From criticised saloon at launch to multiple WRC winner and cult classic.


“Ford’s new Escort meets its rivals… and loses”. That was the famous cover splash on the 29 August 1990 issue of Autocar & Motor magazine, and was far from the only criticism of the Mk5 model’s ride and handling from the motoring press. So given these reviews, how did the Escort RS Cosworth notch up multiple WRC wins and develop a reputation as a cult classic? The answer lies in its underpinnings.

In reality, the RS Cosworth was not really a Mk5 Escort at all. The car used the outgoing Sierra floor pan and much of the mechanicals, including the YB Series longitudinally mounted engine. The roof and doors were carried across, but the front and rear wings were bespoke items crafted by Karmann, where the car was assembled. While the official output was 224bhp, the YBT engine is notoriously tunable, with many cars modified to exceed 500bhp.

While some critics bemoaned the lack of play in the chassis, Motor Sport magazine’s Jeremy Walton gave his verdict in July 1992 and lauded its “unparalleled cross-country speed” and likened it to “a 10-year-old Group B supercar”.

The car’s official world championship debut followed post-homologation in 1993 at the Monte Carlo Rally, and it would go on to secure eight WRC victories over the next three years, in the hands of legendary drivers such as François Delecour, Miki Biasion, Tommi Mäkinen, and Carlos Sainz.

Today, the Escort RS Cosworth remains a sought-after model for fast Ford fans. While many owners choose to modify their car far beyond factory specifications, the purist collectors will pay significant sums for low-mileage highly original examples.

At the time of writing, Collecting Cars is proud to be offering a very special Ford Escort RS Cosworth. Not only is it the very final car built at the Karmann factory, but it is offered directly from the man who oversaw its development – Dieter Hahne, former head of Ford’s SVE (Special Vehicle Engineering) division. Click through to find out more about this particular car and its remarkable provenance.