I’m continually amazed by the outpouring of reader submissions that have been showing up in the firstname.lastname@example.org inbox. Today’s story comes from Tony W. Roca who is one of the few (if not the only) Americans to have built and owned a legendary Ford Escort RS Cosworth. Here’s the story in Tony’s own words…
The car pictured here, officially known as an Escort RS Cosworth actually exists somewhat by accident. My sons and I started out hunting for bits and pieces to build a Sierra RS500 replica and while “shopping” in the UK stumbled across a brand new unfinished Escort Cosworth motorsport shell left over from Ford’s Group A/WRC Escort Rally Car program of the ’90’s. We acquired the shell and decided to build an Escort rather than the Sierra and the research and parts hunt of what was to be a three year project really got going.
First a brief history of the Cossie. Early on in the research stage we found a video by Duke Videos in the UK called the Escort Cosworth Story that proved extremely valuable. It chronicled the development by Ford Racing of Europe and the early racing history of the Escort Cosworth with factory execs and marvelous detailed racing footage. It became apparent that the Cossie was very special and unique in that the car is a hybrid and shares very few pieces with any Ford production car and was designed and produced as a race car before any detuned street versions were produced.
From the waist down the car is a modified Sierra with the Sierra inline driveline including the Cosworth 2.0L engine that had been winning European Touring Car championships for years, producing over 500 turbocharged hp in race trim. From the waist up it’s a modified MK5 Escort (a front drive sideways-engined small hatchback). The idea was to get the size of an econobox for rally handling with the proven race engine and suspension of the RS500, and it worked! All the body pieces were custom stamped and assembled by Karmann of Germany.
As we watched the video over and over and looked through the many books and historical bits of info we had accumulated, I fell love with the early tiger stripe cars with their eye catching colors and markings. The last one, registration J113BPU was the car Ford used as their first entry in a UK rally, the Hadrian Centurian Rally. The car handily took first place driven by Malcolm Wilson, who I believe currently heads Ford Europe Racing (or at least in recent history).
This car ran into the ’94 season with different paint and I believe was then scrapped (rally cars last about 2 years before the shells are replaced).
This was the car we would represent with our build, but it would be the tarmac version as I felt the car was not replaceable and we lived near wonderful Road America.
This was never really about just having a legit Motorsport Escort Cosworth in the end. All of my projects are more about the process, the hunt and the knowledge gained and friends made along the way, and this one would not have been finished to the level it has been without the help of many people.
Genuine OZ magnesium tarmac wheels came from the Sprongl Brothers in Canada, a genuine factory interior and all the factory stamped parts and carbon dash bits came from Nigel Habgood in Vancouver, the incredibly rare roof vents came from Weegee Smith.
The guys in the RS Owners club in the UK provided original pictures taken by a member present at the actual Hadrian Centurion Rally the car ran at. He even had an original rally sticker for the car, as well as the original factory promo poster Ford displayed in their showrooms after the win.
One prominent member, a Mr. Robeson, upon seeing some pictures of the build in progress noted that the mirrors were wrong. After explaining that there weren’t any of these cars in our scrap yards, I suggested he not criticize so much and find me the right ones! About three weeks later to my pleasant surprise, a perfect pair of the correct mirrors showed up. To all these people I owe and have given thank yous.
The car took about three years to build and sort. Having the raw parts is only the start. The engine was completely rebuilt and modified, the shell was seam welded and the cage put in and all painted.
All the suspension was modified to eliminate potential weak points and fitted with spherical bearing ends as well as strut top camber plates, fully adjustable sway bars F&R. There’s also a custom aluminum radiator, a large WRC style intercooler and a one-piece driveshaft.
The trans is a Quaife Big Tooth, while the engine had the usual head work and custom Piper cams and springs supplied by Martin Hadland, chief Escort Guru in the UK.
The engine uses Autronic SM4 management and a GT30R ball bearing turbo. I even duplicated the factory “hockey stick” flat exhaust. There’s a long list of other special parts and details. Rverything was built, welded, and machined in our garage and shop by us.
The end result after a couple of teething problems has been very satisfying. The engine is conservatively tuned at just over 500 flywheel hp and 420 lb/ft of torque @ 24 lbs boost. The engine could easily handle over 30 lbs of boost so there is room for more power if desired ( but it will run at the present settings no sweat all day, so why be greedy?).
Handling is excellent with the four wheel drive pulling through a corner and the car feeling as though it rotates almost exactly with the driver. Weight is about 2,700 lbs with a driver and all fluids.
I feel very lucky to have been able to make this project happen and the car never fails to elicit positive comments wherever it goes, certainly reward enough for the effort.
Tony W. Roca
photos by Urban Monkey Images
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