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Mk1 RS1600 - 1970 to 1974

Jan 31,2006 Julian

Like its predecessor, the RS1600 had an interesting start to life, although unlike the Twin-Cam, its route to market had been a well planned. However, the Belt Drive Series-A (BDA) power-plant for the RS1600 had not actually been intended for use with the Escort. The BDA engine was a throwback to a defunct Capri project, where it had been sidelined in favour of a V-6 engine that would suit the Capri much better. Its use in the RS1600 was mainly down to Stuart Turner who had been installed as Fords new Head of Competitions at the time. The arrival of the RS1600 was announced in the early part of 1970 and the Halewood assembled cars, which, bar the engine, were essentially the same spec as the Twin-Cam, were rolled out to customers in late Spring.

The RS1600 BDA power-plant. Note the colour scheme; most Ford colours were available for the RS1600 once the AVO plant was operational.

The RS1600 offered a significant increase in power over the Lotus-Ford powered Twin-Cam and competition use saw engines capable of increase to 1.8 litre. Shortly after the launch of the RS1600, its assembly was moved from Halewood to the now infamous ‘Advanced Vehicle Operations’ (A.V.O.) plant at Aveley. The new plant would cater for fast Fords being shipped out to the new ‘Rallye Sport’ Dealerships with the first RS1600 coming of the line in November 1970. 

From the outside, apart from the badging, there was no real difference between the early RS1600 and the late model Twin-Cam and it was still only available in white. However, the New AVO plant was soon able to offer a variety of options including ‘clubman’ and ‘custom’ packs, which saw the RS1600 sold in various colour schemes, and with the availability of some exciting ‘optional extras’. Mainly targeted at competition use, the RS1600 could now be fitted with big-wings, cibie lamps, roll cages, and even Minilite wheels. A prime example of intended use in this guise is Neil Calvert’s immaculate RS1600 rally car (below) used competitively in historic rallying, which is fitted with the wider front and rear wings and Minilite wheels. By the end of RS1600 production you could virtually order an RS1600 immediately ready to rally fitted with everything from uprated suspension to an Atlas axle!

RS1600 prepared for competition use, featuring flared arches and Minilite wheels

The standard cars were produced until 1974, by which time the Mk1 RS Mexico and RS 2000 had been launched (1973), the latter of which offered comparable power to the RS1600 but at a much cheaper price. The spec of the car remained pretty constant throughout its life, the only major changes being the introduction of the light alloy block in 1972 and the new floor-pan in late 1973 and bar a few minor aesthetic changes the only other difference on the late models was switch to Dellorto carbs.

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