This build turned into one of the fastest and most rewarding we’ve yet tackled, and much of this can be laid at the door of the family who’ve owned the RS Escort in question from new, the Hazeldines.
Stephen Hazeldine bought it brand new from Tates of Leeds back in 1977, little knowing that he was in effect beginning a 42 (and counting) family relationship with the car. Specified as a Group 1 spec car and therefore with supplied with a whole host of goodies sourced from the RS catalogue, including a half-cage, uprated fuel system and a pair of downdraught carbs in a special, RS stickered airbox.
Stephen then proceeded to use it as he’d intended – properly. The RS2000 was a regular fixture of road rallies throughout the North of England for much of the late seventies and into the eighties, and was even loaned to a pair of would-be Roger Clarks in the middle of the decade.
Come the beginning of the nineties though, and the Escort had fallen on hard times. It might have covered a mere 15,000 miles since new but they were almost all competition miles, driven in anger, and as such the Escort – now owned by Stephen’s son, Nick, looked a little second hand.
Things took a turn for the better when, having chanced upon the Retropower Gordon Murray YouTube series, Nick opted to entrust us with its restoration. Said resto came with a fairly sizable caveat though, namely that the finished car be as close to the Group 1 prepared car Nick’s father took delivery of all those years ago, just with a few modern additions regarding the fuel and entertainment systems.
The eventual restoration took in all the customary Retropower stages starting with a strip back to bare metal, the only way of truly assessing the condition of Dagenham’s famously patchy metalwork. The good news was that it was largely fine, with much of the work required centred upon areas where the car had been modified for competition work or, unsurprisingly enough, associated damage. The front valance bore evidence of a number of optimistic ‘cuts,’ the areas where the roll-cage had been mounted were rotten and the floor pans required replacing.
We also found evidence of the RS2000’s wildly differing values over its life, with the rally car having been shorn of its signature nosecone in the mid-eighties, before having another (inexpertly) re-applied a decade later. The most time-consuming single aspect of the metalwork was therefore centred on rectifying the front end, specifically re-hanging the front wings, sourcing and fitting a new front panel, ridding the valance of the multiple battle scars it sported, before finally re-fitting the brand new RS2000 nosecone.
With the coat of Signal Yellow applied once more it was time to bolt the running gear into position, with the key components being a Dave Brookes built Pinto (subsequently dyno’d at just over 150bhp),a ‘Rocket’ type gearbox with BG internals. A type 9 5-speed ‘box was briefly considered, but quickly rejected as it wasn’t an original Group One option.
A few more hours, and the whole assembly was safely ensconced within the Escort’s engine bay, leaving us with basic finishing jobs to do before the Escort’s MOT – its first for nearly 40 years!