- a motorsports company in the u.k. is building new versions of the mk 2 ford escort from the 1970s.
- successful as a rally car for decades, the european second-generation escort generation was the last to feature a rear-wheel-drive layout.
- motorsports tools' newly built rwd escorts start at around $90,000.
although the ford escort rarely features high on the list of the blue oval's most memorable models in the u.s., the escort name was attached to some considerably more exciting cars in europe. that list includes both the famous rs cosworth variant from the 1990s and its double-decker rear spoiler, but also the spectacular rally cars of the earlier rear-wheel-drive mk 1 and mk 2 generations.
these rs escorts were hugely successful racing cars back in the day, with ari vatanen driving a mk 2 rs1800 to the world rally championship in 1981. thanks to progressive upgrades to engines, transmission and suspensions, they have stayed at the sharp end of european rallying ever since, especially in the u.k. and ireland, remaining competitive even against more advanced all-wheel-drive rivals. check out the late colin mcrae’s savagely fast mk 2 or northern irishman frank kelly’s spectacular ‘baby blue’ to see just how exciting these evolved escorts can be.
the huge popularity of the escort has created a thriving market in both upgrades and parts, with u.k. motorsport specialist motorsport tools now having taken the next step to move to create brand-new cars. you’re looking at images of the first rear-wheel-drive escort to be registered in the u.k. since 1980, with the company planning to produce around 10 finished cars per year. prices starting at £65,000—nearly $90,000 at current exchange rates.
one thing you won’t see is a ford badge, as mst has not been given official sanction to bring the escort out of retirement.
“our main business is rally car parts and all the parts are available to build these cars,” motorsport tools managing director carwyn ellis told car and driver from his company’s hq in wales, “all we’ve done is taken them and put them together. we can’t sell it as a ford of course, especially as these cars are now very different to the original cars from the 1970s. but i know ford is very proud of what the car has achieved and continues to achieve.”
while most interest has been from those planning to take their new escorts rallying, ellis confirms that some will be built as highly tuned road cars. “a lot of our customers aren’t intending to go rallying with them,” he said, ”they want a toy that looks like a rally car and performs like a rally car—the performance that they can use on road or on a race track. there are lots of people out there who are realizing that supercars are getting too fast to drive hard on the road—something like this, you still can.”
the first motorsport tools demonstrator has been built to a relatively tame road-biased specification, using a naturally aspirated ford duratec four-cylinder engine with its capacity increased to 2.5 liters and separate throttle bodies. that means it makes around 200 horsepower, enough to be exciting in a car weighing less than 2200 pounds with no driver aids. it has a six-speed manual gearbox driving its live rear axle with bilstein shocks, ap racing brakes and gold minilite wheels within extended wheel arches. buyers will be able to opt for much more power with more aggressive engines—u.k. supplier millington produces escort engines making up to 370 hp—as well as sequential transmissions and other pricey upgrades. tick every box and the finished car will be substantially more than $140,000.
“we will work with individual customers, they will all be unique,” ellis says, “it depends on what people are looking for, whether they need to follow the restrictions for certain championships and how fast they want to go.” he also confirmed there will also be a similar "continuation" version of the earlier mk 1 escort which was produced between 1968 and 1974 and which will have more appeal to those who compete under historic rallying regulations.
“interest has been a bit overwhelming, to be honest,” ellis admits, who says there has even been interest from potential buyers in the u.s. production will be limited to no more than ten cars a year, and ellis has no doubt he will be able to find willing buyers for all of them.