The night the humble Escort won over a sceptic

| 26 Mar 2013

I just don’t get the Ford Escort madness that has swept the country. How on earth can a Mk2 Ghia four-door auto be worth £5000? Let alone a pukka Group 4 rally car £50 shy of £80,000.

Or at least, I didn’t get it. The other night, during one of the occasional fantastic perks of this job, it all suddenly made sense.

My moment of clarity came during the Goodwood Motorsports Launch Dinner, an event that carries near-mythical status because an invitation is so hard to come by. And because they do things such as opening the Goodwood Festival Forest Rally Stage for diners to enjoy passenger rides between glasses of champagne. In the dark.

Naturally, I headed straight for the fabulous MG Metro 6R4. Then, because there wasn’t a queue, I thought I’d have another go, making a beeline for a Fiat 131. Before I got there, however, I was pipped to the passenger door and was instead directed to the car behind, which was ‘only’ an Escort.

Dear me, how little I know. Far from being ‘only’ a Ford, Aziz Tejpar’s recently acquired 1975 RS1800 – one of three Escort rally cars he owns – was used by Timo Makinen and Henry Liddon to win the 1975 RAC Rally (main pic), then driven by Ari Vatanen to victory in the 1976 British Open Rally Championship.

It was later used by Roger Clark (above, in another Escort) as a recce car for the East African Safari Rally. So just a little bit of history, then.

More important than all of that, however, is the fact that it has a BDG twin-cam putting out around 275bhp. And, even from the passenger seat, it is clear from the minute we move off that this thing is just about the most fun you could ever wish to have behind the wheel of a car.

No wonder Aziz has a big grin on his face, something that I match as he spins the wheels on the gravel at the foot of the steps outside Lord March’s home and slithers broadside on to the driveway, giving it maximum revs in every gear before remembering that there’s supposed to be a speed limit on the drive.

It’s such a characterful car that it’s almost impossible not to play with it – just look at the pictures of it in action in period, it doesn’t do straight lines.

"They are just toys for grown-ups," enthuses Aziz, as we enter the course and begins to twirl the deep-dished wheel. Never mind the dark, the recent snowfall over the chalky ground means that it’s unbelievably slippery and Aziz goes quiet as the tail kisses a hay bale, before the rear wheels spit more greasy mud out behind the car and the cabin once more fills with the amazing scream of that high-revving twin-cam.

All too soon it’s over and we trundle to a halt outside the House. I am a complete convert: like Aziz, I need a toy like this for my toybox. If you need any further convincing, watch some of the video I took while we were roaring around Goodwood.

Sadly, I’m not sure I have the bank balance. I’ve been trawling the classifieds on and the cheapest decent road car I can find is around £10k, while the very best is knocking on four times that.

Besides, I’m not even sure that I want a decent road car. I realise that I’ll need a Euromillions win to buy a BDG twin-cam genuine period rally car, but a decent scratchcard result would be enough to secure my favourite find in our classifieds.Yes, it’s got a 2-litre Pinto not a twin-cam, but otherwise this 1978 Escort is ready for the stages with a seam-welded body, full cage, spotlights et al. I love the non-‘Droop Snoot’ nose – hell, I even like the orange livery. All I need (apart from £25k) is a private forest to play in. 'Dear Lord March...'

Images: LAT/Ford