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Automotive Traveler Magazine: 2011 03 1986 Ford RS200 Evolution Page 4

Not Found on eBay: 1986 Ford RS200 Evolution

Have you ever thought you had the makings of a Group B rally driver? Now might be the time to indulge your inner racer at the RM Auctions event next weekend at Amelia Island. Sam Fiorani says this 1986 Ford RS200 is the "real deal," a vehicle sure to raise the heartbeat of any true enthusiast.

Racing has improved the breed when it comes to cars. Back when NASCAR actually raced "stock cars," certain characteristics had to be transferred from production to the racetrack, which required a number of homologated models to be built for public consumption. Other racing bodies have required this "production" quality in its racing cars, but usually at much lower quantities.

Sometimes these requirements make for spectacular and rare street cars. The best of these limited editions were built to satisfy the needs of the FIA's Group B division for modified sports cars.

This form of rally racing was created in 1982 and replaced Group 4 and Group 5 rally cars. While Group A required that racers be derived from production cars of volumes greater than 5,000 units annually, Group B cars were less restrictive. Only 200 had to be built for the public. Rules even allowed a subset of that production--no fewer than 20--to be "evolutions" of the basic production rules.

A number of manufacturers stepped up to compete in the new class. From Germany came the Audi Sport Quattro and the Porsche 959. From Italy, the Lancia 037, the Lancia Delta S4, and the Ferrari 288GTO. France raced the Peugeot 205 T16 and the Renault 5 Turbo. All of these models were derived from higher-volume models, sharing many body panels, in some cases, but adding all-wheel drive and/or relocating the engine.

Ford adopted a slightly different tack. When development of the rally version of the Escort Mk III was abandoned, the company adapted some of the technology for a new vehicle.

Several Formula 1 engineers were put in charge of the chassis. Tony Southgate and John Wheeler worked on the double-wishbone suspension at all four corners. Tightly geared rack-and-pinion steering needed fewer than two turns lock to lock. Four disc brakes measuring 11.8 inches sat behind each of the car's 16-inch magnesium alloy wheels and 245/60 Pirelli tires.

The Ford/Cosworth 1,803 c.c. four-cylinder engine was mounted behind the passenger compartment in a north-south fashion bolted to a five-speed manual gearbox. Power was then fed to all four wheels. Fuel injection came courtesy of Bosch's Motronic, and a Garrett T3 turbocharger provided up to 23 p.s.i. of boost. In production form, the engine generated 250 horsepower, while racing versions ripped the pavement with about 450 horsepower and 361 ft.-lbs. of torque.

All of this muscle sat under the Ghia-designed wrapper. Sharing a windshield, side glass, and most of the doors of the Ford Sierra (sold in the United States as the Merkur XR4Ti), the body was clad in plastic and fiberglass produced by fabled British small-car maker Reliant.

As rules allowed, Ford brought out an Evolution version. Twenty-four RS200s were later converted to Evolution specs with suspension improvements and a larger engine. Instead of the standard model's 1.8L BDT engine, the Evolutions received the 2,137 c.c. BDT-E version. This Brian Hart-developed engine allowed power to soar somewhere above 500 horsepower, with some estimates running over 800 horsepower in full racing trim.

The combination of the RS200's excellent handling abilities and the BDT-E's high output made the RS200 Evolution an excellent rally car. Unfortunately, the car's career in Group B peaked with a third-place finish in the WRC Rally at Sweden in 1986. Shortly after this race, a handful of RS200 accidents claimed the lives of several spectators and one co-driver. Events such as these eventually led to the elimination of Group B after the 1986 season.

A number of RS200s have found their way into other forms of racing. Even IMSA GTO and the Pike's Peak Hill Climb have seen their share of RS200s on their courses. And years after its raison d'être ceased to be, a Ford RS200, modified to Evolution specs, won the European Rallycross title in 1991.

Among the accolades awarded to the RS200 was an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. With its ability to get from a standing start to 60 miles per hour in less than three seconds, the car held the title of "fastest accelerating car in the world" for a dozen years.

On 12 March, RM Auctions will sell #87 of the series at the Amelia Island auction. The car being offered at no reserve is a low-mileage (5,557 kilometers showing on the clock), two-owner car that has never been raced.

Racing versions were utilitarian and bare, but street versions were kitted up a bit nicer. This particular model has a Tickford interior with grey carpeting, red Sparco seats, and a matching red leather XR3i steering wheel.

The RS200 was never officially imported into the United States, and SFACXXBJ2CGL00087 is one of the few to find its way across the Atlantic. Estimates range from $80,000 to $120,000, which isn't out of the realm of reality considering others have sold for tens of thousands more.

It looks like at least one bargain can be had at Amelia Island this year. The line starts here. Catalog available at the RM Auctions website.

Sam Fiorani's infamous dream garage would contain an RS200... making the Yugo Cabrio parked next to it seem out of place.