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Ford once teased us with an RS1600i

by DrivingEnthusiast

Every once in a while, Ford teases us here in North American with visions of what could be – by showing us what is in Europe. At DrivingEnthusiast, over the last 30 years, we’ve said time and again that it is high time to stop this cruel teasing and finally bring over the real thing as a regular production model. Ford has finally listened, because in 2012, 30 years after the car shown below, the global Ford Focus ST is finally came here, which then enabled the fabulous 2016 Focus RS.  And the ST and RS are identical world-wide, except for minor options.

Many years ago, circa 1983, we encountered this European Ford in person – in the United States! An Escort RS1600i, brought to the United States for testing and press drives. While working the 24 Hours of Nelson Ledges endurance race one year, we woke up one morning and to our great surprise found this parked outside the tent. Unbelievable!

We immediately recognized the car and sought out it’s owner.

This car was brought to the track by Heinz Prechter of ASC. We had a chance to talk to him briefly.

It was road tested by AutoWeek, amongst others, and was very well received. AutoWeek briefly reported some discussion about bringing the car into the country, although in the end Ford decided instead to add some minor performance enhancements to the American Escort instead (which was built on a slightly bloated version of this identical chassis). The European suspension bits and wheels were later available to North Americans from Bat Inc. Since everything under the skin was identical to the North American Escort, everything fit and worked.

Note the mechanical fuel injection below.

The European Escort was a far more serious Escort than any American model. This car was the full equal or superior of the then-new (to the US) VW GTi, for example. Ford could have established legions of American FWD car enthusiasts with this car – and with follow-up evolutionary enhancements.

But, sadly that was not to be.  Years later, Ford federalized the Ford of Europe Focus ST170 as the “SVT Focus” and it was almost immediately obsoleted by 200 HP Hondas. As Ford’s fortunes then went down the drain, and as SVT began to crack from the SVT Mustang’s engineering pressures (and quality issues), the follow-on with more power was cancelled.

Bad move, Ford. But, thanks for finally getting it right with the 2012 Focus ST!

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