400HP Ford Escort RS1700T Group B Prototype in Action: Lovely Turbo Noises, Accelerations & Sound!

This kind of special vehicles is the reason why I love the Festival of Speed. I know it would be better to see them in their natural habitat but being so rare even to be seen inside a museum, having the chance to record them in action it’s way more rewarding. The car of this video is the Ford Escort RS1700T which was a prototype RWD machine based on the Escort Mk3 model and designed by Ford Motor Company in the early 80s to compete in Group B rallying.

Compared to the two previous models, the road-going Escort Mk3 was unveiled in 1980 as a completely new car, and was conceived as a hi-tech, high-efficiency vehicle which would compete with the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic. The biggest changes being the adoption of front-wheel drive, the new hatchback body and all-new overhead camshaft engines.
At the same time Ford also sold all of its works rally team to David Sutton Team. This choice was made so that Ford could ditch everything related to the outgoing Escort Mk2 and fully focus on developing a new rally car.

At first they experimented with a heavily modified Fiesta before deciding, in 1981, to stick with the freshly unveiled Escort Mk3 even if it was a front-wheel drive car. In fact, thanks to the new Group B rules (which would have been introduced starting from 1982), wild deviation were allowed from the road-legal version. Two engines were used during the first tests: a 2.3-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder made by race engine builder Hart and a revised turbocharged version of the Cosworth BDA, labelled BDT. The final decision fell upon the latter. It was a 1.8-litre (1778 cc) 4-cylinder engine which was able to produce over 350 hp and 515 Nm pf torque. The ”RS1700T” name was used instead of ”RS1800T” to avoid confusion with the old RS1800.

Like its predecessor RS1800, the RS1700T had the engine installed longitudinally and the power was unleashed to the ground by the rear wheels thanks to a Hewland manual 5-speed transaxle gearbox. This choice was done to achieve the best possible weight distribution, having so the transmission located at the rear of the car, in front of the differential, and not directly behind the engine.

Unfortunately persistent problems during the vehicle’s development, coupled with unease within the marketing department that a Mk III Escort with rear wheel drive would be perceived as a retrograde step and contradicted the high-technology image they were trying to promote with the regular production version prompted Ford to drop plans for its production and instead begin work on a bespoke all-wheel-drive model to beat the Audi Quattro, designed and built from scratch, resulting in the RS200.

Only 18 examples were built and many of them were shipped to South Africa to be raced in local rallies as works entries, putting valuable test miles on the BDT engine before the RS200 was ready. This was possible since in the country’s rallies it wasn’t require homologation of any kind. The cars were rebranded as Escort RST (RallyeSport Turbo). Currently only 5 are thought to be in existence today, with one being owned by Malcolm Wilson.

The RS17000T in this video is one of the original prototypes which was fully restored and rebuilt by English company BGMsport some years ago. The guys were also able to unleash some extra power from the BDT engine reaching the threshold of 400bhp. Watch it in action on Goodwood’s hillclimb course!

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