Legendary performance and bold styling, the Escort RS Cosworth is Ford’s rally car for the road
First made available to the public in 1992, the Escort RS Cosworth was the hottest Ford to emerge from the blue oval since the RS200 ended production in 1986. Initially only 2500 road cars were produced in order to meet homologation rules for the World Rally Championship in which the car was set to compete. Original cars were all fitted with the distinctive whale-tail spoiler and were on sale for only two years between 1992 and 1994. Following successful homologation for the 1993 World Rally Championship, Ford adapted the car to make it more useable in everyday situations. The large Garret T3/T04B turbocharger was replaced by the Garret T25, which reduced turbo lag considerably.
FORD ESCORT RS COSWORTH
Power (bhp@rpm) 224bhp@6250rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 224ft lb@3500rpm
Top speed 137mph
Gearbox 5-speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Despite being nearly 20 years old the bodywork should be in very good condition if the car has been well cared for. Like anything, they will rust if not properly looked after. Rust can creep in where the spoiler meets the boot, and the arches will eventually give in if dirt is allowed to collect. Front valances are quite low, so may have scratches and stone chips from hard driving. Many of these cars will have been modified by now, often badly. Check for rear bumpers being butchered to fit non-standard exhausts, likewise the front bumper for shoddily fitted front-mounted intercoolers. Though it looks for all the world like an Escort Mk V, it isn’t. Over 50 per cent of the panels were new, with the cars being bodied in Germany by Karmann. Replacement panels will be expensive and difficult to locate, so make sure there are no dings and dents. If there is rust on the car, particularly on the wings and bonnet, then it’s a fair indication that crash damage is lurking beneath. Check for fresh paintwork and clean engine bays.
At some point most Cosworths will have passed through the hands of boy racers, so the engine will have probably had a tough life. Engine rebuilds are horribly expensive, so its important you buy wisely. Start the engine from cold and take care to listen to all the noises the engine makes. Tappets may have a bit of a rattle, but if you hear a louder slapping noise walk away straight away. ‘Piston slap’ is a sure-fire sign that the engine is about to expire, so steer clear if there is any doubt in your mind. Bring a friend along to drive behind you on your test drive. Make sure you give it the beans and keep an eye out for any smoke when the engine is under load. Blue smoke will indicate that oil is leaking into the pistons, and white smoke will suggest the turbo is damaged.
Many Cossies will have fallen foul amateur tuners, so make sure that the car is completely standard. Ideally you want a completely unmodified car that is as it was when it left the factory. If you are happy to buy a modified example, make sure that all the paperwork for the upgrades is present and that it has all been fitted by a reputable garage. If there is no supporting documentation, assume it’s been cooked up in someone’s garage. Be especially wary if the work has been carried out by a previous owner (invariably not an aerospace engineer).
Unlike the standard Ford Escort, the Cosworth was always destined for the rally stages. Because of this it was fitted with four-wheel drive, making it more complicated than a standard car. Gearboxes are likely to have seen some hard miles, so listen out for any whining or rattling noises. Take the car on a long test drive through a variety of conditions. Make sure changes are sharp, there is little play, and that it doesn’t jump out of gear. As with most cars of this age CV joints will perish, so make sure you have a good feel underneath. Check that the brakes function well under hard braking, and that it doesn’t pull to either side or judder.
Suspension should be very good; the RS Cosworth was hailed as one of the best handling cars of its generation. By now though, things may be getting a bit soft. If the car rolls in corners or is sitting low on its haunches then you should probably budget for a refresh. Check that it hasn’t been upgraded or had springs cut. Original Group N suspension is superb, so you want to avoid any aftermarket additions. Give each corner a good push; listen for any knocking noises that may indicate worn out parts.
Cosworths were fitted with Recaro interiors in cloth and leather. Both sets are now rare due to the limited run of cars that was produced. As a result they’re expensive. Don’t bank on being able to replace the interior easily. Make sure that there is as little wear as possible, no rips, cigarette burns, or other signs of abuse. Re-trimming is an option, but this will adversely affect residual value.
Electrics are generally good, but the Cossie does share a good deal of these components with the base models. While this does mean they’re more likely to go wrong, it also means parts are plentiful and cheap. Scrapyards are brim-full of Mk V Escorts just waiting to be cannibalised for spares. As with any car, make sure that all the electrical componentsand switches are working as advertised.
The Escort Cosworth is a very capable road car and is now starting to look like an attractive investment. Cars are losing their negative image as they become increasingly rare. Ford really got it right first time round, so avoid any cars that have been bodged on a budget. Any aftermarket additions will hit the value of the car and add little to the experience. Be prepared to pay a premium for originality.