The S2 RS Turbo was the king of the scene back in the 1990s. So, what would happen if someone from that time period hung onto their hot little Ford and continued steadily modifying it through the ages? Well, the modified Escort RS Turbo S2 you’re looking at it is the result…
Feature from Fast Car. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Daniel Pullen
The more interesting characters in world history are the ones who go out of their way to do what they’re not supposed to do. Jane Austen, for example, writing transcendent fiction at a time when women were generally seen and not heard. (That’s the 19th century’s opinion, not ours – if it enrages you, punch a historian). Or Salvador Dalí, who tirelessly yet effortlessly subverted the everyday with offbeat unusualness both in art and real life; or John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who brought about world peace by refusing to get out of bed, which definitely worked. No disputing that. The nonconformists make life interesting – that’s why Sid Vicious will always be cooler than Cliff Richard, even if the reality was that they were equally irritating company in person.
It’s maverick thinkers such as these who colourfully shake up the car scene with their bizarre concepts too. We love a weird project and we’ve pretty much seen it all over the years, from bagged Lotus Esprits to VTEC-powered Mk2 Escorts and beyond.
When you fuse this penchant for the jarring with the broad-reaching and polymathic world of RS Turbo modifying, again it’s possible to track down examples of pretty much any outlandish notion you can think of. After all, back in the good old days of cruising in the age well before social media and whatnot, when mobile phones required their own backpack and the height of sophistication in reality TV was in the hands of Noel Edmonds and Jeremy Beadle, the Series 2 Escort RS Turbo was king. The undisputed daddy of the modding scene, before the Saxo VTS steamed in and took over – you either had an RS Turbo or you really, really wanted one.
Every up-and-coming 17-year-old in their mum’s Escort 1.3L was gumming a Power Engineering sticker to the back window in the hope of emulating their heroes. And for the cool kids who actually had an RST, it was all about Ahmed Bayjoo chips, Spax suspension, four-inch pipes with outward-rolled tails, and a set of TSW Venoms or Wolfrace Voodoos.
Striding through these mists of nostalgia we find David Platt – owner of this red modified Escort RS Turbo S2 superstar, and a man who was there right from the start. Indeed, he bought this very same car back in 1995, and he’s been modding it ever since, carving his own path and belligerently doing things his way, regardless of how on-trend his decisions may or may not have seemed. This is a guy who lived the life, and is still very much living it.
“Our father owned a BMW franchise in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, so we’ve always been around cars; he started me and my brother Stuart off in the body shop so we got to learn all the skills,” David explains. “That early experience has done us well on the motors! Our first cars were a pair of Beetles which we did up in the school summer holidays back in 1988, turning them into twin Cal-lookers.” It’s these fledgling Germanic influences that we can see sprinkled like cunning easter eggs throughout the RS Turbo’s spec list today; a little VW style here, a few BMW parts there, all ideas that would no doubt irritate one or two members of the RS owners’ clubs – but he didn’t build it to please them, did he?
So why an Escort RS Turbo S2 in the first place, coming from a background of Dubs and Beemers? Well, quite simply, it all comes back to the point we were previously discussing: the fact that back in the nineties, the turbocharged Dagenham pocket rocket really did rule the streets.
“We used to see loads of RS Turbos about, and we always loved the sound and how well they went,” says David. “So my Beetle went up for sale in 1995, and that’s when I bought this car. I looked at a few, and I really wanted a white one because of a cool one I’d seen driving around – which is how I ended up with, er, red! It was the right car though, the best one I could find – virtually standard with just a set of wheels on it, I paid three grand for it.”
It’s worth reminding ourselves that this car was only seven years old when David bought it, so it’s the equivalent of one of you out there buying, say, a Mk3 Focus RS today. Not a classic, not even a modern-classic, just a cool contemporary hot hatch. That’s not to say it was all smooth-sailing, however… seven-year-old cars in the nineties could be a bit flakier than the average seven-year-old car nowadays.
“Not long after I bought it, the engine started smoking,” David recalls, “so it went off to Grove Garage to have one of their 1900 CVH engines fitted.” Now, to the Blue Oval modders from back in the day, the Grove Garage name will be immediately familiar as the second-home of one of the most important and influential figures in the Ford scene (when he wasn’t doing clever official stuff at Ford Motorsport HQ): a fella by the name of Ahmed Bayjoo. There was a time when your modded Ford simply wasn’t a proper modded Ford without an Ahmed Bayjoo chip and various other innovations crafted by his hand; indeed, it was pretty common for RS Turbos and Cossies to be advertised in the Auto Trader as having Bayjoo chips despite running no such thing, such was the desirability of this man’s prowess. When Ahmed passed away in 2016, he left a gaping hole in the Ford scene.
Anyway, back in 1996 he was mapping David’s CVH and doing a damn fine job of it. At the same time, the Escort’s rear chassis rails needed some attention, so the complete underbody from the bulkhead back was stripped and fully restored, with all of the suspension components powder-coated, and this is the sort of quality work that endures. Perhaps David didn’t know at the time that he’d end up keeping the RST for this long, but he’s sure glad he shelled out the big bucks in the right places rather than taking any short-cuts.
“The rear end was all done in about 2002,” he continues, “and a few years after that everything from the bulkhead forward was stripped and powder-coated to match the rear. The engine bay was also smoothed and redone; at this time I was doing all the paintwork on the car myself. The front end was done in about 2005, and shortly after that I met up with Phil Baldry at Carbon Delight… and that’s when the carbon fibre obsession started.”
It’s fair to say that ‘obsession’ is something of an understatement, with the modified Escort RS Turbo S2 positively dripping in custom pieces in the racy black weave: there’s a full carbon roofskin, rear heckblende, A-pillars, scuttle, turbofans for the front wheels, and all sorts of other bits. Just check out the custom RS1700T rear spoiler, with its carbon E30 M3 Evo lip! So many custom touches, and each move helping the Escort to carve out its own unique niche.
The aesthetics of the car are well worth poring over, as it’s the sort of build that keeps on giving; a riot of detail which offers up something new every time you look. But it’s not just about being a show-stopper: this RST was built for fast-road thrills, and the specs really underline that. The chassis is a pleasing mix of the old-school and the new-wave, boasting Mk1 Focus RS brakes alongside the classic Spax suspension setup, and what’s going on under the bonnet is truly remarkable. It’s still a CVH in there, now back to the classic 1600cc displacement, and it’s rocking a T3 turbo and Airtec RS500 intercooler along with Piper cams, uprated valvetrain, green injectors, and all sorts of other treats – plus, of course, that all-important Ahmed Bayjoo magic. It adds up to a peak of 220bhp, a thoroughly respectable figure for a CVH, although it’s not all about the peak power: this thing boosts hard and fast, exploiting the torque and the light weight to serve up some blistering performance. It’s retro boost, just as a Series Two should be.
“A lot of the mods were done over a decade ago,” says David, their longevity indicating just how properly this has all been carried out. “The custom bootlid was one of the last major bits to be done, around five years ago. And it was in 2017 when a turning point came, with Jez at Carrera Bodyworks asking if I’d display my car with his one on his stand at Ford Fair.” For regular readers, Jez will need no introduction – we recently featured his Mk4 Escort, which he’s owned basically forever and done everything to, and of course he also recently built Carl Taylor from Players’ RS Turbo. Jez is a guy who knows everything about paint and bodywork, and just as much about Mk4 Escorts.
“I arranged for Jez to give my car a full repaint, which happened in the winter of 2017,” says David. “All the way through, I’ve tried to do the car in an OEM+ style, with a lot of mods you wouldn’t even notice at first.” The spec list will be a handy spotter’s guide for you here – how many of you clocked the Granada Scorpio rear-view mirror, or the custom cut-down OEM door mirrors; the BMW E46 rear diffuser or the Mk4 Fiesta window switches? There’s custom work everywhere you look. This is what really sets David’s RS Turbo apart from the rest – he’s the Salvador Dalí of hot hatches, the Jane Austen of carbon, deliberately going out of his way to do things he’s not supposed to do. This, right here, is how you build an RS Turbo. And after a quarter-century and more, always shapeshifting and innovating, this spectacular little Ford still has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.
Tech Spec: Modified Escort RS Turbo S2
90-spec front bumper – modified with lower section of Sapphire RS Cosworth bumper grafted in to accept modified RS500 lower splitter, air intakes modified and enlarged, Alfa Romeo front number plate plinth, tinted headlights, custom headlamp air intake scoop, smoked front indicators with USA-spec running lights, smoked repeaters and taillights, carbon bonnet pin holders and Sapphire RS Cosworth 4×4 bonnet vents, VW Polo wiper arms grafted into Escort arms (to allow fitment of OEM floppy wipers), cut-down OEM wing mirrors, Audi 80 door handles, de-locked doors, carbon roof skin, carbon A pillars, carbon scuttle panel, BMW E36 convertible third brake light, RS1700T bootlid and blade – with BMW E30 M3 Evo spoiler lip in carbon, BMW E46 Sport rear diffuser modified and grafted in to rear bumper, VW Polo number plate lights, carbon heckblende
1600 CVH, ported and polished head, 1mm oversize inlet and exhaust valves, Piper T285 cams, Piper uprated valve springs, bronze valve guides, Series One RS Turbo inlet manifold, 4x Bosch 803 injectors (greens), Fiesta RS Turbo fuel rail and fuel regulator, Cosworth idle speed control valve in Lancia Delta Integrale remote housing, T3 turbo with .48 exhaust housing, Sapphire RS Cosworth 2WD engine loom reworked to suit Escort layout, Weber/Marelli Ahmed Bayjoo Level 6 with Pectel piggyback board for active spark and electronic boost control, modified distributor, custom camshaft and crankshaft sensors, Group A coil, Airtec RS500-style intercooler, Airtec alloy radiator, twin cooling fans, Hayward & Scott exhaust system with large internal silencer and downswept tailpipe, silicone boost and water hoses, relocated map sensor, Ford Ka fuel filter on custom bracket – mounted on gearbox with high-pressure Ford fuel hoses on Snaplock fittings, Pipercross Group A air filter, rerouted and hidden wiring loom through inner wings and front panel, BMW Z4 boot hinges converted to bonnet hinges, chassis rails and front panel smoothed, carbon fibre trim and details throughout, rebuilt RS Turbo gearbox with painted casing, skimmed flywheel, AP Racing 4-paddle clutch with standard cover, short-shift gear linkage
8×17-inch ET35 Compomotive TH wheels – sprayed in custom brown; fronts drilled for Carbon Delight turbofans, 215/40 Federal RSR tyres, Spax Sport suspension with Apex rear springs, fully polybushed, Mk1 Focus RS front calipers with Reyland AP front bell / 326mm disc setup and custom brackets, Mk1 Focus 2.0 petrol-model rear calipers and discs, braided lines
Flocked interior, modified dashboard housing sat-nav, air charge temp and boost gauge, custom dash surround with oil temp/pressure and water temp gauges, Granada Scorpio self-dimming rear-view mirror, Mk4 Fiesta window switches set in modified Escort interior handles, Sparco wheel, Corbeau bucket seat trimmed in new-old-stock Ford Zolder cloth and new-old-stock Ford light grey cloth, Luke four-point driver’s-side harness, custom illuminated BMW E34 gearknob and gaiter, Ford Focus ST2 black sun visors, custom black cloth headlining, carbon Magic Tree