As well as lots of articles where I discuss other people's exploits, be they in the WRC or at a local club rally, I also want to share with you loyal readers my exploits in the mad world of rallying. The job of this regular-ish feature is to do just that. Sometimes it might take the form of an article, sometimes a video, you'll just have to stay tuned and see what pops up on your screens.
The first step is to introduce you to my lil ol' Escort RS2000. I know, I know, it's not a "proper" one and it's wrong-wheel drive, but it's mine and it's been a journey to get it where it is today. I've always had a fondness for the much maligned MK5/6 Escort so, when it came to choosing my first rally car, there was really only one thing on my shopping list. I've had loads of road-going Escorts, so it made a lot of sense, as I know them inside out and think they're actually a really under-rated car in RS2000 form.
I actually bought the car a bit by accident, as you do. I'd initially intended to build an Escort from scratch, but a friend of mine owned this car and had done a few rallies in it, before suddenly deciding that he HAD to buy a Lancia Delta HF 4WD rally car. This meant the Escort needed to go and, as I was kind of in the market for a rally car, I stepped in and bought it at the end of 2012. My intention was to just get out and use it to get some experience before building a fresh car, but it hasn't quite turned out that way...
As us petrol heads often do, rather than just driving and enjoying my new toy, I thought to myself, "I know, I'll just change the wheels so I can fit bigger brakes." Then, I thought "I know, I'll just strip out the interior to give it a lick of paint." A few more thoughts like this and, in no time at all, the car was a rolling shell that, now, hasn't turned a wheel under it's own power in over three years. So much for just getting out onto the stages, huh?
The car was actually fairly decent when I bought it and my friend had invested quite a lot of time and money into it. My problem is, I can't leave things alone. Over the years, I've become quite into the F2 Kit Car Escorts of the '90s, so I kept getting distracted by the fancy upgrades that I could incorporate from one of those. However, when I started taking the car apart to make some more modest changes, I found a few wiring issues and some spots of corrosion. Now, rust on a 90s Ford is hardly surprising, but it required the strip down to be a bit more drastic and things soon spiraled well and truly out of control. The "modest changes" turned into new wheel arches, a complete respray (done by me, badly), an interior refit, a new gearbox and a load of other things that required an awful lot more work than I ever expected.
However, after almost four years of ownership, we're now finally on the home stretch and the car should(!) be ready to go in early 2017. Despite the Cosworth-derived wheel arches and lairy paint, the spec of the car is actually pretty low-key. The engine has been left alone, purely for financial reasons, so I will have to make do with a mere 150bhp for the moment. I had thought about making some engine upgrades but I just want to drive the car now, so I'm going to leave it alone until I stumble across a spare few thousand quid. Elsewhere, there are Bilstein struts, the track is around 45mm wider on each side, most of the suspension bushes have been replaced with spherical bearings, the standard front brakes have been replaced with Wilwood four pots on 280mm discs and I've fitted a MK1 Focus gearbox that features an MFactory gearkit and a Quaife diff. The gearbox has actually turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. I was told that a Focus gearbox wouldn't fit into an Escort, which I disproved quite easily. However, while the gearbox fits, nothing that attaches to it does, so it's turned into a right headache. Sometimes it pays to listen to other people's advice.
As you can see from the gallery below, the look of the car has changed significantly over the last 15 years. When I bought it, it had already had the track widened by an owner in its deepest past. In order to cover this new found girth, said owner saw fit to take some trailer mudguards, cut them in half and tack them onto the side of the car. It was all very Heath Robinson and really upset my OCD quite a lot. It's another thing I should have left alone, but I couldn't, so I cut the front wings off and replaced them with fibreglass ones designed for an Escort Cosworth. At the rear, the arches had been so butchered to fit the extensions, that there was no chance of putting it back to standard without weeks of work, so I welded it back together (the inner and outer arches were barely connected to each other) and covered it all up with some more fibreglass bits designed for a Cossie. After a poorly applied splash of Ford Signal Yellow and some stickers, I don't think it looks too bad now.
As well as the big changes on the outside, I've also spent quite a lot of time on the inside too. Although it's been a rally car for about 15 years, the interior had never been fully stripped down. My friend (rather wisely) never bothered, but my OCD was still in charge, so I stripped everything out, removed the remaining sound-deadening, cut off a load of redundant brackets and trimmed the dash to within an inch of its life. While the car hasn't gained the 100bhp that I'd like it to, I'm hoping that I've managed to shave a few useful kilograms out of it, which should help the performance a little bit, especially when combined with the new super-short gearing.
Anyway, that brings things about up-to-date. While the car looks pretty complete from the outside, it's not quite there yet. I'm waiting for a set of custom driveshafts to be made, thanks to that bright gearbox idea I had, and also for a nice custom wiring harness, then she's pretty much good to go. Hopefully, in a future installment, you'll get to follow the process of shakedown and testing, before the car hits the stages in the spring.
I also need to introduce you to my other Escort rally car and perhaps my tatty little Clio 172 Cup, but there's plenty of time for all that. Until next time...