Ford Escort RS 2000

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Ford Escort RS2000

Escort RS2000

Ford Escort RS 2000

1976 - 1980
United Kingdom
4 cyl.
115 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
165-180 km/h
Number Built:
3 star
Ford Escort RS 2000
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3


The RS 2000 was designed by Ford's Cologne styling department in Germany, home of the company's high performance European operation. This same factory had also produced such cars as the super successful Capri RS3100. But it took Ford Australia quite some time to decide that the time was right to introduce the RS 2000 to Australia, despite it not being a stranger to enthusiasts. Through its successes in motor racing, especially in events like the Hardie Ferodo 1000 and to an even greater extent in rallying, it was a car well known and highly respected.

Introduced in 1976, the Escort RS2000 Mk II, European manufactured cars were fitted with a 110bhp Pinto engine, allowing the sporting Escort to effortlessly reach over 110mph. Cosmetically, the biggest difference to the previous model was in the uniquely angled GRP nose panel which contained four headlamps. Alloy wheels on the Custom model gave the RS2000 an aggressive look and the model has now become quite collectable. Although most RS2000's were built in "Custom" trim, a basic RS2000 with steel wheels and no tinted glass was also available from 1978.

The Australian version was not the pure-bred German RS 2000. Instead Aussie buyers had to make do with a compromise car. Sure, the styling was the same, but because the RS 2000 was made in Australia Ford chose to use the standard 2.0 litre OHC Cortina engine. Although it was a nice suburban engine, quiet and moderately powerful, it was not anything like the more highly tuned European RS 2000 engine. Despite the disadvantage, the Australian RS 2000 still proved itself to be an exceptional little car for drivers who wanted extra excitement to brighten mundane driving.

The scoop nose of the RS 2000 was actually made of plastic. The beauty of this, because of its special design, was that in minor accidents the plastic would actually pop back into place after twenty-four hours or so, saving many lucky owners expensive panel-beating bills. The RS 2000, with its stiffer suspension, naturally handled much better than the more mundane Escorts. Of course you had to put up with a choppy ride, but the handling improvement was quite significant and well worth such the small inconvenience.

The four-speed gearbox had a sporty short throw and engaged gears positively, giving the driver utmost confidence. And as for the 2 litre Cortina engine, well at least it was very tractable, and few were fortunate enough to have driven the European version, so they didn’t really know what they were missing out on. The interior continued the sports theme of the car. To keep the driver and passenger firmly in their places during hard cornering, Ford fitted the ultra-comfortable Scheel driving seats along with other refinements such as a soft-feel steering wheel and an oversize tachometer.

However, apart from these sporty extras, the interior was quite barren, with only an AM radio to add life to the dash. The alloy wheels were extra as the normal car came with pressed steel type. The addition of the sporting look cost A$224, including the tyres. The laminated tinted band windshield was another $103, but was well worth the money. Despite the fact that the Australian-made RS 2000 was a long way from being a real RS in the European sense, it was still a much more exciting drive than the ordinary Escorts, and that is why it remained popular with enthusiastic drivers.

Behind the Wheel

The RS2000 was available as either a four-door, where the width of the front door openings was skimped in order to provide space for the rear doors, or as simply a two-door (with much bigger door openings). We're not saying that you needed to be a contortionist to get in and out of the 4 door Escort, but it was not as easy as with the two-door version. The seating position behind the wheel was excellent. With adjustment fore and aft, as well as backrest, the seat could be put into the correct position easily. At first the under thigh cushion appeared a little high, but it was not. In fact it was just right for the best support on long journeys. The steering wheel was a sporty thing with its soft feel rim and blacked out spokes. It was large enough, however, not to obscure the instruments on the main panel immediately ahead of the driver.

There were three small dials set in a triangular fashion in the centre, flanked by the tachometer to the left and the speedometer to the right. At the bottom there was a strip of warning lights for all the usual functions save "park brake on" and brake wear. These were covered by a separate small panel to the right of the steering column, looking as though they were an afterthought. Three stalks were fitted to the steering column. To the left there was the direction indicator with a horn button in its end. This stalk served as the light dimmer. To the right the nearest stalk, longer than the other, looked after the wipers and washers, although there was no dwell. A shorter stalk behind this actuated the lights. Heater/demister controls were mounted in the centre of the fascia, while underneath them were rocker switches for rear screen demisting, hazard warning lights and the rest. Panel lights were either on or off, there being no dimmer for them.

Mechanically the RS 2000 differed little from other two litre Escorts. It had the same single overhead cam four cylinder engine that was designed originally for the European Cortina. This made it a little too nose heavy, which explained why the car would understeer when being pushed. Front suspension by McPherson struts coped well with the extra weight, and few road testers from the time were able to criticise the front end in terms of response at all but very high speeds. The rack and pinion steering was also spot on. At the rear the leaf sprung live axle had a sway bar for roll stiffness, but perhaps it could have benefitted from slightly softer springs and a stiffer bar to help neutralise the handling a little.

In Europe the RS 2000 was fitted with longitudinal radius rods at the rear to assist in locating the back axle – and we suspect this was a superior setup. Disc brakes were fitted at the front with drums at the rear. Although the pedal pressure was fairly high, it didn't take long to become accustomed to it, after which there was plenty of feel. Owners would always claim the brakes were one of the highlights of RS2000 ownership, being sure and effective with never a sign of fade even after hard use over longish periods.

RS2000 Performance

Early morning cold starts would result in the engine being a tittle rattley, but this settled down and the unit warmed up quickly. Somehow though, it never seemed to be a smooth engine. In particular, when cruising around the 2500 rpm mark it would feel a little rough from time to time, and when the 4000 rpm point was reached under acceleration, there was plenty of induction roar from the twin choke Weber carbie. The engine needed to be up over 3500 rpm to become really responsive, but this was the penalty for pretty good fuel consumption resulting from the use of only one of the two chokes below that speed. Although the gearshift would tend to be a little on the stiff side until plenty of kilometres had been racked up, its change was very accurate, even when being used quickly.

This was thanks to a short throw selector mechanism fitted to the Escort, the shift lever itself needing very little movement through the gate in order to connect with the relevant ratio. It was a fantastic gearbox, the only criticism by some reviewers was with the actual ratios themselves, which tended to be on the low side and would have been able to achieve even better levels of fuel economy if the final drive was a little higher - particularly given the long travel time between cities in Australia. In addition, the first gear was very low indeed, with quite a wide gap to second. Even with the engine revving out well, there was a slight tendency for it to bog as soon as the change from first to second was made.

Ride at city speeds is well damped, but firm. It was never intended that the RS2000 would deliver a luxurious ride – rather Ford engineers were intent to make the car able to cope with high speed work. Rear seat passengers tended to feel jolted around a little with the leaf springs controlling the live back axle. The rack and pinion steering never felt heavy on any of the Escort range, even at low parking speeds. It got a lot lighter as speeds rose, and at all times felt quite responsive. Interior space was strictly for four adults unless there was a fifth of small stature. Boot space was sufficient but not generous. Well designed though the front seats were, they did tend to detract from rear seat leg room, especially when at the furthest rear extension on their runners. The rear seats themselves were well padded and were wide enough for your Grandma's bum.

On The Road

Obviously the RS 2000 was intended to appeal to younger, more sporty drivers, and up to a point it answered their needs well. It could be argued that a little too much high speed understeer was built in. Granted it was safe, but it was also frustrating, especially on dry roads when the car was being pressed to its limit. Even a determined lift off the accelerator resulted in little transition to oversteer, so, if the RS2000 really was to be pedalled quickly, it had to be thrown into a turn very hard. The technique of hitting the brakes hard while turning the wheel seemed to have little effect on this understeer either, so the result was disappointing for many. The two litre engine had plenty of torque which made punting the car a cinch, able to handle even slow corners in a high gear without any trouble.

When the engine was used hard the induction roar would remind the driver that it was there. From time to time it even sounded like one of the old twin cam Lotus Cortina engines if the throttle was opened fully under a heavy right foot. To most this was music to the ears. On gravel a fair bit of care has to be taken if the understeer was not to result in the car going straight off the road frontwards. And if it was flicked into a turn the tyres at the rear seemed to let go momentarily, especially if a touch too much throttle was used. It took practice, but once you mastered it the RS2000 was a lot of fun and demonstrated why it was so successful in rally events. On rougher roads the firm suspension kept the whole car bouncing around quite a lot. The low first gear would result in considerable wheelspin. Select second a little too quickly and the engine would bog, rev out in first and the torque curve would be left well behind, wasting a great deal of time.
Ford Escort RS2000

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Ford Escort RS Specials
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Posted Recently
The RS has to be driven to feel the real experience of the 70's / 80's cars they are a drivers car no, power windows, no power steering, no air con. (unless you optioned it) they are a COOL car, I have owned mine since 1983 (second owner) you just cant beat the sound of a pair of side draught webers....
Posted Recently
Hate to rain on your party guys,but I am the proud owner of the first MK 1 RS 2000 ever to arrive in Aus. Correct me if I'm wrong but I landed it here in March 75. New in the UK I drove it there for 2000 mls then shipped it to Perth in Oct 74. 3 years overall winner of WA car club events. Trad diamond white/blue stripe. Fashion pack. 4 Cibie's, factory fitted. Driven across Aus 1.5 times including Darwin. Now resides in Qld. Almost completed 2nd paint job & bare metal overhaul. Most fun car I have ever driven/owned. No amount of money could make me part with it after 40 years. Top that !!
ACT RS Owner
Posted Recently
The article seems to suggst the RS was introduced into Australia in 1976. It was not - May 79 it was. I have a May 79 Lemon/Lime original 4 door. Love it. Would I sell it? Maybe - for the right price! But it would take some convincing. I drive it once a week, and whenever Iamd wherever I park, there is always someone coming up wanting a look, get behind the wheel again, and talk about THE escort they used to own, and the RS they dreamed of!
Posted Recently
I have an rs2000 4door 170ish hp and love it. Drinks the fuel, its stiff and makes all the right noises that gives it the character that new cars just dont have.
Posted Recently
Have owned a 4 door Aussie RS2000 in Midnight since Jan 90 and will never sell.
The MK2 RS2000 is one of the very few cars that is substantially more than the sum of its parts - in short, these cars have soul. Other owners, both current and former, will understand what I mean.
In many ways I do not see the Aussie RS2000 as a 'comprimise' car as stated above, but a car more intune with Australian conditions. The only real mechanical differences were the sump, bell housing and exhaust manifold - the latter being the only material difference performance wise between the production UK and AUS models. A simple exhaust manifold change soon bought the AUS model inline with the UK spec.
If you enjoy an involved driving expereince and get the chance, drive a nice clean example - before you know it you'll be making room in your garage for one....
Posted Recently
I've driven a RS2000 on the dirt they are awesome love to own one without destroying my marriage can anyone help me.By the way it was *** ing awesome on the dirt.
Posted Recently
rs2000 automatic 1979 model built for henry ford junior ,is parked in my garage at tweed heads,in original condition,30,000 on clock.
Posted Recently
Owned the famous Aussie RS2000 for 18 years still have it won't part with it still in original trim. Street driven daily, briliant car for its day now converted to S15 355hp 12.2 Quarter great fun
Posted Recently
I had a nice red 2 door back in 1994,It had a bit of work done on it by it`s previous owner.Now all the kids are gone i,d love to get another one.
Posted Recently
I just want to clear something up. The European RS200 also had the 2.0Litre "Pinto" or SOHC engine fitted.
Taken straight from the Cortina it's only modification was external to the engine, the exhaust manifold and the jetting of the twin downdraught carb. As such it's quoted power was 110BHP.
The Cortina 2.0 GT was quoted as having 99BHP and unlike the Cortina1.6GT it didn't have a performance exhaust, possibly to keep the power below 100BHP for insurance purposes.
I've also seen Australian version of the RS2000 with 4 doors. Only 3 4-door RS200s were built for the Uk and were used by the Police, Mersyside had 2. Also 1 RS2000 automatic was built for Henry Ford Junior, I think the company still has it.
European RS200 also got Recaro seats, one of the first production cars to do so if not the first. Later models had the highly desireable Recaro "fishnet" headrests.
I don't know if the RS2000 has been confused by the RS1800, a flat-fronted MkII Escort built purely to sustain Ford's success in rallying. The RS1800 was powered by an 1843cc version of the BDA, by then it was know as the BDG I think due to numerous revsions including an alloy block that could be taken out to over 2000cc or 2.0 litre, which the works cars were. The RS1800 was a homolgated "evolution" of the RS1600 and only 200 were built, many were built using 1300sport bodyshells and converted by Hart racing who built the engines or at Ford's pilot-built facility in Essex. I think about 107 were registered in the UK and many were converted to the full fat "Ford Escort RS" spec, the group 4 rally car that achieved such success.
RS1800s are very very rare nowadays and command a similar price to an early Lotus Cortina, if you can find one for sale.
Incidentaly the Pinto engine derives it's nickname form the US car that had it in 2.3 litre form. Built as a stable mate to the Mustang, the Pinto is infamous. A 2.3 turbo version also found it's way into larger US models including the later Mustang. None of the parts are interchangeable with a European SOHC however.
Posted Recently
I am the proud owner of a 1980 RS2000 in Diamond White. I love the car and get many comments from interested people when I am out in it. Quite frankly it is a pleasure to drive and a lot of fun. I just love looking at it in my shed!
Posted Recently
I have owned a 1980 Aussie spec RS2000 from new and still have it. It is a fun car to drive and it handles pretty well compared to modern cars. The biggest thing you notice compared to modern vehicles are the brakes which don't have the power and feel but they do the job. It was quick in its day too but technology has caught up and it would be beaten by all equivalent cars of today but it always has had good top gear roll on performance. An article in a newspaper said at the time... the RS2000 has definately got the "F" factor, "F" for fun.
Posted Recently
I was lucky enough to own one of these back in the mid 80's having worked at a dealer. Since then i've changed brands and moved to the US the modern day vehicles may have more bhp. However they really stink when compared to their predecesors. Really wish i could get my hand on a clean Cosworth and show the local rednecks how a real car drives.
haleem amin
Posted Recently
rs block,powermaxpistons11.0.1CR,full race cams,head ported to max,larger valves,4-2-1 extractor,45mm weber sidedrafts,type9 gearbox& datsun720 diff [email protected] quarter mile.
Posted Recently
got too admitt before i bought my rs i realy loved the stock ecsort so if you like a small car to handle like it is on rail get one!
Posted Recently
Hey all!
I am fortunate enough to own one of these awesome cars. It was a thrill to be in it, as it has a surprisingly powerfull engine, despite its small looks. It needs alot of work on it, as it hasn't been treated that well by its previous owners, but its still a good car. The only downfall of it is that its so rare to see one nowadays, that it is virtually impossible to find parts for it. One of the best cars from that era, and i'm glad to be the proud owner of one. :-D
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