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 today’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 wasn’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 wasn’t technically the best hot Escort on sale. The XR3i was. The RS version, developed at Ford’s German base, was based on the earlier XR3 so lacked a few of the later model’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 model’s competition focus was obvious. It’s 1.6-litre engine was louder thanks to changes to the four-cylinder’s valve gear mechanism – it was larger and mechanical – 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 wasn’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 it’s probably at least as much to do with the car’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 today’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. It’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 £30,000 a little easier to swallow.
See the full ad here.
SPECIFICATION - FORD ESCORT RS1600i
Engine: 1,597cc, four-cylinder
Transmission: five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Torque(lb ft): 109@5,250rpm
First registered: 1983
Recorded mileage: 54,000
Price new: £6,834
Yours for: £29,995