Identity Crisis

When is an RS Turbo not an RS Turbo? Well, if you unbolt the turbo and throw it away, you’ll find out…

Remember the days when turbocharging was a big deal? The 1980s were a proper turbo boom-time, as manufacturers found new and exciting ways to make boost viable as an everyday option. And it wasn’t like it is today, when everything’s turbocharged because it helps get emissions down; having a whistlin’ snail used to be a badge of honour. Stretching way back through the mists of time, early turbocharging was a real dark art; the road cars that pioneered the everyman turbo – the BMW 2002, the Oldsmobile Jetfire, the Chevrolet Corvair Monza – were almost wilfully scary, lulling you into a misguided sense of ease with their yawning chasms of turbo lag before suddenly coming on boost mid-corner and forcing you to make your peace with the almighty while simultaneously jettisoning your breakfast through the nearest available orifice.

These bonkers little boost devices symbolised bravery, in that they were temperamental and could grenade your engine without a moment’s hesitation, along with a certain thickness of wallet (to pay for all the rebuilds and the insurance) and, most of all, spiky exhilarating thrust. It was a thrilling, glowing Pandora’s Box bolted on to unleash the inner potential of internal combustion via some kind of voodoo. That’s why the word was glued to the hairy-chested variants of so many hot hatches in the 1980s and ’90s: Ford Escort RS Turbo, Renault 5 GT Turbo, Fiat Uno Turbo, MG Maestro Turbo – it was a thing to be damned proud of. You still find the word ‘turbo’ written on Gillette razors and Ikea clothes racks and Cillit Bang today, it has a proper halo effect.

It’s a bit of an old switcheroo to remove the turbo from one of these iconic hot hatches then, isn’t it? If you unbolt the boostmaker and dump it in the bin, does that not irreparably tarnish the car’s inherent character? Ah, not necessarily… for what you’re seeing here on these pages, if it has a name, is an Escort RS Supercharged.
Yep, you can probably guess what’s happened here. But before there’s any wailing and gnashing of teeth from the concours purists, rest assured that Peter Clark didn’t belligerently mutilate an RS Turbo just for the badness of it; no, in fact he saved it from an unpleasant fate of rotting away to nothing in a field.
“I always did little bits to cars when I was younger, lowering and exhausts and so on, but nothing major as I never had the money,” he recalls. “I always loved the Series 2 RS Turbo in particular, but I could never afford to buy one.” But then this one presented itself at an affordable price and, now in his forties, Peter was able to realise the dream.


The reason that it was affordable, however, was that it had essentially been abandoned and left to crumble back into the base elements from whence it came. “I bought it from eBay, and it was in a very sorry state,” he remembers with a grimace. “It had sat in a field for eight years, the engine was seized, the body was rotten…” But it was an RS Turbo, that was the main thing, and given that he’s a mechanic running a workshop and bodyshop, Peter had the skills, the tools and the venue in which to effect the Escort’s rebirth…

TO BE CONTINUED…

READ THE FULL FEATURE IN THE OCTOBER 2018 ISSUE…