350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

Having wanted a rear-wheel drive Series 1 for years, Glen Sexton has finally built one just the way he wanted — which means 350 bhp of Cosworth power and perfect looks...

Words Simon Holmes

Photos Adrian Brannan


Series 1 gets classic Cosworth power.

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

Just about every car fan has dreamt of owning or building a particular classic Ford in their mind. Whether it’s a modified masterpiece or restored rarity, we’ve all wanted that perfect Ford. For some, the idea stays in our heads for years, and for many it never comes to life at all. But after years of waiting and wanting, Glen Sexton has managed his longterm goal of building his dream classic Ford and it happens to be one of the cleanest, neatest and nicest examples we’ve come across. Although it wasn’t exactly what you would call a quick and easy process, as this build has been in the making for many years ago, as Glen explains.

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

“For about as far as I can remember, I always wanted a rear-wheel-drive, Series 1 Escort RS Turbo with a Cosworth engine,” he says. “I just love the look of these cars but to me, it’s a let down being front-wheel drive. I remember seeing a rear-wheel drive one years ago when I was a kid, so it’s sort of been a dream to own one myself since then.”

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo - interior

In the past, Glen had owned and worked on plenty of XR2s, RS Turbos, Cosworths and plenty more, so it’s fair to say he knows his way around Fords. But that made it harder when he initially tried to buy a Mk3 Escort that was already converted to rear-wheel drive, especially as there isn’t exactly a lot around to chose from.

“I’d been to look at a few for sale over the years, but I didn’t like the way they had been converted,” he confirms. “My mates told me I was being fussy, but I knew how I wanted it, so I realised I just had to build one from scratch.”

Perfect base

Having decided to go the long way around it, a friend mentioned he was selling a genuine Series 1 shell that needed work and so would make the ideal base. It had actually been on Glen’s radar for some time, as the friend had bought it around 10 years ago and Glen had been trying to buy it since. But it was far from a nice, original example, as the engine had been mounted in the boot!

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

“It was mid-engined and so I was going to convert it back to front-wheel drive and sell it on,” recalls Glen. “But it needed more welding than I realised and my mates reminded me it would be the best chance I’d have to build a Cosworth-powered one.” As you might imagine, the shell needed lots of metalwork to not only repair it but also convert it to the Sierra underpinnings that Glen wanted to use. But determined to fulfil his dream, he bought a Sierra donor car and sent both cars off to a professional and friend Stuart at Resto Wagen in Essex. Being a skilled fabricator, Stuart specialises in metal work and had already converted an Escort with a Sierra floorpan before, so the project was in good hands. Only Glen wanted his build just the way he imagined it.

“I was very fussy about how I wanted it done,” he admits. “I wanted to use the full Escort interior and rear seats, which meant some extra fabrication was required. I also wanted the boot floor done in a way to keep part of the spare wheel well for the fuel system. That took an extra week of work alone.”

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

Once the shell was complete, it was then up to Glen to build it back up into a working car, which he did at his workshop with the helping hands of a few good mates and his stepdad. To make things a little easier, it helped that Glen already had the complete Sierra Cosworth running gear left over from an old project, so all he needed was a front crossmember assembly and just about every new nut, bolt, bush and mounting to build it all up. At the same time, to modernise it and simplify the wiring, a Link ECU was fitted with a coil-on-plug conversion and a new braided loom.

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

Inside out

When it came to the interior and exterior, there was only ever one choice to complete Glen’s dream, which meant he’s gone to great lengths to ensure it looks and feels just like a standard Series 1. That means the exterior is fitted with the complete RS turbo front splitter, arches, side skirts and rear spoiler, as well as the correct graphics. The only additions are the 17 inch Compomotive wheels to better fill the arches and the updated clear front and rear lights, although the numberplate does hint there’s more going on than meets the eye. On the inside, as Glen requested there’s a full Series 1 interior front and back, and the new transmission tunnel has been carpeted and fitted with a Sierra centre console trimmed to match the seats so it all looks in place. Although it’s the finer details that really make this build stand out, the most impressive point is that from start to finish, it took just under a year to turn the mid-engined, rusty shell into this incredible road-ready sleeper. “It was an unbelievable amount of work from start to finish,” Glen confirms. “And it took every penny I had, but it’s done exactly how I wanted it. And it’s not a car just to be looked at.”

350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

Although it’s only just been completed, there are still a few small things Glen wants to change up for this year now that it’s all up and running. For a start, there are plans to increase power, as the current 350 bhp isn’t enough for Glen and to go-hand-in-hand with the solid sleeper look, the look may well be changing to keep things interesting.

“I like changing things up and later this year, I’ll try another look,” he explains. “I do still have the amber lights and original Series 1 wheels, so I could make it look like a completely standard car, which would be interesting.” Glen assures us although he likes to change things, the car is a keeper, though he admits he has thought about building a rear-wheel drive Mk3 Escort Bantam. That sounds like another dream build in the making, but we all know these things can take a few years...

Tech Spec350 bhp RWD 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo

  • Body 1986 Ford Escort Series 1 RS Turbo, Sierra floorpan adapted to fit, clear front indicators, tinted rear lights.
  • Paint: Diamond White
  • Engine 205 block Cosworth YB, Kent cams, Bernie’s Blowers cut back blade, 360-degree bearing T3 turbo, updated intercooler, custom exhaust system, Link ECU, coil-on-plug conversion, Bosch injectors, braided loom, custom fuel system
  • Transmission Sierra Cosworth T5 gearbox, Sierra 2WD differential and driveshafts, custom propshaft
  • Suspension Custom GAZ Shocks Gold coil-overs, standard Sierra front crossmember and rear beam. Polybushes
  • Brakes Two-wheel drive Sierra Cosworth brakes all round
  • Wheels and tyres 7x17 inch Compomotive MO6 wheels with 205/40R17 tyres
  • Interior Series 1 RS Turbo interior, retrimmed Sierra centre console to match, aftermarket gauge pod
  • Thanks Stuart at Resto Wagen (07814 016138), Mark at AutoDynamic Se (https:// autodynamicse.co.uk) for the mapping, Cole Trim for the trimming, Jay at JMD Detailing, James Pepper for the wiring and plumbing, my stepdad Dan Lambert for the help and James Walden for standing round and drinking beer

Custom fuel system lives in the Escort’s (much-modified) spare wheel well. The YB currently puts out a solid (and reliable) 350 bhp, but unsurprisingly, Glen is now looking for more. 17 inch MO6 rims chosen to fill the Series 1 arches better.


Despite mounting the engine longitudinally, there’s still plenty of room for an uprated radiator. Intercooler sits ahead in the front panel. Stack gauges with white dials a neat, period touch.



When it came to converting the Escort to a rear-wheel drive set up, Glen chose the route of adapting a full Sierra floorpan to fit which would allow the entire Cosworth running gear to be bolted straight up. The floor does have to be shortened and narrowed to fi t within the smaller Escort shell, but once the fabrication side is complete, it’s a matter of fitting the underpinnings and ancillaries with only very few custom parts needed, although the dampers were one of those. But the result from converting it this way is a car that looks like a Series 1 but doesn’t feel like it. “The dampers were made for me by GAZ, as they are Sierra fitment but 20 mm shorter to suit the Escort,” Glen confirms. “It’s a funny one to drive because you know you’re in an Escort but it feels like a Sierra.”

Stack gauges with white dials a neat, period touch.

Sierra tunnel and console aside, it’s strictly Series 1 inside


The YB still runs a T3 turbo, though upgraded by Bernie’s Blowers Ignition set-up converted to more modern (and efficient) coil-on-plug

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