Buying a slightly sorry-for-itself Cosworth isn’t anything to be afraid of. When an Escort came up for Sapphire money, Scott rolled up his sleeves and transformed it into this tuned Escort RS Cosworth…
Feature taken from Fast Ford magazine. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan
There’s a dark and troubling notion that sometimes creeps into the ownership of classic and modern-classic RS models: quite simply, it’s The Fear. As hardened Ford enthusiasts, we all know that these special top-of-the-tree performance models are Blue Oval royalty, built to be used and used hard… but every now and then, that little nagging voice can start whispering gently but insistently somewhere around the base of your brain. ‘Should you be doing that? These cars are getting rare, you know. And the values are going up and up. Is it worth the risk?’
Thankfully most of us are pretty good at ignoring The Fear, or at least blocking it out and shutting it up with our noisy exhausts. But there’s one true, sure-fire way not to have to worry about it all, and that’s to start out on your RS journey with an example that’s a bit unloved. The ugly duckling, the beleaguered workhorse, the battered and bloodied but unbowed battlers. And that’s precisely what Scott Rogers did. Sure, the car we see before the lens today looks thoroughly presentable, but there’s been a hell of a lot of elbow grease along the way. This isn’t the tale of a man who just buys a pristine Cossie and drives it about the place a bit; very far from it in fact. When Scott got his hands on this Escort, it was looking distinctly sorry for itself.
“It did need a bit of work,” he says, with the sort of laugh owned by people who’ve seen a thing or two and lived to tell the tale, “but I decided to take a chance on it.” This made a lot of sense, at least romantically if not strictly rationally, as the idea of owning an Escort RS Cosworth represented the endgame of a lifetime’s enthusiasm for hot Fords. Scott’s driving adventures began in a Mk3 Fiesta 1.1, as was the case for so many of us, and he was itching for a higher level of transcendent thrill from the off. “I fitted an RS Turbo kit and interior to it, but after that I unfortunately smashed it up,” he recalls. “So I had a cheap diesel 306 while I saved for a Series 2 RS Turbo, which I bought a year later – it was a nice original car, but soon enough the engine gave in. I rebuilt it with a Piper cam, hybrid turbo and so on, and I owned that car for six years until I decided to buy myself a Cossie.”
It’s a fairly natural progression, to ascend to RS Cosworth ownership after a number of years with an RS Turbo, and it’s a tale we’ve heard told many times. However, it wasn’t quite as simple as finding the right car and slapping down the cash; Cossies cost a bit more than RSTs, and Scott had to do a bit of lateral thinking. “I’d always loved Cossies ever since I first saw one back in the late ’90s,” he explains. “There used to be a guy who had a black one that was running 540bhp and he drove it like a hero everywhere; being a 16 year old I always hoped I’d one day own one, and when I came to replace the RS Turbo I’d been toying with the idea since I had the money for a Sapphire. A friend of mine bought a 2WD Saph that needed a bit of work, so we spent an afternoon getting it running – it was 380bhp on paper, so with no bonnet we decided to go up the lanes and see what it went like… and as soon as it come on boost in 2nd gear I was sold on the idea!”
There were two revelations vying for attention at this point: firstly, Scott knew he needed a Cosworth in his life. And secondly, he’d realised that picking up an example that needed a little work wasn’t necessarily anything to be afraid of. And so the hunt was on.
“I was looking for a Sapphire for a while, but I kept an eye on Escort prices too since that’s what I really wanted,” he says. “One day this EsCos popped up in a salvage yard in Brighton for Saph money – it needed some work doing to it, but after a few phone calls I borrowed a trailer and took a chance on it! After getting it home and properly inspecting it, the car just needed a wing pulling straight, a bumper and some lights. It was running a Stage 3 setup, although it was cutting out after a few minutes; after weeks of pulling my hair out trying to figure it out, a friend with a spare 4×4 Saph ECU threw that at me and told me to try it – and it worked!”
With the oily bits knocked into shape, the next job was to address those wonky aesthetics. Scott took the Escort to a body shop to have a bumper painted and fitted, and the bent wing pulled straight, and finally the dream was complete: his very own usable Cosworth. Driving it home in four inches of snow was pretty entertaining, and arriving back home Scott parked the RS under his car port to keep the worst of the weather off. However, fate still had a hand to play here, and a while later the car port collapsed under the weight of snow and landed right on top of the Escort!
“It’s safe to say I was pretty emotional at that sight,” he deadpans. “As I was digging it out, I was praying the roof hadn’t been damaged, although luckily it wasn’t even scratched. However, the passenger wing had a good dent in it, and the bonnet and both sides were scratched badly, so I just used it as it was for that year while I saved to have it painted again.”
While Scott was pooling his funds, it was pretty inevitable that the idea of a few mods would creep into his sphere of consciousness too, and sure enough he was thinking about more power before long. With the paint sorted out, the Escort then went off to PJ Motorsport for a decent setup and some power tweaks. “It was great driving home with the car as I’d always wanted it,” Scott grins. “But after a time the standard engine couldn’t handle the extra power and was starting to die; I was at a Ford show at Santa Pod and I wasn’t going to run it, but a mate asked me ‘Would you go to Alton Towers and sit in the car park?’ – so I paid my twenty quid, and three runs later I finished it off! So it was time for a build over the winter, then down to PJs for a health check and fresh map and so on.” It’s also worth mentioning the three gearboxes Scott blew while all this was going on, until he bought an Oppliger Motorsport big-tooth ’box which has proved to be sufficiently hardcore to suit the car’s needs.
“After three years of trouble-free motoring, the crank pulley came loose a little while back and chewed the end of the crank,” he says, with a certain air of resignation. “At the time of the photoshoot I was still running it in after changing the crank! It’s safe to say this car’s been challenging at times, sure, but it’s all worth it when I drive it and see people’s reactions, especially the older generation who remember them from new.”
You see, if there’s one guaranteed way to batter The Fear into submission, it’s to approach ownership the way Scott has. The car may be so clean that some owners would be afraid to get it dirty or risk damaging it, but he’s had his sleeves rolled up on this project from day one; the superb finish and spec is down to his own efforts, and all the work he’s put in is justly rewarded by a Cossie he can and will use every day. “It’ll never be a show winner,” he smiles, “but it ain’t bad for a car that gets used all year round – rain, shine, and even snow!” And that’s very much the point. Forget your cotton wool and your heated carcoons, this is an RS Cosworth that’s getting used just as intended.
Tech Spec: Tuned Escort RS Cosworth
2.0-litre Cosworth YB turbo, Wossner pocketed pistons, WRC head gasket, ARP long studs, Turbosport BD14 cams with Piper vernier pulleys, Lucas 83lb injectors, Stage 1 T34.48 turbo with -34 actuator, HKS boost controller, RS500 intercooler
Oppliger Motorsport big-tooth gearbox, thick-wall front diff
Koni adjustable shocks, Ahmed Bayoo springs, OMP strut braces
AP 4-pot front calipers with 330mm discs, grooved rear discs, Ferodo pads all round
Wheels & Tyres:
18in Rota D154 wheels, 225/40 Yokohama tyres
Morettes with tinted inners, RS500 grills, tinted indicators, sidelights and tail lights
Momo steering wheel, ECU data monitor, Birba Racing dials with 2-bar boost gauge conversion, custom gear lever