Ford Escort Rs

Sarel Van Der Merwe Ford Escort Bda

wrap around the headlights. Escort "agents" these days refer to the original Escort as the "dog-bone" range, to differentiate it from the later Mk II or "Brenda" range which appeared in 1975.

No Twin Cams or RS1600s were ever marketed in South Africa, but some road-going examples found their way to these shores via private enthusiasts and the factory rally team. However, there's an interesting twist to this story that has to do with a certain Basil Green, the creator of the famous Capri Perana V8. In the early '70s Basil expanded his Perana range to include a V6 Capri (before the factory brought out its own V6 model), a Cortina Mk III V6 and an Escort Perana. He did this by "swapping up" engines from various models in the Ford range, and in the case of the Escort, it gained a two-litre overhead-cam four-cylinder produced for the Mk III Cortina GT.

The tricky bit, which some Escort fanatics swear is true, is that he slotted this engine into a bunch of RS1600s that were imported here by Ford. From an appearance point of view, all he did, apparently, was to glue the Perana badge over the existing RS1600 badge. And lending credence to this story is that CAR carried adverts for BDA engines for sale in a few early-70s editions, placed by none other than Basil Green.

In Europe, Ford in fact followed Basil Green's lead by replacing the

Sarel van der Merwe would go on to win five national titles in an Escort

RS1600 with the RS2000 -probably because the four-valve BDA wasn't as hardy as the less-complex two-litre "Cologne" motor, also known as the Pinto engine. The first RS2000s were of the square-nose Mk II variety, while from 1976, Ford developed a body kit for the car that included a "droop snoot" or shovel-shaped plastic nose for more efficient aerodynamics.

While all this was going on in the road-car markets, the Ford Escort was creating a legend that would stand unmatched in the

Ford Capri Kzn

world of rallying possibly for all time. The Mk I beat cars such as Porsche 911s and Renault Alpines to win the 1000 Lakes Rally a record five times, the RAC Rally three times and notched up five wins in the notorious car-breaking Safari Rally in Kenya.

The Mk II, with an 1800 cm3 (later two-litre) four-valve BDA was equally successful. In fact, it notched up 31 victories in the WRC, and in South Africa Sarel van der Merwe would go on to win five national titles in an Escort. He also competed here against the likes of Hannu Mikola, an experience that he said "upped his game" exponentially. In fact, Sarel competed in the British RAC Rally in an SA-built Ford Escort and he won four special stages on that event as a rookie!

If you love rallying, as Laurie Steyn does, the Ford Escort has to be on your wish-list, and preferably in both Mk I and Mk II forms. Laurie Steyn is in fact an Alfa man, and runs Alfa Clinic in Jo'burg. A successful historics racer and rallyist, the two fast Fords pictured here are, however, kept purely for nostalgic reasons. Neither are genuine RS models, but were lovingly recreated to resemble the Rallye Sport items.

The Mk I was built by a mate of Laurie's, Errol John, more than 20 years ago using an old 1100 two-door shell as a starting point. It features original Ford Motorsport wheel arch bubbles, genuine Minilite wheels, Bilstein suspension all round, a "works" close-ratio gearbox, a roll-cage, and of course, the famous 1,6-litre BDA engine. It runs to the same spec as the cars driven by the likes of Jan Hettema in the early 70s in South Africa. However, the engine is more in road tune, and not about to be revved to 11 000 as ol' Roelof did back in '78! Still, Laurie reckons it's good for 8 000 r/min even in its milder form.

Laurie seems to attract rare exotic stuff by way of some sort of cosmic magnitism. He bought the car without an engine, but since then has acquired three BDA engines, and the white car's current set of genuine magnesium Minilite wheels. One of his BDAs

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