The RS is part of our family. Being born 9 months after the RS was delivered new to my father, I have never known life without this car in it. After a brief, but hard, rallying career which ended in the mid-80’s after 15,000 miles, the car was stored for a number of years until it was gifted to me for my 18th birthday, following which I began a slow and very amateurish restoration. This culminated in a rolling shell with rebuilt engine and running gear, with the shell having been blasted and repainted by a local bodyshop with repairs to the front footwells and a new door skin.
Progress halted in 2000 when I ran out of time to complete the rebuild and had no money to pay someone to professionally restore it. It sat in dry storage for the next 19 years. I had contemplated completing the project for the last few years, but I hadn’t found someone with the right combination of specialist RS knowledge, fastidious attention to detail on originality, quality of finish and passion for the project.
That was until I discovered Retropower after viewing their early YouTube videos on building Gordon Murray’s Mk1 Escort. Although that type of bespoke build with innovative engineering solutions was not what I was after, I was blown away by the level of care bestowed on the car, not least the quality of the corrosion prevention measures and countless hours of body shell preparation before the final coats of paint were applied, that so often get neglected in a typical restoration.
What I was looking for, was a better-than-new rebuild, in precisely the specification as my father drove it away from the Ford Rallye Sport dealer in January 1978, but with a few period-correct updates.
Retropower’s restoration of a ‘family heirloom’ 1970’s S-Class Mercedes into as-new condition, really cemented my decision to entrust them with my RS after seeing the lengths they went to sourcing original parts, such as the ultra-rare interior fabric to retrim the seats.
From my initial conversations, photo-sharing and follow up meeting with Cal, Nat and the team, I could immediately see they wanted to be part of this car’s story given its history, and I knew they were the right guys to bring the RS back to life.
When I explained that I had already begun the restoration, they politely explained the Retropower approach to their builds – “we will take it back to bare metal and start again as we don’t trust other people’s work. This way we can be sure of the quality of the workmanship and that it will have the best corrosion prevention possible.” The car was delivered to them in mid-February 2019 and work started immediately.
Although the car is based in the UK, I reside in Dublin, so it wasn’t possible for me to pop in to check in on progress. This was particularly important given how accurate I wanted the restoration to be, and the amount of money I was investing in the project – I really wanted to see what my hard-earned was being spent on.
One of the joys of a Retropower restoration is the quantity of highly detailed photos that are shared with you, almost on a real-time, ‘live’ basis throughout the build so you can see what has been accomplished on a daily basis. You can also opt to have these posted to a dedicated Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter so they can be shared with friends and family, and other interested members of the public.
In addition to the photos, there were regular WhatsApp conversations with Cal and Nat on the details of the project, such as sharing gear ratio data, sourcing ‘new, old stock’ parts on eBay, or ensuring the satin black paint around the windows, door sills and rear panel was millimetre-accurate to the factory spec – something which is done incorrectly on almost all Mk2 Escort restorations. The conversations were open and frank – Cal and Nat knew my requirements, and were great at guiding me in a particular direction, or challenging me when they thought I was making the wrong choice.
Work only slowed slightly when waiting on hard-to-source parts – the pace of restoration was breathtaking at times, but at no time did I feel that it was being rushed or quality was being compromised.
The RS was ready for its handover in late October 2019, just 8 months after work commenced. Even though the RS had a brief stay at Retropower, I could tell it was going to be missed during the handover ceremony in the late autumn sunshine when everyone who worked on the project was there to send her on her way and I could head out on my first ever drive in the RS that I had known all my life.
So, would I recommend Retropower to someone else? That depends on what you are looking for and on what project you have. I would highly recommend speaking to them if you are considering a project like mine, or a resto-mod project like others they have done or are in the process of building. Ultimately, it comes down to a connection between you and them, and whether you both want to proceed with a project.
In my opinion, even after spending Ferrari-money on a 1970’s Escort, there is absolutely no question of value for money or quality of finish. This level of perfection isn’t cheap, but you get more than you pay for and it will last a lifetime and more.
But surely the best endorsement is that I am contemplating another Retropower project in the future. Now, how do I convince the wife….