This rear-wheel drive, 556bhp Escort Cosworth road and track weapon is every bit as formidable as the WRC-style body and Porsche paintwork suggests it should be…
“I never really wanted an Escort Cosworth, and I always said that if I ever did have one it would have to be a standard Diamond White, later ‘small-turbo’ model complete with air-con.” Strong statement coming from a man who owns the stripped-and-caged, rear-wheel-drive, Porsche Riviera Blue, 556bhp road-and-track weapon in front of our cameras today.
But before we look at the epic tale of how this car came to be, first we need to take a little look into the mindset of the man behind it. Being a Royal Navy engineer spending most of his career working on nuclear submarines, regular ‘filter and exhaust’ upgrades were never quite going to be enough to satisfy Richie’s thirst for making things faster and more powerful. That’s why he has previous. His cars always need something a little special about them, a USP to identify them as a ‘Richie’ machine.
First up, was his beloved Sapphire Cossie; a 400bhp tiger-striped animal that stuck two-fingers up to the purists with its Mitsubishi Evo rear wing and huge front spotlamps. From there came the Ka. Yes, a Ka. But no ordinary Ka. This one appeared on the cover of Fast Ford back in November 2012. Why? Because this one is rear-wheel-drive and powered by a tuned Cossie YB up front!
And now, Richie is back to complete the trilogy with what is arguably the best of the bunch; this flawlessly-presented, road-and-track inspired, rear-wheel-drive Escort Cosworth.
“I actually bought the car back in 2010, but at the time I didn’t even want an EsCos. I only wanted the engine to use in my Ka project,” laughs Richie, “the previous owner, Kelvin Heard, was breaking the car but I never got around to going up and taking the engine out. So, by the time I got around to collecting it, there was just the shell with the engine left in it, and I ended up buying them both.”
At this point the seed of an imminent fast road and track weapon had been well and truly planted in Richie’s mind; “I wanted to build a car that I could enjoy and drive to tracks like the Nurburgring in relative comfort, and then set a blistering pace round the track too. And, of course, it would need to be rear-wheel-drive!” he explains, “But with the Ka build still to finish, the Escort got parked up in the corner of the garage while I concentrated on that.”
Well, let’s fast forward a little bit. One thing led to another, plans changed – initially an LS V8 and Dodge Viper gearbox was offered up – but the long and short of it was the original engine from the Escort wasn’t used in the Ka in the end, so Richie had all the building blocks to begin the EsCos project.
Initially the car was on a spit in Richie’s garage at home. He knew that he needed to put his own stamp on things to stop people to referring to the car as the previous owner’s, so a full WRC kit was the order of the day. As too, would be a full colour change. “I’ve always loved the Riviera Blue on Porsche 911s, so I knew from early on in the project that was going to be the colour choice,” smirks Richie.
But before any glossy blue hue would find its way anywhere near the car, the shell underwent some extensive surgery by Richie and good friend Andy Chapman. For a start the front turret tops were replaced with Genuine WRC extensions that allow greater suspension travel, then the rear was completely transformed with a WRC cradle and turrets with the existing rollcage modified . The rear wings were massaged 30mm wider in accordance with the WRC manual to allow greater wheel clearance and finally the roof was ripped off to be later replaced by carbon fibre. The whole shell was then bare metalled and etch primed and sealed before Andy sprayed the underside of the shell body colour with U-Pol Raptor tintable stonechip and finished the interior in a semi-gloss anthracite. The shell then went off to Dan Mundy (who runs a garage specialising in VW camper vans) for the final coats of Riviera Blue to be applied. “I’ve seen Dan’s work many times before, and I always wanted him to paint it,” remembers Richie.
While all this was going on Richie was busying himself with hunting for parts that would be needed for the rebuild. A Tremec TKO600 gearbox replaced the fragile T5, a Supra 8.8in rear diff was shoe-horned into the WRC style rear by MK Motorsport, who also provided all the other suspension components to go with Bilstein Group A uprights at the rear and GAZ coilovers on the front. He was even collecting parts for the build while out enjoying the Ka: “The ATL bag tank is a genuine WRC rally car part that came from MT Motorsport, and I collected that while at Ford Fair,” Richie laughs.
Armed with an ever-growing pile of performance parts, and with the shell now gleaming in its Porsche-inspired shade, the EsCos briefly went to the workshops at the Naval dockyard in Plymouth. “We have a car club on the base, and I kept in the workshop there until it was a rolling shell” remembers Richie, “but it was when it moved to fellow Cosworth nut Rich Lakey’s workshop at RL Motor Services that things really started to come together.” At RL’s the time consuming part of the build continued, a bespoke car wiring loom was made and with the brakes and hydraulic clutch fitted the whole car was fitted out with custom HEL brakelines throughout. “The coolant expansion tank, breather tanks and cold air feed were all fabricated using CAD – Cardboard Aided Design,” laughs Richie, “before being finished in satin black.”
Ah yes, the engine. What happened to that? “Well, as it never got used in the Ka project I decided to send it to Harvey Gibbs and the guys at SCS for a quick freshen up and to be run-in and mapped on the engine dyno,” explains Richie. But when they got chatting, Harvey convinced Richie to update the spec to something more modern. So, the low-comp setup was ditched and SCS built an updated version that offers better throttle response and improved drivability, but still delivers devastating amounts of power. “It made 556bhp and 460 lb.ft on the dyno,” grins Richie.
When the engine build was complete Richie was straight in the van to Peterborough to collect the fresh YB, and with the finish line now in sight wasted no time in getting everything fitted and ready to fire up. So, what did it sound like in the car? “Silent!” cries Richie, “I couldn’t get the bloody thing to fire up. After trying all sorts, I admitted defeat and had to trailer the car to SCS for them to take a closer look.” Look they did, and after a meticulous diagnostics, Jim Gibbs discovered that the wiring to the MAP sensor was the wrong way round. “The engine wiring loom was of those parts I hoarded early on during the build, and at the point I had it made-up the plan was to use a 3-bar MAP sensor. Subsequently we changed the spec to a 5-bar MAP sensor and the wiring is slightly different,” explains Richie.
With that resolved the EsCos sprung into life, and Richie can’t wait to put the car through its paces both on and off the track throughout the summer months. It will certainly grab people’s attention when it does – it already has done so, but not necessarily the kind Richie relishes. “The day of the photoshoot was the very first day the car was out on the road. It was also the first time I was pulled by the police in the car,” Richie cries, “I got a telling-off for having the show plate on the car (which we only put on for the photos, honest). I took that one on the chin, but like I told the officers on the day, I have no idea where all those tyre marks all across the road came from…”
Already Richie’s Escort Cossie is proving to be full of character, and both the car and owner are looking forward to some good times ahead. This is one EsCos you can expect to see a lot more at shows and events, and just terrorising the streets and B-roads, during the summer months.
WHAT IS WRC SPEC?
WRC Escorts are recognisable by their radically redesigned aerodynamic package – including a reshaped front end and totally different rear spoiler replacing the whale tail as found on the road cars – while under the skin the suspension was completely redesigned with a multi-link rear, and the track widened. The engine was comprehensively redeveloped to offer more power and, crucially, more torque, aided by a new IHI turbo and a much bigger intercooler. A new Ford/Pectel management system oversaw the more robust motor, and active differentials were added. Many regard the WRC as the ultimate version of the Escort Cosworth, as the change in rallying rules coupled with Ford’s ability to persuade the FIA to allow them to compete in the Escort when the Focus was not yet ready, all came together to result in one of the fastest, most technologically-advanced Escorts ever built.
Engine: 2.0-litre Cosworth YBT; 200 block with long studs; CP pistons; Nick Waples ported cylinder head; custom cams and solid lifters; WRC-type phase sensor; billet oil pump drive; RS500 inlet manifold with 8 x 803 ‘green’ injectors; YBP oil baffle plate; SCS big-wing sump; 5-bar MAP sensor; Pectel T6 2000 engine management with DR25 motorsport loom; roller bearing T4 turbo with GT30 compressor housing; 120mm top-feed intercooler, Roose Motorsport boost and coolant hoses.
Power: 556bhp @ 7060rpm, and 460lb.ft @ 4530rpm (at 32psi)
Transmission: Rear-wheel drive conversion; Tremec TKO600 gearbox; custom propshaft; Mk3 Supra 8.8in rear diff; Cosworth 2WD driveshafts with uprated CV joints; Helix paddle clutch; Tilton hydraulic centre push conversion with titanium dry break
Suspension: Front: WRC-style billet TCAs; WRC-style compression struts; WRC-style bladed ARB; billet steering arms; three-door Cosworth hubs and GAZ Gold coilovers; WRC strut tower extensions and top mounts.
Rear: WRC-style diff cradle; adjustable lateral and toe links; WRC billet uprights and Bilstein Group A damper inserts; WRC-style bladed ARB; WRC turrets and top mounts
Brakes: Tilton 600 series floor mount pedal box and reservoirs; 380mm AP Racing front discs with Pro 5000+ six-pot calipers; 315mm AP Racing rear discs with Pro 5000+ four-pot calipers; hydraulic handbrake, HEL bias valve and custom HEL brake lines
Wheels: Front: 8.5x18in ET18 Compomotive MO with 235/40/18 Pirelli Trofeo R tyres
Rear: 10x18in ET25 Compomotive MO with 265/35/18 Pirelli Trofeo R tyres
Exterior: Escort Cosworth bodyshell finished in Porsche Riviera Blue; WRC-style front bumper; steel WRC front wings; custom vented bonnet; WRC-style mirrors; widened rear quarters; WRC-style carbon spoiler; carbon boot lid; carbon roof.
Interior: Multipoint rollcage; AIM MXL dash display; flocked dashboard; electric power steering; Stilo intercom system; LiteBlox battery with Cartek electronic cut-off; OMP fire suppressant system; Recaro SPG bucket seats with Luke harnesses; carbon transmission tunnel covers; 80-litre ATL bag tank with two 044 Bosch fuel pumps and carbon cover; ‘Group A’ broom handle for holding the boot open!
Thanks: Andy Chapman; Chris Painter; Ryan Pestell; Dave Lee; Ben Cook; Ian Horton; Ian Sibbert; Paul Harwood; Will Pedley; Dan and Daryl at Dan Munday’s Bustop; Harvey, Jim, and Ryan Gibbs at SCS; Mark at MT Motorsport; Mark at MK Motorsport; Rich and Sam at RL Motor Services; Dan H and Andy H; Steve at Frytography; Jools at Pro4m; Raj at Autoflock; Pete at Center Gravity; Dave Pritchard at D.P Motorsport; Competition Supplies; Roose Motorsport; Torques UK, and of course the wife Kriss for putting up with it again!