At roughly the same time as Ford of Japan and Australia’s development of the Laser TX3 in their joint partnership with Mazda, their counterparts on the other side of the world were hard at work tooling a turbo hot hatch of their own. Developed with assistance from Ford of America’s SVE (Special Vehicle Engineering) division, the Escort RS turbo promised to deliver a handsome challenge to the likes of hot hatch rivals VW, Lancia and Opel/Vauxhall on their home turf of continental Europe.
Drawing from the success of the Sierra Cosworth (YBx) and Mustang SVO (Pinto 2.3) turbocharged engines, the humble 1600 Compound Valve angle, Hemispherical combustion chamber engine was chosen as the base upon which to develop the RS turbo version, possibly showing a certain parallel with Mazda’s similarly sized 1600cc B6T. However the similarities all but stopped at engine capacity and the inclusion of hydraulic lash adjusters, as the 1600CVH still only featured an 8-valve SOHC head carried over from the “cooking” versions as opposed to the pent-roof DOHC 16-valve design of the B6T. The justification for the lack of twin cams and multi-valves was the so-called “compound angle” design which gave the engine its name.
Internally the boosted CVH benefited from the inclusion of lower-compression pistons provided by German manufacturer Mahle, but otherwise shared the same crank and rods as the N/A versions. Multi-point Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection was also utilized, and – perhaps oddly, given the engine’s size – Ford SVE opted for a large Garrett T3 turbo with air-to-air intercooler to take care of the forced induction. Given the size of the turbo one might be inclined to think of the 1600CVH as a laggy beast not unlike the Cossie YB engine of old… but no! On 7psi standard boost, max torque of 18.4kg-m was achieved by 2750rpm whilst net power peaked at 132ps around the 5750rpm mark, astounding responsiveness for a little 1.6 litre engine.
It is perhaps of note that the Escort RS turbo’s 132ps power figure was more or less ‘on-par’ with its contemporaries – Lancia’s Delta Turbo i.e. had 140ps, VW’s Golf GTi had 129ps, and Vauxhall’s Astra GTE also had 132ps, But perhaps as a result of its responsive turbo engine and inherent popularity as the first true British hot hatch (though ironically, it was assembled by ze Germans), people soon discovered with some judicious modding they could achieve crazy power outputs to the tune of 240ps and beyond… and all contained within a front-tugs chassis I might add.
And it’s also perhaps due to this popularity that some 23-odd years later you don’t see many Escort RS turbos around anymore, with most surviving examples now in the hands of serious enthusiasts and commanding ridiculous prices on the second hand market, but they have developed a pretty strong following amongst the denizens of the interwebs. In NZ alone the odd example pops up now and again, and usually to the tune of between $7000-$10,000 asking money. Ford eventually went on to produce the Escort Cosworth, of course, and the 1600CVH lived on for a few more years in the Fiesta RS turbo, albeit with EEC-IV management instead of KE-Jet.
As a serious Small Ford Fan myself I wouldn’t mind a RS turbo – but I guess I’ll have to make do with my TX3 instead, it’s almost the next closest thing!
Ford 1600CVH turbo (UK spec)
Bore x stroke (mm): 79.96 x 79.52