This stealthy, tuned S1 Escort RS Turbo contains hidden swells of flame-spitting power, with regular trips from Scotland down to Essex making it ever-angrier each time…
Feature from Fast Ford. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan
The internet is awash with nonsense, that goes without saying. Perhaps the most nonsensical thing of all is when you see people replying to for-sale listings, ads or threads with the phrase ‘if only you were closer’. The idea that the perfect car might rule itself out of the running simply because it’s a few hours’ drive away is daft; it’s not beyond the wit of humankind to travel somewhere and then travel home again, particularly given that the car itself is a means of locomotion.
Neatly illustrating this point is Robert Hamilton. He wanted a tidy and honest S1 Escort RS Turbo and, when he found this example for sale on eBay in the early 2010s, he knew it was the one. The fact that it was an 800-mile round-trip away was something to be relished rather than baulked at. After all, driving hundreds of miles in your newly-acquired ride is a really good way to get to know it, isn’t it.
“The Series One is, in my opinion, the best-looking Ford,” says Robert. And with the evidence presenting itself before Ade’s lens today, it really is hard to argue.
Robert’s a man with a fair few fast Fords notched up in the back catalogue, having previously enjoyed a brace of Escort RS Cosworths (one big-turbo, one small), a Series Two RS Turbo and, most recently, a Mk1 Focus RS, plus a couple of other S1 RSTs.
He knows what he likes, that’s for sure. They’ve all been modified to some degree, and while the stock-looking vibe of this S1 may fool the casual bystander into thinking they’re looking at some manner of concours attempt, these still waters run deep.
It’s telling that Robert’s also built and comprehensively thrashed a couple of dedicated track cars, in the form of a Nissan Sunny GTi-R and a Vauxhall Astra GTE 16v. So with this richly textured context informing the back story, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Escort’s OEM skin hides a pumped-up heart of pure malice.
“The car had already been converted to EFI by Jano at Oddkidd Creations, which was a large part of the appeal. It was in excellent condition overall, and well worth the trip from Scotland down to Essex,” he recalls.
Suffice to say, Robert had plans from the off, and today we can mark the progress during his ownership with two clear evolutions. The first occurred around seven years ago, when the RS was stripped right down to a bare shell to have every single iota of corrosion ruthlessly eradicated, with the freshly reinvigorated body then built back up with an as-new and showroom-fresh vibe. Better than new, in fact, because Ford never gave us an engine bay this tidy.
The car has been a regular and trusted companion, getting used as frequently as possible, with Robert being a keen and committed member of the Scottish Old Skool car club. This is a group of like-minded enthusiasts who love using their cars as they were meant to be used; no cotton wool or trailer queens, this is all about hunting the redline on winding back-roads. And with this sort of eager usage, it was only a matter of time before our man would start seeking out a little more grunt from his boosted CVH.
It’s at this point that we arrive at the second key phase of the Escort’s evolution. Much as Robert was entirely unfazed by the 800-mile round-trip to collect the car, and very much of the mind that Jano at Oddkidd was the man to trust with further power mods (“I won’t take it anywhere else,” he assures us), he’s made the trip back down there more than a few times to amp up the power in the RS Turbo.
The spec today is highly impressive, with the addition of a hybrid Garrett T34 turbo with quick-spooling 0.48 A/R exhaust housing (from the smaller T3 unit) working with forged Accralite pistons, Piper cam, uprated fuelling, a whacking great Airtec front-mount and Mongoose system helping to literally boost the numbers.
In addition, the CVH is running Cosworth P8 management, water/meth injection and – Robert’s favourite part – anti-lag. Jano’s created a real monster here, and the upshot is 250bhp at 21psi, all thoroughly exploitable and, thanks to the ALS, spitting flames like an absolute mentalist. Forget your popcorn and fashionable crackle maps, this is rally-stage thunder of the most organic type; old-school muscle with an anti-social attitude.
With great power comes great responsibility, and with the best will in the world it’s probably not a brilliant idea to nigh-on double a car’s power output and not do anything to improve the chassis. With this in mind, Robert’s thoroughly upgraded the suspension and braking systems.
“I removed the tired old Koni suspension, bushes, brake and fuel lines, as well as all wishbones, and replaced and repainted everything,” he says.
“When building it back up, I fitted bigger Cosworth brakes, upgraded the clutch, and custom-made new gearbox mounts to fit the S2 ’box. The biggest hurdle has been getting parts, as we all know that the RS tax is a killer, but it was all well worth it.”
What Robert’s created here, thanks to endless levels of elbow grease, along with the expertise of an engine-building superhero, is a proper fast-road weapon wrapped up in the form of an appreciating classic.
That’s probably the most impressive thing about this car: that it looks so close to factory S1 specs from the outside, and yet it’s harbouring such malevolent potential within.
And not only is this tuned S1 Escort RS Turbo a hard-driven back-road hooligan, it’s proven time and time again that it’s got the legs to act just like it did back in the Eighties.
Eight-hundred miles at 21psi? Easy-peasy. There’s no such thing as ‘too far away’.
Tech Spec: Tuned S1 Escort RS Turbo
1596cc CVH, Garrett T34 turbo with 0.48 A/R exhaust housing, Accralite forged pistons, Piper 285 T2 cam, EFI conversion, Cosworth P8 management, Cosworth light blue injectors, anti-lag, water/methanol injection, Mongoose stainless exhaust system, Bailey header tank, Bailey catch tank, Samco hoses, Airtec radiator, Airtec front-mounted intercooler
250bhp @ 21psi
S2 RS Turbo gearbox with Quaife internals and cryogenic treated gears, paddle clutch, Puma gear linkage
Avo adjustable shocks, H&R springs, fully poly-bushed, rose-jointed adjustable wishbones, front strut brace
Cosworth four-pot front callipers, custom grooved and drilled discs
Wheels & Tyres:
7x16in diamond-cut RS seven-spokes, ET35 offset, 195/45×16 Toyos
Factory RS Turbo, bare-shell rebuild
Original RS Turbo interior, 3D-printed pod with Stack boost and oil pressure gauges, Alpine speakers, two subwoofers in custom box