It was the Escort that really put Ford on the rallying map, proving capable of winning World Championship events from 1968, when the Twin Cam model was the works’ frontline rally car, right through to 1981 when Ari Vatanen became World Rally Champion driving an Escort RS. In 1970 the Ford Twin Cam engine was replaced by a Cosworth BDA 16-valve unit to create the definitive Escort rally car, the RS1600, though the engine was, in fact, homologated at 1,601cc to enable future enlargement up to the 2-litre class capacity limit. Enlarged at first to 1.8 litres, with outputs varying between 205 and 220bhp depending on the type of event, the engine was first homologated as a 2.0-litre unit in 1972 and in works trim produced 235-240bhp. In this ultimate form the Escort RS1600 proved good enough to win the RAC Rally three times on the trot between 1972 and 1974 as well as a host of other World Championship events.
‘PVX 400K’ is the last of 21 RS1600 works cars registered during 1971 and one of only eight that are believed to still exist. It is one of three built for an assault on the 1971 RAC Rally and was allocated to Roger Clark. The other two cars, registered ‘PVX 398K’ and ‘PVX 399K’, were driven by Timo Makinen and Hannu Mikkola respectively. The team was sponsored by Wills Tobacco and carried the livery of its Embassy brand. In the event, Clark and his co-driver Jim Porter could manage only 11th place, handicapped by a faulty gearbox and a defective fuel gauge that caused them to run out of fuel, but nevertheless had demonstrated its true potential by setting the fastest time on two of the stages.
At Boreham over the succeeding winter, ‘PVX 400K’ was upgraded with a ZF five-speed gearbox, with appropriately modified bodyshell, and assigned to Timo Makinen as a ‘recce car’ ahead of the forthcoming Monte Carlo Rally. ‘PVX 400K’ was back in competitive action in June for the Scottish Rally driven by Andrew Cowan and Johnstone Syer as part of three-car team. Repainted in the blue/white livery of The Scotsman newspaper, ‘PVX 400K’ finished in a creditable 6th place overall. The Escort did not fare so well on its next outing at the Olympia Rally where, driven by Dieter Glemser and Klaus Kaiser, it was rolled and forced to retire.
On the 1972 RAC Rally, ‘PVX 400K’ was crewed by Timo Makinen and Henry Liddon, and for this event was fitted with a Brian Hart 2.0-litre alloy-block engine rather than its customary 1,800cc Cosworth BDA unit. Back in Embassy livery, the Escort fared no better than on its first RAC outing, retiring with wheel stud failure. ‘PVX 400K’ made its next and last works outing in 1973 as Hannu Mikkola’s ‘recce car’ on that year’s East African Safari Rally.
Back in the UK, ‘PVX 400K’ was sold into private ownership, changing hands a few times before undergoing a sympathetic restoration in the mid-1990s. This included an engine rebuild by Terry Hoyle around a new 1,800cc BDA cylinder block, and bodywork refurbishment at around the same time by Getrac, who in 1999 fitted a new Atlas-type rear axle assembly complete with disc brakes. Further works included a gearbox overhaul by BJW Transmissions, and a change of cam belt by Anderson Racing Engines, both in early 2000. ‘PVX 400K’ competed in various historic events that same year but since then has seen relatively little use.
In 2005, Roy Hatfield purchased the Escort from a UK auction, selling it to the previous owner in 2007. Since then the car has been used sparingly, the last event contested being the 2017 Eifel Rally Festival when it was demonstrated by Hannu Mikkola.
During the previous ownership ‘PVX 400K’ has been to David Sutton (circa 2010) having a new roll cage fitted; the glass replaced by modern triplex; and various other works (see invoices on file). More recently, the vendor’s personal mechanic has given the engine a top-end rebuild, which included the fitting of a new cam belt, since when only track days and the above demonstration have been undertaken. The car comes with a history file containing FIA HTP papers (dated 2000); an RAC Competition Logbook; a V5C Registration Certificate; and a quantity of invoices for work done on over the years for various owners. There are also numerous press cuttings; copies of the 1971 RAC Rally and 1972 RSAC Rally programmes; an Andrew Cowan-signed photograph; and a copy of Classic Ford magazine featuring ‘PVX 400K’ on the front cover.