The Ford Escort was originally introduced to replace the aging Ford Anglia, a mainstay among drivers in post-war Britain. The Anglia was affordable, maintainable, and easy to drive, but it wasn’t exactly a motorsport icon. As time rolled on and prospective buyers were watching rally racing and track days from the comfort of their home, the old maxim came into play: “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”. As such, Ford needed to create something in the cost range of the Anglia, but also a capable rally vehicle; something anybody could buy and drive, but a masterful competitor could dominate the off-roads with.
I suppose it’s rather obvious now that, well, they did it. The rally versions of this generation of Escort took home wins at the Africa Safari, Circuit of Ireland Rally, the European Rally Manufacturer’s Championship (twice!), and when the WRC rolled around, it racked up 20 event victories in the capable hands of drivers such as Ari Vatanen, Hannu Mikkola, and Timo Mäkkinen. It was no slouch on a track, either!
However, nowadays, its most famous driver in popular culture is probably one Brian O’Conner. It’s his 1970 Ford Escort RS1600 that this particular model is based on. The “RS” stands for “Ralley Sport”, to commemorate their rally victories and remind people just what the car’s pedigree was; as such, the road-going car was admirably capable. I’m not entirely sure it was quite able to survive landing front-bumper-first at a 45-degree-angle - and a few stunt cars certainly didn’t survive it - but damn if it doesn’t look beautiful doing it.
It interests me that this particular model casting was introduced as a Fast and Furious tie-in in 2015, expressly based on the one from F&F 6, but as part of the standard Workshop Garage line, only entering the F&F specialized line in 2017, and seemingly designed to resemble the rally car more than just the movie car. This was made with forethought, that as something they’d redesigned, re-tampo, and re-release time and time again, with or without the license, they’d have to nail the iconic design of the car overall, not just the film appearance. As such, the headlamps up-front from the rally racing configuration are nicely prominent... even though they aren’t all attached in the film.
Ford may be thought of primarily as an American company, but this car was definitely a European effort. The engine was built in South Essex in the UK. 1970's Escorts were built in Saarlouis, West Germany. (Seeing how timeless this car is, I think the phrase “West Germany” dates this more than absolutely anything else here.) And, just as intended, it absolutely swept the UK sales figures as it was intended to, keeping a regular prominence in print ads and up front in televised races.
Much like my Lancia Stratos, I have R32Rennsport to thank for this one, as it was obtained in the same trade, and now sits snugly atop my desk, a nice colorful addition to the 1/64 rally roster I’ve got hanging about. It’s that wonderful balance of road-going far and off-road sideways lunacy that I just can’t help but love; all the better that (in the eyes of Hollywood, and in the spirit of play,) it can take on a tank and win!