Let’s get right to it: the cover photo car is one of the eighteen Ford Escort RS 1700T prototypes that were built with the goal of bringing the Mark III Escort into rallying, much like the first two generations had succeeded in. Out of those eighteen cars, maybe five total still exist in any form whatsoever…the genesis of the RS 1700T was problematic at best and by the time Ford had gotten everything nailed down, the Audi Quattro came along and wizzed in everybody’s cereal bowl, so it was back to the drawing board for what became the RS200. That mental rear-wheel-drive prototype is but one footnote in the history of the Ford Escort, however. Sold from 1968 to 2004 in the European market, from 1980-2003 in the North American market, and on sale since 2015 in China, the Escort is one of Ford’s strongest nameplates, a symbol of both good, solid low-cost and frugal transportation and at the same time, one of their most motorsport-friendly nameplates.
From the rally days of the 1970s to the surprising setup of the Escort ZX2 S/R that showed up with some good tweaks from the factory, the Escort tried to be a little bit of everything to everyone. In North America, it still carries the “cheap runabout” reputation that is at least good on gas. In Europe, they are celebrated, especially any that have the words “Lotus” or “Cosworth” attached to the trunklid. Here’s a quick and dirty rundown on the history of Ford’s true little jewel: