Brutal. This thing is truly brutal. How else could you describe a balls-out, race-built road car that pummels you in the face with a YB-shaped sledgehammer of grunt? A car that, even with 545bhp and mammoth spec sheet, simply wasn’t enough of an animal to entertain its owner. A flame-spitting, ear-bashing beast that, packing a 635bhp Harvey Gibbs motor and sequential rear-wheel-drive setup, can truly define what fast Fords are all about.
“It’s a bit lethal,” laughs the Cosworth’s creator Gaz Richardson. “It’s like a coffin on wheels.”
For Gaz, an essential element of the Cossie experience is that am-I-still-alive sensation at the end of every white-knuckle ride. It’s not about lap times or bragging rights – it’s about serious thrills.
Gaz grins, “I just want to leave smoke and black tyre marks up the road. This car lights up in fourth gear in the dry…”
His dream-specced Escort is the result of more than a decade of driving and modifying RS Fords. In the early days, Gaz played with a selection of Sapphire Cosworths, including a rear-wheel-drive with NMS gunship conversion and a stage three 4×4. “The four-wheel-drive had nowt about it,” muses Gaz. “It just felt clunky.”
Even so, the boyhood fantasy of buying an Escort Cossie proved too tempting, so ten years ago Gaz bit the bullet and began a 12-month search for his ideal machine. Only white paintwork would suffice, and anything less than immaculate was given short shrift.
Eventually he discovered a one-owner, low-mileage model, which spent summer weekends winning RS Owners’ Club concours competitions in the hands of the group’s chairman Dave Rose. Gaz remembers, “As soon as I saw it in Dave’s Carcoon, I knew it would be in my garage that night.”
Already mildly modified, the Escort sported a hybrid T34 turbo and ported cylinder head, along with gold split-rim wheels. Gaz upped it to around 400bhp with a Motorsport Developments remap, injectors and chip, which was enough to run a timed 12-second quarter-mile and 0-to-60mph in 4.2 seconds. “It’s always been a quick car,” adds Gaz.
Still, during his first seven years of ownership, Gaz covered a measly 2,000 miles in the Escort – partly because it’s a dry-use-only machine, but also owing to its comparative lack of fun factor.
So, underwhelmed by 400bhp, in summer 2011 Gaz and his mate pulled the YB out of his Escort to make way for major changes.
“I knew the engine would be going to Harvey at SCS,” says Gaz. “Not cheap, but worth paying for.”
After discussing his requirements with Harvey, Gaz opted for a full rebuild plus GT3076 turbo, which resulted in a whopping 545bhp. With a Bara transmission and six-degree rear beam it was a strong, usable package. Yet, for Gaz, it was lacking that certain something: the tail-sliding lairyness you don’t get with all-wheel grip. “It was as fast as owt but I just didn’t like the 4×4,” he groans.
After less than 1,000 miles Gaz was back on the phone to Harvey, wondering what move to make next. “He said the only thing my car lacked was rear-wheel drive,” Gaz recalls.
“I knew what was involved in the conversion, and Harvey told me the way he prefers. Some people use a two-wheel-drive front end but I’d just spent money on Black Art Design coil-overs, which are different on a 4×4.
“All that was needed was to remove the front diff and machine the CV joints to keep the bearings in the hubs. That’s about it. And it’s the best way because it doesn’t affect the car’s geometry. Plus you can easily convert back to four-wheel drive – but I’d never do that because it’s the best thing I’ve done.”
The existing engine, said Harvey, would be fine as it was. But Gaz had thoughts of 600 ponies stampeding through his head, so a new build was commissioned, featuring billet internals, new cams, solid lifters, GT35 turbo and Pectel T6 2000 ECU. It clouted out an immense 635bhp (at a safe 31psi) on SCS’s dyno, and immediately put a smile on Gaz’s face.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. A new gearbox was needed to complete the RWD conversion, and Gaz chose a Viper-type Quaife 33G because it was readily available. “It chucked in the towel and didn’t last five minutes,” he groans.
Dismayed and dejected, Gaz collected his Cosworth on a trailer and stuck it in his garage while deciding its fate. Breaking the beast for spares became a real possibility, but instead Gaz splashed out on an Elite sequential six-speed ’box, with a specially redesigned gear kit rated to 600lb.ft torque instead of the standard unit’s 480lb.ft capability.
It was squeezed into the tunnel by Gaz and his mate, using a T5 bellhousing adaptor, RWD starter motor and shift plate; Elite also supplied a two-piece propshaft that was made to match a Toyota Supra rear differential, as installed by SCS.
Gaz also took the opportunity to swap from cable to hydraulic twin-plate clutch and centre-push bearing, aiding feel and ability to withstand hard launches.
He says, “I wanted the most bulletproof clutch I could get. The conversion was awkward, but I’ve done some since on mates’ cars and they’re straightforward now.”
It’s all a pretty snug fit in that no-nonsense engine bay, made even tighter by a 4in downpipe that feeds a twin-box 3.5in system – an essential upgrade before final mapping, along with the Pro Alloy 100mm intercooler. Gaz constructed a removable front crossmember to allow some elbowroom, and grooved out the front bumper for the ’cooler’s end cores.
Gaz treated the bumper and skirts to a coat of paint (his handiwork is responsible for the sheen on several cars from the Escort Cosworth forum), but the rest of the bodywork remains factory-fresh; it really is that mint.
Back on the road, Gaz immediately knew he’d made the right decision. “I’d had my doubts about going rear-wheel drive, but it’s awesome,” he grins. “It’s really, really fast. It accelerates like a motorbike, and Harvey said it’s the fasted two-wheel-drive Cossie he’s driven.
“The GT35 spools up straight away, and with flat-shift on a switch, I can go crazy and use full throttle – it only drops about 300rpm between gear changes. I’m hoping to get to Bruntingthorpe for testing; the gearbox is rated to 185mph but I don’t think it will do more than 150mph because it’s such short ratios.”
Best of all, the modifications have provided those all-important tail-happy tricks and hooligan kicks to make Gaz finally fall in love with his Escort. He smiles, “It’s a monster. It spits massive flames, popping and banging. With anti-lag and launch control it’s very aggressive, and with the screamer pipe it’s really loud – especially on boost. You can’t even hear passengers sitting right next to you…”
That’s despite the Cossie’s cockpit remaining full-trimmed, albeit boasting a Sparco race seat and selection of matching carbon goodies. There’s no roll cage as yet, but Gaz admits it’s on the agenda for an impending track onslaught.
He says, “It’s going to get used and abused. It’s totally bulletproof because I’ve cut no corners. Now it’s my dream spec, and I don’t think there’s anything that could be improved.”
It’s impossible not to agree. This brutal machine is a genuine weapon, a testament to what makes Cossies so relentlessly addictive. As Gaz straps himself in, it’s hard to imagine any way this car could give more thrills. There’s smoke, there are flames, then it rockets down the road, screeching and spitting in a blur of boost – sideways, of course
Harvey Gibbs race engine with long-studded block, Mahle pistons, big-wing sump, WRC breather system, three-layer steel head gasket, Nick Waples ported head, Harvey’s-spec big cams, solid lifters, Isky double valve springs, SCS vernier cam pulleys, MK Motorsport billet cam cover, Harvey-spec GT35 turbo with billet internals and Tial V-band external-gated exhaust housing, Tial water-cooled wastegate, screamer pipe, SCS tubular V-band manifold, SCS inlet plenum, SCS billet fuel rail, Siemens 83lb injectors, air injectors, Pectel T6 2000 ECU, WRC remote anti-lag, launch control, flat-shift for full-throttle gearchanges (80-millisecond fuel/ignition cut), wasted spark coil-pack conversion, Turbosmart 800 fuel pressure regulator, twin 044 fuel pumps and swirl pot, Pro Alloy 100mm intercooler with removable front crossmember, Pro Alloy radiator and twin fan setup, Bailey header tank and swirl pot, teflon-lined hoses and Earls fittings, braided engine loom.
635bhp at 31psi (dyno proven).
Harvey Gibbs rear-wheel-drive conversion, Elite IL 300 Evo 2 six-speed sequential gearbox (rated to 600lb.ft), Cosworth RWD bellhousing and starter motor, Elite two-piece propshaft, Toyota Supra rear diff conversion using Cosworth RWD driveshafts, hydraulic clutch conversion, Tilton centre-push bearing, Tilton twin-plate 7.25in clutch with heavy-duty cover.
Black Art Design coil-over suspension, Harvey Gibbs six-degree rear beam.
AP Racing six-pot floating callipers and 380mm front discs, 300mm rear discs.
Wheels and tyres
Rota 9x18in alloys and Federal 595 RS-R tyres (245/40×18 front and 255/40×18 rear).
Factory Cosworth body with front bumper modified for intercooler with carbon air duct, new lights and indicators, RS500 grilles.
Sparco Evo full carbon driver’s seat, Willans harness with aircraft buckle, OMP Carbon S steering wheel, Stack instruments with boost and exhaust gas temperature gauges alongside, Stack air-to-fuel ratio gauge and clock in banana pod, Stack sequential shift light, gear display modified into clock surround.
Harvey Gibbs, young Jim and the lads at SCS (01733 576614), Mike Rainbird at R&B Motorsport, Dave Prichard, Bowesy (for all the road trips), Jus (for all the help with the car), Simon Russel for the exhaust (07979 060321), Tony and John at Turbosystems for the rear diff conversion, four-year-old son Nathan (who always helps to clean and fix the car and thinks it’s his own) and my lass for putting up with all the spending and hours on the car.