Wednesday, July 17, 2019
The Greatest Fast Fords Ever Built

Those of you who regularly follow this blog will no doubt have clocked the series of manufacturer specific lists we’ve posted recently, and today it’s the turn of one of the oldest and most beloved car manufacturers of all, Ford. FoMoCo has been building cars for 113 years now, a span of time that’s seen it turn out all manner of automotive icons – from the Ford Model T to the latest Ford GT, a car that we at Autoglym have a personal connection to. We sent our resident Ford geek Jarkle off to compile a list of the greatest fast Fords ever built, and this is what he came back with.

Disagree with this rundown? Feel we’ve missed out an essential car? Then let us know in the comments section!

It isn't hard to see why the Ford Mustang has come to symbolise American car culture

It isn’t that hard to see why the Ford Mustang has come to symbolise American car culture, not when it looks this good

1) 1965 Ford Mustang

You’ll no doubt spot that most of the cars on this list hail from Ford Europe, as these are the models that most resonate with those of us on this side of the Atlantic, but we couldn’t not include the Mustang, the fastest selling car in automotive history. There’s a lot to love about this car, but perhaps the best aspect was that it was so cheap – your average early ’20s blue collar American could get one in his garage for $2635, approximately £2115. It’s no wonder Ford was selling them as fast as they could be built, and equally unsurprising that the Mustang has gone down in history as a fully paid up automotive legend.

The Sierra Cosworth was a force to be reckoned with wherever it competed, including the Australian Touring Car Championship, a move that upset Holden

The Sierra Cosworth was a force to be reckoned with wherever it competed, including the Australian Touring Car Championship with Dick Johnson at the wheel

2) Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

You’ve got to love an underdog, and that’s precisely what the Sierra Cosworth, or ‘Cossie,’ was. Built to dominate the race tracks of the world, something it managed to do for most of the ’80s, right up until the rules were changed to render it obsolete, the road going cars built to meet homologation became instant classics. For many a petrolhead the ’90s can be summed up by a picture of a Sierra Sapphire Cosworth doing a smokey, uncouth burnout outside of a shopping centre late at night, and it helped cement the cult of Cosworth. The YB at its heart could be tweaked into making massive power, rocketing from the stock 200bhp to as much as 1000bhp.

Prices have now risen and all variants of the Sierra Cossie are no long working class heroes, they’re appreciating classics in their own right!

The first Escort Mexico played a large roll in kickstarting the UK's love for RS-badged Fords

The first Escort Mexico played a large roll in kickstarting the UK’s love for RS-badged Fords

3) Ford Escort RS Mexico

The cult appeal of the RS brand is one of Ford Europe’s best cards thanks to its continued, almost unbroken run of form. This was all started by one car, the RS Mexico, a car built to commemorate Ford’s win on the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally. The Mexico was marked out my its 1598cc Crossflow engine, a tiny power plant by current standards yet powerful by the standards of the day. Power most certainly isn’t everything though, and all 10,352 Mk1 Mexicos found homes in short order, kickstarting the UK’s love affair with RS-badged Fords and inspiring a generation of hot Ford fans to own one at some point. It was a brilliant rally car and won all over the world and in all conditions, but an even better coup for Ford’s marketing team.

The Capri was a bit of a dinosaur by the time it was launched, but the 280 Brooklands has still gone down as one of the best European Fords ever sold

The Capri was a bit of a dinosaur by the time it was launched, but the 280 Brooklands has still gone down as one of the best European Fords ever sold

4) Ford Capri 280 Brooklands

By the time the Capri 280 Brooklands launched in 1987 the UK’s motoring landscape had changed dramatically, and ‘the car you always promised yourself’ was looking a far less attractive package than at any other point in its long life. Ford needed to do something to try to stem the rising hot hatch tide so opted to send the Capri off with a bang, hence the 280 Brooklands. Brooklands denoted its British racing green paintwork (as did the graphics package), but there were other, more significant changes under the skin, including a Limited Slip Diff to try to tame the Capri’s lairy handling, something not helped by its archaic leaf-sprung rear end. It might’ve been a run out special and an attempt to shift the remaining models of a very outdated car, yet the 280 Brooklands has gone down in history as one of the ultimate Mk3 Capris.

For many an RS1800 going sideways at a seemingly impossible angle is the defining image of mid '70s rallying

For many an RS1800 going sideways at a seemingly impossible angle is the defining image of mid ’70s rallying

5) Ford Escort RS1800

The success of the Mk1 Escort in world rallying inspired Ford UK’s competition department at Boreham to take things rather more seriously, and the launch of the Mk2 Escort in 1975 effectively allowed them to develop a new, far more sophisticated rally car. The result was the RS1800, a car powered by an 1834cc BDA (for Belt Driven A-series) and with tougher suspension, drivetrain and brakes. Rally success soon followed, notably with Britain’s ’70s rallying icon Roger Clark, but also on the world stage with Bjorn Waldegård, Hannu Mikkola and Ari Vatenan. The road cars were every bit as successful and picked up where the Mk1 left off, fishtailing their way around the roads of the UK, going on to amass a huge following and increasing in value in the process – they’re now worth well over £50,000!

The faltering Ferrari charge allowed Ford it stage this perfectly choreographed finish to the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours

The faltering Ferrari charge allowed Ford it stage this perfectly choreographed finish to the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours

6) Ford GT40

Race cars are at their best when they have a story attached to them, even better if the story in question has its share of ups and downs, and this most definitely applies to the original Ford GT, a car born out of malice and spite! The story goes that Henry Ford II was in advanced talks to buy Ferrari outright, a plan which went awry when Enzo “il Commendatore” Ferrari pulled out of the deal over a dispute about motor racing politics. The ever so slightly peeved Henry Ford then set out to build a Ferrari beater, a car that could (and would) hurt Ferrari where it hurt most – Le Mans.

The GT40 that emerged from Enzo’s snubbing of Ford was built in partnership with Lola and was powered by the legendary Cosworth DFV V8 F1 engine, while FoMoCo’s budget ensured that a staggering 8 cars took the start. In the end the race was a slight disappointment from a fan perspective, the Ferrari charge faltering early on thanks to poor reliability and effectively gifting the win to Ford. Still, Henry Ford II had more than proved his point.

The latest Mustang is the first one that us UK folk have been able to get in right-hand drive

The latest Mustang is the first one that us UK folk have been able to get in right-hand drive

7) 2016 Ford Mustang 

Another Mustang on a list primarily dominated by European Fords? Yes, but the latest Mustang is significant as it’s the first generation ever to be officially sold in the UK, meaning you can wander to your local dealer, dodge the massed Fiestas and Focuses and drive home in a (right-hand drive) version of the ultimate Pony Car. Both 2.3 and 5.0 V8 versions have their charms, particularly as the former engine can also be had in the Focus RS and will almost certainly spawn a raft of tuning packages in the coming years, but you’d be a very strong willed individual to pick it over the rip-snorting V engine!

The Fiesta ST proves that Ford still knows exactly what makes a stunning hot hatch

The Fiesta ST proves that Ford still knows exactly what makes a stunning hot hatch

8) Ford Fiesta ST Mk7

The current generation of Fiesta has been around in one form or another since 2008, a long time in car years, and it’s still among the pick of the crop, the hot hatch ST being the pick of the bunch. Of course Ford has long known how to screw together a keen handling front-wheel drive chassis (see Racing Puma later down this list), but the ST has been bolstered by its keen 1.6 EcoBoost engine and a torque vectoring system intended to emulate a Limited Slip Diff. It’s a brilliant package that shows no sign of getting old any time soon, just more affordable.

The Mk3 RS is more than worthy of the badge

The Mk3 RS is more than worthy of the badge

9) Ford Focus RS Mk3

While well received by the motoring press, the first and second generation came in for some criticism amongst the fast Ford faithful for being front-wheel drive, hence why there was so much celebration when Ford announced that the Mk3 would be all wheel drive, just like the Escort Cosworth. The recently launched Focus WRC has won over pundits across the globe, its aggressive styling meshing neatly with its 345bhp 2.3 inline four cribbed from the Mustang, not forgetting its trick transmission. The latter has proved very popular on account of its ability to route 70% of the torque to the rear wheels, meaning that the RS is only too happy to go sideways at the push of a button.

2016 World Endurance Championship Le Mans 24 hours 11th – 19th June 2016 Le Mans, France Photo: Drew Gibson

It was fitting that Ford netted class success at Le Mans a full 50 years since it claimed overall honours with the GT40

10) Ford GT GTE Pro

The news that Ford was returning to Le Mans to attempt to win the greatest race of all precisely 50 years on from its maiden triumph in 1966 was greeted with huge enthusiasm, and this only increased when the world learned that it planned to do so in an all new Ford GT. Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt already be well aware that Autoglym had a hand in the programme, our range of cleaning solutions employed to keep these stunning race cars looking in tip-top condition. The GT itself proved more than worthy of its illustrious badge, eventually coming home 1st, 3rd and 4th in the hotly contested GTE Pro category and seeing off the Porsche challenge in the process. Ford has since confirmed that the GT programme will run until at least 2019.

The RS200 had all the makings of a world beater, it was just too late to the Group B party to make an impact

The RS200 had all the makings of a world beater, it was just too late to the Group B party to make an impact

11) Ford RS200

The RS200 was launched at the Swedish round of the 1986 World Rally Championship, early on in the season yet still way, way too late in the life of the Group B category to make much of an impact. That’s a shame, as both its build and spec would probably have made it the pick of the bunch had it launched a few short years earlier, and its 450bhp BD-T, four-wheel drive and twin-damper setup would’ve helped it dominate on rough gravel in particular. By 1986 the Group B game had rather moved on though, with Audi, Peugeot and Lancia able to call upon almost 500bhp each, and with evolution programmes in the works. None of this has prevented the RS200 from becoming one of the most beloved Group B machines of all though, and easily one of the greatest fast Fords.

Want to read more about the RS200 and Group B rallying in general? Then click through to our blog on that very subject. 

The most aggressive looking fast Ford of them all?

The most aggressive looking fast Ford of them all?

12) Zakspeed Capri

Zakspeed is a name that’s associated with almost every form of motorsport imaginable, including a spell at the very top of the motor racing tree, Formula 1. Back in the late ’70s however, Zakspeed was tasked with building the ultimate race version of the humble Ford Capri, the Group 5 racers that dominated Germany’s Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft (DRM) championship. Impossibly aggressive looking and sounding, the box-arched Zakspeed Capris were silhouette racers and therefore shared practically nothing with the regular, road-going Capri you could buy from your local Ford dealer, but that didn’t matter. No, what did matter was that the Capri’s 1700cc engine eventually kicked out 600bhp, spat out belches of fire via the side-exit exhaust, and that it enabled Klaus Ludwig to win the DRM in 1981.

A large proportion of UK petrolhead's grew up wanting an Escort Cosworth more than their next breath

A large proportion of UK petrolhead’s grew up wanting an Escort Cosworth more than their next breath

13) Ford Escort Cosworth

The 1990s gave us some truly fantastic homologation specials, many of them born out of the need for manufacturers to go rallying, and the Escort Cosworth was arguably one of the greatest. Based on the Sapphire Cosworth 4×4, the Escort Cosworth was built to enable Ford to win at rallying again, something it managed to do…to a point; there were a number of high profile victories on key events like the Monte Carlo, yet no championships. The Escort Cosworth was an instant road-going classic though, and it didn’t take long before various tuners were once again using the YB to make simply massive power figures, notably the 600bhp car built by Martin Hadland’s Reyland concern. The Escort Cossie has been a darling of the fast Ford ever since.

The Lotus Cortina spent the '60s battling against cars as diverse as the Mini Cooper and the Chevrolet Camaro

The Lotus Cortina spent the ’60s battling against cars as diverse as the Mini Cooper and the Chevrolet Camaro

14) Mk1 Lotus Cortina

If there’s one thread that links these cars, it’s the canniness of Ford’s marketing department. Ford was one of the first car makers to clock the link between motorsport success and forecourt sales, and played a large part in popularizing the old adage of ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday.’ This rings especially true in the case of the Lotus Cortina, a car that helped cement Ford’s place in the hearts of the British motoring public. Part of the appeal was that, despite its exotic Lotus twin-cam and close ratio ‘box, it was still very closely related to the regular Cortina the man or woman in the street could buy, and that really mattered. It meant that whether you drove a lowly Deluxe, an aspirational GT or even a full-fat Lotus, you could still pretend to be Jim Clark hammering round Paddock Hill Bend.

Vas Lashley's Racing Puma is easily one of the cleanest and best cared for in the UK

Vas Lashley’s Racing Puma is easily one of the cleanest and best cared for in the UK

15) Ford Racing Puma

If ever there was a car to sum up the saying ‘greater than the sum of its component parts,’ it’s the Ford Racing Puma. Mixing the Fiesta-based Puma with the Tickford-fettled 1679cc four-pot, then adding on widened arches should’ve made for a car that was all show and no go, but it most certainly didn’t turn out like that. Instead, Ford managed to build one of the best handling front-wheel drive cars of the decade, one that really could use all of its 153bhp at all times. Its one failing was its price, a hefty £23,000 and enough to put it into Impreza and Evo territory. Ford struggled to sell all 500 and even had to distribute a few internally to clear stock, but they’re now very much in the ascendancy in terms of value, so buy one while still can! 

Want to read more about Vas Lashely’s stunning Puma? Then click through to one of our earlier blogs.

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