1972 Ford Escort RS1600 Rally

A Kenyan safari guide tells of this car landing so nose down that everyone thought it was going to go end over end

This 1972 Ford Escort RS1600 Mk I comes to auction directly from the finish line of the Kenya Airways East African Safari Classic rally, where it was driven to victory by triple Safari winner Bjorn Waldegard and his son Mathias.

One of only two such Escorts prepared by Historic Motorsports in their Daventry workshops to what is generally reckoned to be the ultimate rally specification ever achieved for a Mk I Escort, WPU 242L took over 872 hours to build and, pre-Safari, was test-driven and further developed by Waldegard in both Wales and Kenya. Unusually, too, the winning car is being offered complete with all Safari Rally extras in place.

First run in 1953, the Safari has always presented one of the toughest tests of car and crew, not to mention workshop and service crew, on the planet.

The “Classic” version of the great event is open only to cars of a type made before 1975, so no four-wheel-drive or turbocharged machinery can take part, making it a happy hunting ground for such hairy-chested fare as the Porsche 911 and Datsun 240Z or, of course, the Ford Motor Company’s most successful rally car, the Escort.

The fully caged body shell of the winning Escort has been specially strengthened by Works car shell builders Gartrac to withstand Safari Stage surfaces at speed. Inevitably, the suspension has to be very special, and on this car it certainly is. Up front there are Proflex front struts to Jumbo specification, with roller top mounts and remote gas reservoirs as per current WRC cars. At the rear, and additional to the leaf springs, are coil spring-around Proflex dampers-all permitted by Safari regs. The Field Motorsport-built 2-liter engine, a dry-sumped BDA, produces 256 hp at 8,500 rpm.

We are advised that not only has the whole car done less than 5,000 miles, but most of the major components-including gearbox, rear axle, suspension, and some brake components-have actually only completed four days rallying, having been largely renewed by the Historic Motorsport service crew at the halfway point.

As presented, WPU 242L is not only likely to be compliant with future Classic Safari regulations, but should be fully capable of withstanding the rigors of long-distance marathon events.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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