Back in the day when Group B rallying was a thing, car manufacturers scrambled to create the lightest and fastest rally car. Unlike Group A vehicles, which are production models tuned to rally, Group B cars were pure-bred rally cars. They are built from scratch using a combination of a lightweight frame, sleek aerodynamics, and unlimited horsepower.
Among the tons of vehicles made to compete in this “golden era” of rally racing was Ford’s RS200—the craziest of all Ford models.
The Ford RS200 had its peak years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, but that does not mean its time stopped there. Three decades have passed and it still has a cult following, from ordinary rally fans to big names in professional rally car racing community. It developed such a following that some people have built their own replicas (kit cars) in their own garages.
Let’s figure out what drives these people to go crazy about the RS200 by looking back at its glory days.
How did Ford develop the RS200?
In 1982, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) introduced a new category in the rally world named Group B. This event in history marked the beginning of the “Wild West” period for car manufacturers and rally drivers. Group B would turn out to be the home of the fastest and most dangerous rally cars manufacturers ever dared to build. Unlike in Group A, there were fewer restrictions on design and technology, fewer production cars for a model to be homologated to race, and no regulations on power.
Lenient regulations on design, power, and production model requirement were all perfect ingredients for beastly machines, and manufacturers were able to tap the unexplored depths of rally car development.
Ford was one of the competing manufacturers at the time. It originally planned to base its Group B car from the Escort RS 1700T. However, a series of problems during the development phase pushed Ford to scrap the plan.
Ford of Great Britain didn’t want to throw in the towel, so it came up with a solid plan for making a purpose-built, rally-dedicated car. The company swapped the original rear-wheel drivetrain that it planned to use on the Escort RS 1700T to an all-wheel drivetrain to compete with rivals Audi and Peugeot. Ford named the new model RS200, which featured a plastic-fiberglass composite body by Ghia, a mid-engine layout, and a four-wheel-drive system.
The RS200 also featured a complex drivetrain setup due to the transmission being located at the front end. This setup was done to achieve optimal weight distribution.
The cars were built by Reliant on behalf of Ford.
What engine does a Ford RS200 have?
Out of the 200 production models of the Ford RS200, 24 were converted to Evolution models. The standard RS200 came in with a 1.8-liter in-line 4-cylinder engine with varying power outputs for the road-going and racing trim. The road-going model had 250 horsepower while the racing trim had between 350 and 450 hp. However, the issue with the standard model is that the engine showed a low-RPM lag. The car also had a poor power-to-weight ratio, which made it inferior to rival Group B cars.
The solution was to improve the 1,788-cc BDT engine. The buffed engine named BDT-E was a 2.1-liter engine with a power output of 550 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, though there was recorded data where the engine generated up to 815 hp.
These numbers solidified Ford’s determination to compete in Group B. But before the company could even open a bottle of champagne and celebrate its success, the FIA abolished Group B after a series of fatal crashes in 1986.
Although Ford failed to finish the RS200 Evolution on time before the Group B was abolished, the car still managed to compete in the FIA European Championships for Rallycross Drivers.
But the achievements didn’t stop there—the Ford RS200 was the fastest-accelerating car in the world for 12 years.
Just when you think the car couldn’t get any cooler, right?
This fame among car enthusiasts and pro rally drivers stimulated the interest of the public. With the rising curiosity and lack of available units, people resorted to building kit cars.
What is a kit car?
For those of you who don’t know, there are places out there where you can buy kits to build your own car instead of just buying from a dealership. Cars that are built from these kits are known as “kit cars.”
Since there is a limited supply, the demand for the Ford RS200 continues to overwhelm the market. People, even kids, nowadays are looking for ways to drive this wild Ford rally car into their garage and, thankfully, there are kit manufacturers who sell kits that can be built in any garage.
What makes the RS200 one of the most sought-after Ford models?
Building a Ford RS200 kit car replica is actually the easiest way to get your hands on the car because it was never officially sold in the US. The handful of RS200 units lurking around the country are imported from the UK, where the RS200 was actually developed and sold.
Baffled? Here are some of the clear reasons why the Ford RS200 is one of the most sought-after homologated legends of our time.
There’s nothing like it. The Ford RS200 only has 200 units in the world; 24 of them are Evolution models. It is known that only 10 of these are in the United States and one is owned by professional rally driver Ken Block.
Homologated specials are rare because only a few hundreds of them were manufactured for a carmaker to compete. The case for the RS200 is similar to other Group B rally cars, but it doesn’t mean they are all on the same level.
It has a distinct exterior design
The Ford RS200 features an exterior styling that’s unique to Ford’s lineup before and around that time. Italian design house Carrozzeria Ghia was responsible for penning the RS200, and no one could do it better than them. The round headlamps protruding from the hood, the large fog lamps, the wide roof scoop, and the stylish angled rear spoiler are the main components that pull the RS200 away from the norm.
Insane power ratings
Group B cars are notorious for having deadly power outputs from extensively developed engines. Combine this with the lightweight chassis and you get a rocket meant to drive on land.
To make it more clear, the Ford RS200 Evolution was a superior Group B contender. Sources claim that the most powerful Evolution model, considering that it’s perfectly tuned, can effortlessly reach from zero to 60 mph in just a little over two seconds.
Mind you, this was 30 years prior to the Tesla Roadster’s 1.9-second 0-60 mph record.
It boasts a mid-engine layout
Most car enthusiasts claim that mid-engined sports cars offer the best handling compared to front- and rear-engined layouts. The reason behind this is that engines between the front and rear axles give all four wheels equal traction.
Mid-engined cars are well-known to have superb handling, especially on corners, due to their low center of gravity. This characteristic, when combined with the RS200’s power, uniqueness, and rarity, is what drives people nuts about Ford’s legendary Group B rally car.