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The Richter Treatment - 1994 Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Rediscovering the MK V Escort RS Cosworth: The original road rocket from Ford

By Marc Stengel, Photography by E. John Thawley III

You can say this much about Ford's determination to position its late but not-so-lamented Escort subcompact as a world car: There sure are a lot of 'em. Millions of 'em, in fact, and they're everywhere you look-even now that the Focus has come into view as Escort's worthy successor.

You're to be excused for not particularly perking up when yet another Escort rushes by on the highway. If the light is right, you might notice its coppery, golden metallic paint finish is sort of unusual. And that boxed, twin-plane rear wing towering over the deck lid-well, these days, every jive wannabe with a roll of double-sticky tape is gluing boy-racer bits all over his commuter car.

But if, just once, you time the stoplights right, and if the stars are properly aligned overhead, and if you pay real close attention, it may slowly dawn on you that you've just been blasted by a tawny scat cat whose 3-inch cannon of an exhaust is aiming 400 turbocharged hp right into your face. "Oh," you think to yourself, "so that's what a MK V Escort RS Cosworth should look like."

Bristle Count
Fans of FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) racing will hardly fail to notice that the RS Cosworth is Ford's streetable version of its pre-Focus-era factory racer. North Americans, however, should be stunned to learn that one of these all-wheel-drive pocket rockets is presently scorching U.S. tarmac. Ford built precious few streetable RS Cosworths-only enough to qualify, or homologate, the WRC Escort as a production-based rally racer. Moreover, what Cosworths do exist are Euro-spec only. Ford produced none at all for the U.S. market, and it is only through grudging perseverance, dogged determination and sheer bloody-mindedness that this unique, genuine and heavily massaged Escort RS Cosworth has made its way state-side to cross-pollinate with our own rally-starved performance car scene.

This particular Cosworth transplant represents a marvelous exercise of judicious modifications meant to enhance rather than overwhelm Ford's original "homologation" package. Overseen for the most part by Teutonic auto tuner Richter. Motorsport, this Escort Cosworth project combines big-time turbocharging with savvy power distribution via AWD to deliver the kind of stirring performance that can only be adequately measured by the bristle count on the back of your neck.

It takes a Garrett RS500 T4 turbocharger mated to a Collins RS500 intercooler to provide enough deep breathing for the Cosworth's 390 claimed hp. But first, it was necessary to bore displacement out to 2.3 liters, then pack the innards with bulletproof, Group A-spec hard parts. That's because the fire-breathing T4 is dialed-in by a re-mapped ECU to boost slightly more than 29 psi at its maximum. Twin, overhead Mountune cams and followers do the heavy lifting and a Group A dump valve shunts overblow pressures noisily yet harmlessly into the atmosphere. For their part, exhaust gases set themselves free via that 3-inch cannon at the rear-a low-backpressure turbo exhaust system from Mongoose, which incorporates HJS's motorsports catalytic converter.

That's a big part of what it takes to twist off 0-to-60 times in 4.0-second territory. But it's certainly not all: Mundane issues like coefficients of friction (traction) need cajoling, too. To that end, Richter's RS Cosworth routes power through a Quaife "dogleg" gearbox stuffed with close-ratio, heavy-duty gearing spec'd for Group N racing. Quaife differentials front and rear, moreover, collaborate with a split-torque center diff to ration drive power to all four corners, when and where it's needed most. A quick-shift gear lever and Sachs Sporting clutch round out a drivetrain package characterized by, among other quirks, a one-to-two gear throw that is quick, violent and brutal.

Puttin' On A Show
It's interesting that suspension and chassis tweaks are relatively minor by comparison to engine and driveline work, owing primarily to the RS Cosworth's reasonably complete homologation specs. Brakes, for example, are bone stock. Crisp polyurethane bushings are substituted to "tighten" overall suspension feedback and H&R height-adjustable front struts are installed. But these are actually more important for making fine-tuned aesthetic alterations in chassis height to accommodate the white powdercoated 18x8-inch Compomotive MO alloy wheels wearing 235/40-18 Yokohama S1Z skins all around.

Underhood is a beauty pageant as well. Everything's braided and blued, with touches of aluminum from the Bailey header tanks and carbon fiber accents over the cams and cam belt. An OMP strut-tower brace ties everything together.

By Marc Stengel
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