As Robert Shaw’s 360bhp Radiant Red example proves, when a car looks as good from the factory as the Escort RS Cosworth, there really is no need to mess about with its appearance…
Let’s face it, many of us have mates who spent the latter part of the 1990s coming to terms with the fact that they’d spent a gazillion quid on ill-fitting fibreglass body panels for their chosen chariots. In their defence, it’s fair to say that petrolheads have long been attempting to improve upon the oft-conservative factory styling packages that manufacturers see fit to decorate their cars with, although it probably goes without saying that success in the field of aftermarket automotive styling has always been something of a ‘hit or miss’ affair.
Of course, we’re all for personalising a ride in an effort to make it stand out in a crowd, but sometimes the argument that ‘less is more’ really does hold true, not least of all when the car in question is an Escort Cosworth. After all, here is a motor that was once Ford’s flagship performance offering – a model that came shipped from the factory dressed in its own brilliantly-designed body kit.
Aggressive lines, wide wheel arches, beefy side skirts, bonnet vents and that iconic whale tail are standard features of the undeniably excellent Rallye Sport. Yup, it can be difficult to find areas of the car’s cosmetic makeup to improve upon even when attempting to create an example that boasts unique exterior details.
Radiant Red Escort Cosworth owner, Robert Shaw, is in agreement. “Short of a wheel swap, one of the best updates that you can make with regard to the appearance of an EsCos is simply to refresh its coat of colour,” he says. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise to learn that his immaculate RS has been subjected to a bare shell respray, although he is keen to point out that the work occurred during time that his car spent in the custody of its previous owner.
“One of the features that convinced me to buy this particular Escort Cosworth was its incredible cosmetic condition,” continues the 35-year-old mechanic. “The car is just as clean underneath as it is on top, and there really is very little I can do to improve upon its finish… not that I was ever in doubt about my decision to throw a set of Compomotive MO6s at it!” he laughs.
Powdercoated in a shade of anthracite, the 18-inchers replace gold-painted rims that the car was sitting on when Robert first encountered it two years ago. “The wheels that I inherited with the Escort were a bit too ‘Subaru Impreza’ for my liking. MO6s are a tried and tested win when it comes to fast Fords, and I had a set of the same wheels bolted to my Sapphire Cosworth,” he admits, citing the 380bhp MSD-tweaked four-door as one of the best cars that he has ever owned.
Sierra RS500 fog lamp grilles, small door mirrors, a carbon-fibre front splitter and the aforementioned six-spokes are the only body mods that have been applied to Robert’s excellent EsCos. The car’s interior is a similarly understated affair, with an RS three-spoke steering wheel and a JVC head unit being the only obvious deviations from factory specification.
To our surprise, however, Robert tells us that the ‘red hex’ front and rear cloth seats that populate the cabin of his pride and joy were lifted out of another Escort Cosworth. “My car was kitted-out with leather seats before its restoration,” he confirms. “I was in the process of trying to source another set to replace the cloth, but fellow Ford owners club forum users told me that the special edition seats I was in already in possession of are very desirable and almost impossible to source. After much in the way of deliberation, I decided to take heed of their advice and leave the cabin of my car exactly as I bought it,” he concedes.
In contrast to the Radiant Red theme carried through to the car’s interior, its engine bay is littered with bright blue equipment; Roose Motorsport silicone hoses, uprated ignition leads, anodised Piper Cams vernier pulleys and a freshly powdercoated cam cover are all colour-coded to match one another, while alloy reservoir tanks, a matching oil breather kit and a Spec-R polished turbo heat shield provide a satisfying amount of shine in an area that can be rightly described as ‘spotless’.
The engine itself is producing a healthy 360bhp thanks to a rebuild that saw a Group A head gasket and cone air filter, high-lift camshafts, a Forge Motorsport dump valve, an RS500 intercooler, an enlarged alloy radiator, Denso Iridum spark plugs and green injectors introduced to the proceedings. The car’s factory ECU has been updated with a Graham Goode Racing Stage 3 chip.
GGR wizardry can also be found underneath this fantastic Ford in the form of its three-inch turbo-back stainless steel exhaust system. We find ourselves rolling around on the ground in an attempt to eyeball the tidy pipework, and in doing so we can’t help but notice the large stoppers parked in each corner. “They’re Alcon four-pots,” smiles Robert. “I’ve got 383mm two-piece drilled discs at the front and Reyland 300mm discs at the rear,” he says, acknowledging the need for decent anchors in a car that he hopes to push close to the 400bhp mark.
“My Sapphire Cosworth was really quick, and while I love my EsCos, I’d be lying if I said that it has the same level of poke. My intention is to wheel the latter to MSD and ask them to fit Siemens black fuel injectors before equipping the car with a custom map, anti-lag, launch control and wasted spark ignition. That’s more-or-less the setup I had on the Saph, and my guess is that there will be even more scope for power when the same gear is fitted to my Escort,” he explains.
In the meantime, the Radiant Red road rocket is brought out for use on sunny days and whenever there’s a Ford show in town. Its AVO coilovers and Powerflex polybushes help it stick to the road without compromise, and we can’t help but wonder whether living so close to Knockhill and Crail has tempted Robert to take his Escort for a spin on the hallowed ground of these famous racing circuits. He replies in the affirmative, although he says that he’s waiting for a track day out with fellow Ford enthusiasts before he unleashes the beast. “I’m not entirely convinced that putting my immaculate Cossie at the mercy of other track users is the best idea in the world. At least fellow RS owners are likely to give me plenty of space while I get to grips with unfamiliar track layouts!” he chuckles.
When it isn’t wowing show attendees with its pristine paintwork, Robert’s EsCos is tucked up in the warm alongside his Moonstone three-door Sierra. We’re also thrilled to be able to reveal that Robert is in the throes of building himself another Sapphire Cosworth. “It’s in the paint shop at the moment,” he beams. “I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it rolls back into my workshop and is sat on a set of Comps!”
Neither can we – there’s something very satisfying about seeing a Cosworth-badged Ford with freshly applied paint and a bigger-than-factory set of wheels. The fact that Robert has three examples to his name and has refrained from littering any of them with outlandish body modifications just goes to show that in the world of the Blue Oval, sometimes less really can mean more.
OWNER: ROBERT SHAW
TECH SPEC: TUNED FORD ESCORY COSWORTH
1993cc YB Cosworth, Group A head gasket, high-lift camshafts, Piper Cams vernier pulleys, T34.63 turbocharger, Spec-R polished turbo heat shield, Forge Motorsport dump valve, Group A cone air filter, RS500 intercooler, enlarged alloy radiator, Denso IK27 Iridium spark plugs, 8mm performance ignition leads, Bosch green fuel injectors, Group A fuel pump and coil, 3bar MAP sensor, Graham Goode Racing Stage 3 chip on standard ECU, polished oil breather kit, Philloy polished fluid reservoirs, Aeroquip braided oil feed hoses with AN10 fittings, polished bonnet stay and dip stick, blue Roose Motorsport silicone hoses, Graham Goode Racing 3-inch turbo-back stainless steel exhaust system
Standard four-wheel drive, six-paddle clutch, quick shift kit
AVO coilovers, Powerflex polybushes throughout, polished strut tops
Alcon four-piston calipers with 383mm two-piece drilled discs (front), factory rear calipers with Reyland 300mm two-piece discs (rear), performance pads
WHEELS & TYRES:
8×18-inch Compomotive MO6 wheels powdercoated anthracite, Toyo R888 235/40/18 tyres
Bare shell respray in OE Radiant Red, factory RS styling package, small door mirrors, carbon-fibre splitter and side skirts, RS500 fog lamp grilles, personalised registration plates
Recaro ‘Red Hex’ cloth front and rear seats, RS three-spoke steering wheel, JVC CD head unit
Stuart for keeping the car looking so good, Ade for the photo shoot, Custom Coatings for powdercoating the wheels and rocker cover, and to the guys and girls of the West Scotland RS Owners Club.
Words Dan Furr Photos Ade Brannan