The Group 4 Escort Turns 40...

...will there ever be a more iconic rally car?

Yes, this week marks 40 years since the MK2 Escort RS1800 was homologated by the FIA for Group 4 rallying. Hard to believe isn't it? For the last four decades, the Group 4 RS1800 has been slithering about rally stages all over the world; the glorious Cosworth BD-series engine singing proudly while it relentlessly tortures the rear tyres.

Obviously there have been many different forms of rallying Escort; from the MK1 Twin Cam that robbed its Lotus engine from the Cortina, right up to the 4WD, turbocharged World Rally Car that wound-up the Escorts motorsport career in 1998. None will ever match the status of the Group 4 MK2, though.

Based on the road-going Escort RS1800, the Group 4 version featured wide arches, a five speed ZF gearbox and a five-linked Atlas rear axle. By the end of the RS1800s career, the 1.8-litre BDE had become a 2.0 BDG and was producing around 250bhp, making the Group 4 Escort a potent machine, even by modern standards. It was so potent in fact, that it won the RAC Rally in 1977, 1978 and 1979, with Björn Waldegård taking world championship honours that year. Another rallying superstar, Ari Vatanen, would repeat that championship success in 1981, beating even the Audi Quattro - a car that would go on to revolutionise the sport. That's not to mention the endless national championships and rallies that Group 4 Escorts have won - and continue to win - to this day.

In fact, there are probably more Group 4 Escorts around now than there was in the 1970s. The full catalogue of parts to build one is still available from a number of specialist suppliers - especially in the UK, where the 'scrote remains hugely popular. Building one isn't a cheap exercise of course, as firstly you need to track down a good body shell (many now come from Australia and South Africa), before upsetting your bank manager even more when you get the bill for a shiny new BDG engine. Despite all of this, there are plenty of companies out there that will build you a spanking new Group 4 RS1800 so, if you want to live the Vatanen dream, what are you waiting for?

If you need any convincing, how about seeing the old stager in action on the 1977 RAC Rally? And by "old stager" I mean the car, not Ari...

Here's to another 40 years of the mighty Escort...

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