It was the Escort that really put Ford on the rallying map, proving capable of winning World Championship events from 1968, when the Twin Cam model was the works’ frontline rally car, right through to 1981 when Ari Vatanen became World Rally Champion driving an Escort RS. In 1970 the Ford Twin Cam engine was replaced by a Cosworth BDA 16-valve unit to create the definitive Escort rally car – the RS1600 – though the engine was, in fact, homologated at 1,601cc to enable future enlargement up to the 2-litre class capacity limit. The first full 2.0-litre engines were homologated in 1972 and in works trim produced 235-240bhp. In this form the Escort RS1600 proved good enough to win the RAC Rally three times on the trot between 1972 and 1974, as well as a host of other World Championship events. There was also a closely related ‘spin off’ variant: the overhead-valve Kent-engined Mexico, which was intended to cater for those that wanted the RS1600’s style but had no need for its stupendous performance.
When the Escort was re-launched as the ‘MkII’ for 1975, the rally car adopted the new-look bodyshell while retaining virtually the same running gear and was renamed ‘RS1800’, the latter change reflecting the capacity increase to 1,800cc. Building on the RS1600’s success, the RS1800 was further developed and in 2.0-litre form enjoyed an even more successful career than its forebear, remaining competitive well into the 1980s. The RS1800 made its winning debut as a works Group 2 car on the Granite Rally in April 1975, victory going to Roger Clark, who followed up by winning the Welsh International Rally. In that year’s Lombard-RAC Rally, Timo Makinen brought his RS1800 home ahead of the field to score the car’s first major international success. It would be the first of five consecutive Lombard-RAC victories for the RS1800 and its Escort RS Group 4 derivative. In 1979 the Escort brought Ford its first World Rally Championship for Makes while works driver Björn Waldegård became the first official World Rally Champion.
After the works team withdrew from international rallying at the end of the 1979 season, the Escort baton was passed to the Rothmans-sponsored team run by David Sutton, which enjoyed strong links with the Boreham factory. In 1981 the Rothmans team made history when its driver Ari Vatanen became the first, and so far only, non-works World Rally Champion.
This car was first used by the Ford works team on The San Remo Rally in 1977 with Bjorn Waldegard driving and finishing 5th overall. The car appeared in several guises, with different drivers, in the period from 1977 – Corsica / Jean Pierre Nicolas and 1978, Russell Brookes in Andrews Heat for Hire livery.
In 1979 it was one of the two wide bodied escorts that were built specifically for the Monte Carlo Rally of that year. Again Bjorn Waldegard was the driver and finished 2nd overall on what was a controversial event. The sister car ( VHK 47S ), driven by Hannu Mikkola, finished 5th overall. After the 1979 Monte Carlo Rally both cars spent a period of time outside of the works facility at Boreham until in late 79 they were re commissioned with carburetors to the engines and sold by Ford to Raymond Rue the head of the Publimmo Corporation and exported to Monaco.
After being sold by Ford the cars were registered 3256 and 1493 they could be seen on varying events in Europe, again driven by a variety of drivers. Both Ari Vatanen and Bjorn Waldegard driving the two on the Monte Carlo rally ( Vatanen 1980 ) ( Waldegard 1981 ) as private entrants for the Publimmo Corporation.
After running several high profile drivers in a variety of manufacturer cars the Publimmo Corporation went bankrupt. The head of the organisation had a soft spot for the Monte Escorts and it is alleged that he had them shipped down to Corsica as 1300L`s. After several years the cars found themselves back in mainland France 47S being campaigned in several French National Rallies and hillclimbs disguised in a lurid red and yellow colour scheme. After several years of in activity a British enthusiast traced the cars down in mainland France and this ultimately lead to him purchasing the cars and returning them to Britain for restoration.
VHK 74S has now been completely restored to how it competed on its first event in 1977. Since restoration the car has only been used on demonstration events of the type organised by Slowly Sideways. Naturally, the bodyshell is still to Full Group 4 works specification, and is in excellent overall condition. Mechanically the 2.0 L BDG produces some 256 bhp on a dyno reading- this, having covered very low Kms is mated to a 5 speed ZF gearbox with a 5.3 ZF differential.
Currently running a Gartrac tarmac setup with Bilstein adjustable dampers front and rear, this wonderful piece of Fords rally history would make an exceptional addition to any significant worldwide rally or Ford collection. Unrepeatable piece of Ford/Boreham rallying history.