Designed For Group B – The Ford RS200
The Ford RS200 rose from the ashes of the ill-fated Escort RS 1700T project. After a successful rally programme based around the earlier Escorts, Ford knew it needed a revolutionary new car to compete with the likes of Audi, Peugeot and Renault.
By the early 1980s it had become clearly evident that the only way to win was to develop an all-wheel drive platform that was as lightweight as possible, and could produce levels of horsepower usually reserved for Formula One.
The chassis of the new car was developed by former Formula One designer Tony Southgate, it was a mid-engine layout with double wishbone independent suspension on all four corners coupled with twin dampers.
In order to get the weight distribution as close to 50/50 as possible the transmission was mounted in front of the driver, requiring a complex drivetrain that sent the power forwards, before sending some of it back to the rear differential. The engine chosen for the RS200 was a 1803cc inline-4 by Cosworth, with double overhead camshafts and turbocharging.
In street trim the unit produced approximately 250 bhp but later race versions were tuned to develop over 800 hp.
In order to be eligible for FIA Group B Rally the manufacturer had to produce a minimum of 200 road-going variants of their race car, this requirement gifted the world the Porsche 959, the Ferrari F40 and a slew of other supercars, as well as the slightly smaller but no less capable Ford RS200.
Besides its giant-killing performance, the RS200 was notable for its complete design departure from its Ford Escort predecessors. The styling had been developed by Carrozzeria Ghia and it incorporated twin front and rear clam shells that opened to afford mechanics and engineers easy access to the drivetrain, suspension, and braking systems.
The body was made from fibreglass by the Reliant Motor Company in England, more famous for their slightly awkward (but also fibreglass) three wheeled Reliant Robin – famously driven by Jeremy Clarkson and very nearly launched into orbit from Scotland.
The Ford RS200 Evolution Shown Here
The Evolution variant of the RS200 was scheduled to arrive on the Group B scene in 1987 as an upgrade over the original. Due to a series of deaths, including some spectators, the FIA cancelled Group B in 1986 – leaving the RS200 Evolution with no series to call home.
Ford Europe had made a series of modifications to the car to bring it up to Evolution specification, perhaps most significant was the new engine, a development of the BDT engine called the BDT-E, with a 2137 cc displacement and up to a maximum of 815 hp in top trim. The engine had been developed by Brian Hart, a former racing driver and top flight engineer with a long history of working in Formula One.
Just 24 examples of the Evolution version of the RS200 were made, and surviving examples like this one are look on as four-wheeled gold in the motorsport community. They’re capable of rubbing shoulders with far more modern racing cars and winning – and this one is reported to be making 600 bhp, likely giving it a 0-60 mph time in the very low 3 seconds range.
Bonhams will be offering this car at The Bond Street Sale in the 2nd of December with an estimated hammer price of between £180,000 and £240,000. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.
Images courtesy of Bonhams