Without a doubt, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth is an iconic car featuring an iconic, unforgettable design. Originally conceived as a homologation version of the fifth-gen European Escort, the purpose of the street-going RS was to allow Ford to qualify for Group A competition in the World Rally Championship. The hotted-up Escort went on to be sold to the public from 1992-1996, and competed on the world rally stage from 1993-1998.
Indeed, the Ford Escort RS Cosworth was an amazing little car with a potent Cosworth YBT 2.0L turbocharged engine making 223 horsepower (167 kW). However, aftermarket tuners have managed to extract over 1,000 horsepower from the mill. But aside from its incredible performance, the RS Cosworth is known for its instantly-recognizable styling, particularly the giant rear wing with two “stacks.” Curiously, that’s not the wint it was supposed to have.
In a recent video, Ford Escort RS Cosworth designer Frank Stephenson revealed that he originally designed the car with three stacks of wings. And he didn’t get the idea from another road car or race car, either – he was actually inspired by the “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen’s famous World War I fighter plane.
That aircraft also utilized three wings that were stacked on top of each other. However, Ford Motor Company wound up nixing the idea due to cost constraints, and brought the car to market with two stacks, rather than three. Stephenson is still clearly a little miffed about the change, even referring to the RS Cosworth as being “like a child born with only nine fingers.”
That extra blade wasn’t just for show, either, as the designer notes that it would have provided additional downforce for improved handling. In one of recent episodes of Wheeler Dealers, in fact, host Mike Brewer and his mechanic Ant Anstead actually used pictures of the original design to make Stephenson’s dream a reality.
The story of the Ford Escort RS Costworth and its ill-fated wing design is undoubtedly fascinating. And yet another example of the many, many times automotive designers have found inspiration in aircraft design.