'll probably be aware, Ford used a shortened Sierra Sapphire Cosworth floorpan to create the Escort model with the intention of competing in the World Rally Championship. This meant building 2,500 Escorts and they were very much homologation cars, using a large Garret T3/T04 turbocharger to give 227hp. It was enough to see the all-wheel drive Escort from rest to 62mph in 6.3 seconds and it was just as brisk at flying out of showrooms. Ford also made 200 Monte Carlo special editions to celebrate winning the eponymous rally in 1994.
However, as a road car, many found the early Escort Cosworth to all or nothing depending on whether the turbo was on boost or not. In late 1994, Ford addressed this with a smaller T25 turbo that greatly reduced lag and was claimed to better the 0-62mph time to 6.2 seconds.
There were plenty of other changes that came with this 220hp engine, including an improved inlet manifold, better oil system, larger throttle body and more sophisticated wasted spark ignition. The result made the later run of 4,500 small turbo cars much better to drive on the road and they were still easy to tune to 300hp with little more than a new ECU chip and improved fuel pump. These later cars tended to come in Lux spec with air conditioning, sunroof and leather seats.
Many tuners offered huge power gains for the Escort Cosworth, though usually at the expense of reliability or usability. Today, originality is what most buyers demand, so the stock of good, unmolested Cosworths commands prices from £35,000 for decent examples all the way to £60,000 for the best low mileage specimens.
Bodywork and interior
As the Cosworth has moved out into modern classic territory, most should be in fine fettle and free of rust. It's still worth checking along the sills, arches, behind the body kit, boot floor, tailgate, door bottoms, chassis legs, battery tray and the floor pans as many will have been repaired in their younger days.
Also look for cracked suspension top mounts.
Recaro front seats are comfortable but may need retrimming to the driver's side bolster. The foam may also need to be replaced to reinstate the cushions to their former comfort levels.
Engine and transmission
It should be easy to work out if the car is an earlier large turbo model or later small turbo version from the cam cover. Earlier cars have the YBT engine with blue covers and the traditional twin-cam look, while later cars have use a YBP engine with smoother silver-finished cam cover.
Check the exhaust for blue smoke that points to worn piston rings or white smoke that indicates a blown head gasket. Many will have been fitted with uprated Ford Motorsport or Cometic gaskets to cure this. Stronger head bolts are another wise investment.
A turbo rebuild will cost up to £1,200.
Good quality replacement cambelts are cheap and easy to fit, but the best spark plugs will set you back £90 for a set of four.
Look for signs of oil and coolant leaks.
Rough running is likely to be the coil or ageing spark plugs. Both are easy to replace.
The engine oil pressure gauge should read 5-bar when the engine is started from cold and 1.8-bar when warmed through.
There are two multi-plugs on the left-hand side of the engine bay under the bonnet vent and they can let water in. The fuse box can also burn out its tracks, but replacement is simple.
Some cars might still have early alarm and immobiliser systems fitted. They can cause problems with the fuel pump, so are best removed.
Make sure the fuel pump is uprated to match any tuning to the engine as starvation will result in melted pistons.
The MT75 five-speed manual gearbox is tough and lasts well if the engine is putting out standard power. Tuned cars are more likely to suffer from worn synchro rings in transmission, so listen for any crunching and feel for any reluctance for the lever to shift between gears. A new clutch is £350 plus fitting for a quality aftermarket replacement or £150 for a Motorcraft item.
Suspension and steering
Standard set-up is a very good balance between comfort and control. Stick with this for road use. Spax and Gaz both offer kits to firm up the springs and dampers for track days or competition use.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
The original brakes were always only just up to the job of dealing with the Cosworth's performance, so many have been upgraded. As the market shifts towards cars in original condition, this is one area to consider sticking with upgrades as the standard discs are prone to warping. Standard kit was 278mm discs on the front and 273mm rear discs.
SPECIFICATION - FORD ESCORT COSWORTH
Engine: 1,993cc, 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 5-speed manual, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 227/220@6,250/5,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 224/214@3,500/2,500rpm
Price new: £21,380
Price now: £35,000 upwards