The era of what is known as Group B remains today the most spectacular age of rallying. Between 1982 and 1986 the world of motorsport was fascinated by four-wheelers boasting up to 500 hp, which were extreme in every regard. The Ford RS200 was one of the monsters from this group.
The RS200 was Ford's response to the trend for four-wheel vehicles which Audi had kicked off with the Quattro on gravel roads in 1982. Front or rear wheel drive couldn't make much headway against the dominance of the 4x4 from Ingolstadt. The "RS 1700 T" rear wheel drive rally car already in development was abruptly canceled by Ford, fearing they were heading for lasting failure on the path they had taken. The developers started feverishly working on a car that could hold its own against the competition in the guise of Audi, Peugeot or Lancia.
They pinned all their hopes on a new vehicle named the Ford RS200, which made its first appearance in September 1985. And at its very first rally Ford's Group B monster beat off the competition: At England's national Lindisfarne Rally the event was easily won by a certain Malcolm Wilson – today, owner of the M-Sport World Rally Championship Team.
Although the goal here was solely to win rallies, the Ford RS200 was one of the finest rally cars of all time. It's not surprising: The Cologne-based company asked the Ghia studio to design the body. The Italians got together with the Ford Motorsport department at Boreham/England to come up with a no-compromise sports car which looked quite different to the other cars in Group B.
As FIA rules stated only 200 of the Group B vehicles had to be road-legal production cars, the engineers were able to go wild here. English engine manufacturer Cosworth developed a 1.8 litre, four-cylinder engine with two overhead camshafts. The turbo engine, whose cylinder head strongly resembled those on the Cosworth Formula 1 engines, packed between 374 and 420 hp, depending on boost pressure.
The mid-engined racer boasted a total of three limited slip differentials. The centre differential was located in the immediate vicinity of the five-speed transmission, and the other two at the front and rear axle. With the standard setting this setup resulted in a power distribution of 37 percent at the front axle and 63 percent at the rear. The centre differential could also be locked from the cockpit, allowing the Ford RS200 to be "downgraded" to a rear-wheel drive at the touch of a button.
But no matter how complex and spectacular the design of this car: Its career in motorsport did not last long. Following a number of tragic accidents, Group B with its high-performance rally racers was consigned to history in 1986: The monsters in this group had become too fast and out of control.
Some 140 Ford RS200 rally cars and road versions are known to exist today. One of these vehicles is the Ford RS200 Group S-Evolution. Group S was a new class that was originally meant to take over from Group B in 1988, but this never happened. Subsequently, Ford chief engineer John Wheeler took it upon himself to bring the Ford RS200 Group S-Evolution to life, building this unique piece himself between 1987 and 1990. It nowadays puts in an appearance at historic rallies.
Picture credit: mikefrison.com