Ford RS1700T: Spotted

From Aussie V8 Supercars to Le Mans endurance racers, Ford has enjoyed more than its fair share of motorsport glory over the years. To many of its UK fans, though, it'll be the Blue Oval's stage-based success which emphatically stands out, from the Mk.II Escort-based RS1800, driven to victory by Björn Waldegård in 1979, to the highly successful Focus era - and plenty more to boot. Less well known, for good reason, are the icons that could have been; the almost-rans and projects which fell at the final hurdle. And it's this category into which today's Spotted falls.

Following the launch of the new Mk. III Escort, Ford decided that a successor to the RS1800 should be created, a model to build on the previous iteration's racing prowess. Unlike its predecessor, however, the standard Mk. III was front-wheel drive, meaning any rally car built in its image would be in silhouette only, with a bespoke rear-wheel drive platform beneath. Power came courtesy of a Cosworth-developed 1.8-litre turbo four-cylinder engine, the aluminium unit producing up to 350hp and propelling the 1700T to 60mph in 4.2 seconds.

Eighteen prototypes were built in total, although some were little more than mock ups, and only four are known to survive today. They included innovations such as a rear transaxle, to better distribute weight in the front-engined car and an aluminium torque tube to aid chassis rigidity. Once the project was cancelled, Manager Mick Jones took some of the more complete cars to South Africa, where he continued to enhance them while entering the less stringently regulated local competitions.

Those cars were rebodied in Kevlar panels with polycarbonate windows, saving 250kg over the original design, with suspension articulation increased and cooling improved. Nonetheless, the all-wheel drive era had arrived, and while the 1700T found success versus comparable rear-wheel drive rivals, it was out of its depth against Audi's all-conquering Quattro.

The 1700T may have been too late for its time, then, but it holds a place in motorsport history regardless. In predating Lancia's 037 it stakes a claim to being the first of the Group B silhouette cars, paving the way for plenty of incredible machines to come. And while the car itself was left by the wayside, its engine and technical innovations were all carried over to the RS200, allowing Ford to develop a prototype of its all-wheel drive Quattro rival in just three months.

This particular car was built in 1984, and is the 17th of the 18 produced before the project was abandoned in favour of RS200 development. With just 1,147 miles on the clock, it's described by the seller as running and driving very well, as well as being "an excellent addition to any vintage rally fan's collection." It would be hard for us to disagree.

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Comments (55) Join the discussion on the forum

  • mersontheperson 17 Jan 2019

    Nice car with a peculiar stance

  • Cambs_Stuart 17 Jan 2019

    It does look mich higher at the front. The front wheels also look very far forward in the arches.
    But 350 bhp in not very much weight? I bet its entertaining to drive.

  • generationx 17 Jan 2019

    There is your very definition of "hen's teeth" to a serious Ford RS or rally collector.

  • GravelBen 17 Jan 2019

    Why is PH squeezing articles into a frame that only uses the middle third of my browser window, and distorting pictures to fit? I'm looking a cartoon-squished Escort hehe

    Anyone else having the same issue?

  • Jerseyhpc 17 Jan 2019

    The 1700T is the predecessor of the RS200 and bequeathed many components to it. As a failure it is a glorious one and I have always lusted after one. There are 4 known cars remaining and one mythological one that may or may not be held by Ford. The prototypes were shipped to South Africa after the programme was cancelled and they have turned up from there. Malcolm Wilson has a road car in his collection.

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