Ford Escort (Mk3) Profile

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Ford Escort (Mk3) General Information

The Ford Escort RS1700T was the rally car that never was. After winning the WRC titles in 1979 the Ford works team sold everything to the private David Sutton team, so Ford could concentrate on developing a brand new rally car. You might as well ask what Ford had been doing all that time!

The Ford Escort RS1700T has been a stunning looking machine. But you don't win WRC events on looks - not yet anyway. It was an Escort Mk3 shell alright, but it had rear wheel drive, just like the Mk2, even the suspension has not been that different. Interestingly the car featured central lock wheels, like a circuit car, to allow for quicker tyre changes. One interesting detail was that the gearbox swapped propshaft ends. This means in transaxle principle the gearbox was on the rear axle side and such would improve weight distribution. The engine was as well an old friend. It was based on the 2.0 BDA unit from the Escort Mk2, only with slightly reduced displacement and a turbo stuck to it. Well, new shell aside, in simple terms you could say Ford spent the best part of 2 years developing a turbo version of their Escort Mk2! Doesn't sound very promising for a car that was meant to be the dominant force of groupB.

Indeed, Ford took 2 of their new creations to Portugal 1982 with Ari Vatanen and Pentti Airikkala to compare the stage times between this car and the event winning Audi Quattro of Michèle Mouton. The results of this comparison convinced Ford that it was best to abandon the project and start again with a clean sheet of paper!

Interesting in this show was that Ford took 2 cars to Portugal. Indeed Ford developed 2 Mk3 Escorts alongside each other. The difference was the engine - Interesting: the intended debut was the Tour de Corse 1982, the Portuguese tests were only 6 weeks before the debut and obviously they still hadn't finally decided what engine the new car should have - although there was already talk of debut delayed to the BRC Scottish Rally 1982 with the WRC debut being indefinite:

1) Was the already mentioned BDA engine with a turbo, hence the name BDT. It was actually a 1.8 litre layout (1780cc, for turbo factor staying in a good weight class), but after the games with RS1600 and RS1800 names, RS1700T was probably the next closest thing to mark a distinct difference to the previous names**.

2) Was actually not a turbo at all. It was a Hart engine from the F1 engine designers with the same name. Brian Hart went the way Vauxhall, Opel and Talbot had gone before and came up with a conventional 4-cylinder engine but bigger capacity to what used to be the norm, a 2.3 (2290cc) machine.

** Note once again that Ford never used additions as Mk2 & BDA or i.e. here Mk3 & BDT as official part of their rally car names. An Escort Mk1 was always identified RS1600, never mind the engine grew in displacement. The Escort Mk2 was always the RS1800. And this Escort Mk3 should have been only called Escort RS1700T.

From the beginning of the project it seemed clear that the BDT solution was the favourite over the Hart engine and the tests also confirmed the BDT was the better one. After all the project was from the very beginning referred to as the RS1700T, not the RS2300. Even if engine capacity wasn't a reliable read out from these names, it seems pretty clear to which engine the model name pointed all the time. Well, in the end it didn't matter as the rest of the design dictated it could at best be an Ascona 400 or Sunbeam Lotus beater, but it would have never been able to take on Audi Quattro, Peugeot 205 T16 and the likes. It still was an ironic reflection on matters that during these Portugal tests Ari Vatanen wrote off the definitely unloved Hart car, not that Ford had much use for their preferred BDT version thereafter anyway.

The Escort RS1700T was not the first design for an Escort RS1800 replacement. Already in the late 1970s Ford played with a RWD Ford Fiesta with Escort RS1800 running gear. Although the car was seen registered "PNO 613R", it was nothing more but a short play, nothing as serious as the Escort RS1700T was meant to be.

Somehow you can wonder if the Audi Quattro came too early and robbed us of an exciting era. By late 1980 Peugeot Talbot was experimenting with a mid-engined, turbo charged, but RWD (370BHP-RWD!!!!) Talbot Horizon Lotus, which would have been a nice toy to play with the (320BHP-RWD) RS1700T! Even the driver line up of both these projects were already sorted! For this Ford Escort RS1700T even a surprising and big one: Ari Vatanen, Björn Waldegaard(!), Malcolm Wilson & Adartico Vudafieri, latter a surprise but thought to be the team's next bread for the future and asphalt specialist, while also Pentti Airikkala was seen driving the car in Portugal 1982. For the Horizon Lotus, Talbot already agreed to keep under contract at least Henri Toivonen & Stig Blomqvist (as indeed Blomqvist even stuck to that contract despite Talbot eventually only offering him BRC with an old car in 1982).
The Escort RS1700T development happened very much in public, datasheets were handed out, the press was invited to their public Portugal 1982 tests, no less than 10 prototypes were built, we saw two RS1700T registered WVW 100W (P10/BDT) & WVW 101W (P7/Hart), Tour de Corse in May 1982 as debut was still the target, the Ford Saarlouis plant was starting the production of the 200 homologation cars - the cancellation of the program came as a great, big shock. The Portugal tests seemed to prove at the very last minute or even second that without 4x4 there was simply no point carrying on with this project. Still a shame because Boreham also kept one of their works Escort RS1800s, WTW 569S, for comparison tests and here the RS1700T was easily 2s/km faster! If you remember that the Opel Ascona 400 was not really faster than the RS1800, yet still was a title winning car in 1982, the RS1700T was by far not as bad a car as people like to make out.
Peugeot Talbot Sport was far more secretive in development and test results and as well quicker in their decision that new groupB cars without 4x4 belong into the museum before they created public embarrassment. But already during 1980, before the Sunbeam Lotus became World Champion, 2 Horizon Lotus prototypes were built. One was registered RAC 777W and Stig Blomqvist went out testing with it already around December 1980. All gone well the car should have debuted first half of the 1982 season, taking straight over from the Sunbeam program. Timo Mäkinen also already did tests with an alloy shell RWD Peugeot 305 V6, that was confirmed to debut in Safari 1982 and take straight over from the 504 Coupé V6 African/marathon program. At Peugeot Talbot curiously all was called off the very moment they won the makes title in San Remo 1981! In the wake of the Audi Quattro a complete re-shuffle was decided and the 205 T16 idea was born.

Call me insane, but looking at the title winning successes of Opel Ascona 400 in 1982 and Lancia Rally 037 in 1983, I wonder if Talbot Horizon Lotus and Ford Escort RS1700T were outdated as soon as their creators believed! I certainly have strong emotions for these two rally cars that never were. Just imagine, had the Quattro revolution come only a year later, we would have found a time of Lancia Rally 037 vs Talbot Horizon Lotus vs Ford Escort RS1700T, all with charged engines and beyond 300BHP on the rear wheels!

At the very least - since I extensively dropped the Talbot Horizon Lotus into this Ford Escort datasheet - it would have been exciting to compare these two cars in anger and not only in writing. Although Ari Vatanen did not find many positive words about the Escort RS1700T after first tests, its transaxle principle should have had potential for a handling advantage over the Talbot, which was basically a Horizon shell put over a Lotus Esprit Turbo. And even the Escort RS1700T's 50BHP power deficit needn't have stayed for long, the RS1700T engine certainly was not wasted as it was found later in the very quick gB Ford RS200, producing 420BHP!

Ford Escort (Mk3) Related Content

Ford Escort (Mk3) Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Ford Escort (Mk3) RS1700T BDT (0-0) 320 380 0.0.0 890 (2.8) RWD (0)
Ford Escort (Mk3) RS1700T Hart (0-0) 300 241 0.0.0 910 (3) RWD (0)

Random Ford Escort (Mk3) Photos

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Ford Escort (Mk3) Results

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Ford Escort (Mk3) Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1982 WRC Rallye de Portugal A. Vatanen T. Harryman #0 [UNKNOWN] SS0 only course opening car for testing - crashed
Ret. 1982 WRC Rallye de Portugal A. Vatanen T. Harryman #0 [UNKNOWN] SS0 only course opening car for testing
Ret. 1982 WRC Rallye de Portugal P. Airikkala P. Short #0 [UNKNOWN] SS0 only course opening car for testing