Ford Escort RS1600i: Spotted

The 1980s were such great years for the affordable performance car. The decade saw the birth of so many rorty, naughty and hilariously silly sports machines that sat atop ranges of run-of-the-mill ecoboxes anyone could afford. Take todayโ€™s PH Hero, the Vauxhall Astra GTE, for example. As Alex explains in his piece, the Luton-made hot hatch was a compelling package that probably deserves more attention today, although it certainly wasnโ€™t for everyone. The Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI was the better refined option, while the Escort RS1600i was the lairy one of the bunch.

You only have to glance at an RS1600i to realise this car is not messing about. It was a homologation special, after all, produced as the necessary road version to enable Ford to go rallying. It had a big rear spoiler, decals and fog lights. Compared to the simple shape of the Golf and the comparably plain GTE, it looked like a bloody hooligan. You could say it set the agenda for fast Fords to follow, with the aggressive styling of the modern Focus RS showing a clear lineage.

Thing is, the RS1600i wasnโ€™t technically the best hot Escort on sale. The XR3i was. The RS version, developed at Fordโ€™s German base, was based on the earlier XR3 so lacked a few of the later modelโ€™s upgraded parts, including stronger brakes and realigned front struts. But the RS1600i used adjustable Koni shock absorbers and lower suspension, meaning it was the keener, more focused machine.

On the road the sporting modelโ€™s competition focus was obvious. Itโ€™s 1.6-litre engine was louder thanks to changes to the four-cylinderโ€™s valve gear mechanism โ€“ it was larger and mechanical โ€“ as well as the use of a bigger-bore exhaust, giving the RS a throaty bottom end and raspy bark up top. With 115hp it wasnโ€™t rapid, but wind the motor up towards its 6,500rpm redline and progress was certainly swift enough. With dinky 15-inch wheels wrapped in six-inch-wide rubber, the car felt exciting and lively. And required a more astute driver than the slightly more forgiving XR3i.

This alone might explain why prices for RSs are rising today, although itโ€™s probably at least as much to do with the carโ€™s rarity. Just 2,500 were produced in Cologne for the UK market. According to HowManyLeft, there are 159 XR3is still left in the UK today, but just 95 RS1600is remain. That makes todayโ€™s Spotted, a Diamond White RS1600i, rather special, especially considering how good a condition it appears to be in.

In 54,000 miles it's remained in completely standard form, even retaining the factory-fit engine bay stickers, original keys and service stamp book. Itโ€™s probably one of the best right-hand-drive cars in existence; perhaps even one of the best RS1600is in the world. A fact that might help making the asking price of almost ยฃ30,000 a little easier to swallow.

See the full ad here.


Engine: 1,597cc, four-cylinder
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power(hp): 115@6,000rpm
Torque(lb ft): 109@5,250rpm
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1983
Recorded mileage: 54,000
Price new: ยฃ6,834
Yours for: ยฃ29,995

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (99) Join the discussion on the forum

  • viggyp 21 Nov 2018

    Absolutely love these and would rather have one of these over the Turbos. This coming from someone who can't stand the CVH lump.

  • CharlieAlphaMike 21 Nov 2018

    I yearned to own an RS1600i back in the day but couldn't afford the insurance so had to make do with a lowly 1.3 Escort Laser cry Actually I loved it. It had a factory fitted sunroof and front spot lights plus a loud (aftermarket) stereo. Oh and it was my first brand new car. What more could a teenage boy want?

  • MDMA . 21 Nov 2018

    Awesome car. Mine was National day winner from 86-91. 5 years on the trot.

  • PistonBroker 21 Nov 2018

    I've already commented on the Astra thread as we were very much a Vauxhall family back in this era - Dad had a Nova SR, Mum had a 1.2 which was replaced with a 1.0 when she wrote it off, and 4 more Vauxhalls followed between them.

    But it didn't stop me lusting after these as well. The RS1600i was loads cooler than the XR3i imo and perhaps even cooler than the S1 RST. Always a bit more of a hooligan element to them I felt.

    Another one to add to the 'why don't I have a big barn full of this stuff bought cheap 20 years ago?'!

  • SS2. 21 Nov 2018

    I sold my [lovely] Copper Bronze Mk 1 Mexico to fund a white RS1600i.

    Loved the RS and it did us proud (a coil pack was the only issue in 4 years of ownership), but it lacked the character of the Mex.

    More than 20 years on and I wish I still had both, though. cloud9

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