For 037 read RS1700T. In the early 1980s, Ford found itself in precisely the same situation as Lancia: that of a manufacturer manufacturing a rally car with a distinct lack of drive to the front wheels. Where Lancia pressed ahead with its rear-drive 037, Boreham binned the RS1700T.
Stuart Turner led the charge back to John Wheeler’s drawing board.
This was a difficult time for the Blue Oval, which had been an absolute powerhouse of world rallying with the Escort a decade earlier. It was going to take something special to carry Ford to the top of Group B.
And something very special was planned. The RS200.
Of all the Group B cars, on paper at least, Ford’s interpretation had the most going for it: fabulous shape, longitudinal mid-mounted engine with plenty of power all connected to the road via double-wishbone and double-damper suspension.
The downsides were a slightly flabby showing on the scales, where it was found to be 100 kilos heavier than some of its rivals and a distinct lack of workable aero.
The car’s tendency for front-end push in corners was controllable by the slightly unconventional use of the transmission’s oddly named splined-muff coupling, which allowed for power to be cut to the front wheels. On approach and entry to a corner, the driver could flick all 450bhp to the rear, get the car set up on the throttle then deploy total traction at the exit. It wasn’t the ideal solution, but it could work.
Such issues would undoubtedly have been addressed with an evolution – and that MkII version would have been needed in the 1986 season. On its Swedish Rally debut, the RS200 was immediately outpaced by the existing cars around it.
The RS200 never stood a chance. An initial target of producing 15 cars per week from August would have just about got it across the line to show FISA 200 examples for a November 1 homologation date. The intention was for an RAC Rally 1985 debut. That came, went and became February 1, 1986.