Selling your classic car? It's FREE to list your car on Honest John Classics | No thanks

Hidden Heroes: Ford Escort RS2000 16v

Published 07 June 2019

Reinventing a legendary name and attaching it to an otherwise mediocre car was never a new idea, but when Ford realised its humdrum Mk5 Escort needed a bit more sizzle in its sausage, it pulled out all the stops.

Cue the 1991 RS2000. Who could forget the original launch ad? It came complete with the Rocky theme tune and the words: 'I’m gonna make you great again; the people want you back.'

Here was Ford trading on its heritage to try and convince an unconvinced public that the Mk 5 was a car that was worthy of the Escort nameplate. In most respects, it probably wasn’t, but the RS2000 was a little bit different. 

Not only did it introduce a new 150bhp 16v 2.0-litre engine to the model range, but it also brought with it several chassis improvements. It was much sharper, more agile and genuinely quite entertaining to drive - 0-60mph took just 7.9 seconds, which made it a seriously quick hot hatch for its day.

Ford Escort RS2000 (2) (1)

It felt quite special from the cabin, too, with chunky Recaro sports seats and white dials hinting at the fact this was much more than just a normal Escort. 

Yet from the outside, the RS2000 wasn’t as brash or in-yer-face as fast Fords of old. At the time of its launch, Britain was in the middle of a car crime epidemic, and hot Escorts and Astras were the nation’s most commonly stolen cars thanks to a combination of decent handling and performance coupled to rudimentary security. 

The RS2000 hid its light under a bushel. Its bodykit was discreet - apart from the positioning of the front number plate, if you saw one coming towards you, you’d barely tell it apart from a standard Mk5. Flat-faced brushed alloys and a subtle but special RS2000 badge finished it off.

Ford Escort RS2000 (3)

Things got a bit more racy with the Mk5 facelift in 1993, which not only saw the RS2000 get a slightly bigger bodykit, but also saw the introduction of a 4x4 model - essentially a testbed for the Escort Cosworth, using a truncated version of the Sapphire Cosworth drivetrain. The handling was sweet, but the extra weight meant it lost a fair chunk of acceleration to the front-driven car.

By the time the Mk5 Escort morphed into the Mk6 in 1995, the country’s car crime epidemic was easing and security had improved. The RS2000 grew fat alloys, a boot spoiler and a more heavily revised front bumper to make less of a secret of its sporting pretensions.

Ford Escort RS2000 (5)

Today, there are few survivors (thanks in part to this generation of Escorts capacity to rust). Less than 400, in fact, which is below half the number of Mk2 RS2000s from the 1970s. It’s the forgotten fast Ford. A car that was a thousand times better than the models alongside it in the brochure, but never realised its true potential. Finding one won’t be easy, but it’s worth the effort.


Add a comment


Compare classic car insurance quotes and buy online. A friendly service offering access to a range of policies and benefits.

Get a quote