For Sami Hietanaro, there was never any question about which auto brand he’d pledge his allegiance to. That might sound a bit dramatic, but when your parents are avid Ford enthusiasts, the passion grows on you.
From a young age, Sami pored over Ford Escort brochures, and quickly understood that those bearing the ‘Cosworth’ name were the ones to look out for. In 2013, on the cusp of the legal driving age in Finland, Sami stumbled across a 1994 Ford Escort RS Cosworth with a big turbo setup. To top it off, the car was wrapped with a white and red Repsol WRC livery as a tribute to Juha Kankkunen’s car in the Neste Rally Finland 1997. The deal was too great to pass up, so the purchase was made.
On top of the big turbo, the Cossie had a couple of other modifications, including an aftermarket ECU and a very loud exhaust. Back then, the Ford was making a dyno-proven 350hp on 1.3bar (19psi) boost, but as Sami didn’t have his driver license, it was his father who enjoyed the car. To be fair, Sami was often in the passenger seat.
Between 2013 and 2017 the YB engine was given a revised turbo upgrade and a new intake manifold. An Oppliger Motorsport gearbox also found its way into the car, as did a big brake kit. But despite these worthwhile upgrades, the Escort still had some niggling faults, and before Sami or his father knew it, the bare chassis was hanging on a dolly.
Stripping the Escort right back to its frame revealed a couple of rusty areas. After metal was welded into the problem spots and other small bodywork imperfections were taken care of, it was time to choose the paint. Sami says that there’s something special about red Escorts, so Ford’s ‘Race Red’ is a fitting choice.
To mount the new turbo, a custom exhaust manifold with billet collector was made by friends at Luisu’s Garage, a familiar name in the Finnish fabrication scene. On top of the collector lives a Garrett G30-770 turbo (G25-660 at the time photos were taken) that blows a hefty 1.8bar (26psi) of boost.
Fitting the aforementioned intake manifold provided a bit of a headache. A plenum setup wouldn’t fit, so Sami turned to Jarno Kauppila who 3D-modeled and flow-tested a unique carbon fiber version that fits with just millimeters to spare.
The Escort’s OEM fusebox is famously unreliable, so it was upgraded to RacePak’s PDM (power distribution module) together with all the wiring. A MaxxECU Race engine management system is now giving the firing orders. And finally, the driveline was uprated with with an Oppliger front and Ford Scorpio 7.5-inch rear differential, with Gripper LSDs at both ends.
When the brakes were upgraded with a 330mm AP Racing front kit, Compomotive TH wheels were added, complete with Ford Motorsport stickers and turbofans up front to complete the look. In the suspension department you’ll find GAZ coilovers and uprated control arms.
The factory Recaro-appointed interior has been left in its very clean, stock condition, with the exception of a Sparco deep-dish steering wheel, a new rally-style shift knob, and a Haltech/RacePak IQ3 digital dash.
In July last year, the Cossie was started up for the first time since its rebuild. Sami was in test mode for a while, safely driving with 0.3bar (4.5psi) of turbo pressure. All of the unfamiliar sounds from the competition-spec (and expensive) transmission were uncomfortable at first, but all that broke was a wheel bearing, so nothing major was at fault.
Well, not until the car’s first proper shakedown, a drag racing event, which happened on the day of this shoot. The turbo’s compressor wheel gave out, so this was the catalyst for Sami upgrading to the bigger G30-770 afterwards.
The car was still drivable, so we took the opportunity at the airfield location to shoot our photos in front of a legendary Douglas DC-3, which is still operational to this day.
In the middle of the shoot, Sami’s friend rolled by in his Sierra RS Cosworth, so I made them a family portrait.
After the new turbo was installed, Sami took the car for another competitive shakedown. While the engine’s exact power figure is not currently known, it’s in the 500hp region – a 3.9-second 0-60mph time on a damp track is proof that this car isn’t short on grunt. Since then, the Escort was driven faultlessly for more than 3,000 miles in 2020, so it’s safe to say it’s been built right.
Now that 2021 is here, Sami is ready to properly enjoy the best of what Ford UK and Cosworth had to offer in the ’90s – with some extra performance for good measure.