Courtesy of Bonhams
Masterminded by its European Motor Sports boss, Stuart Turner, the RS200 was Ford’s ambitious attempt at producing a championship-winning Group B rally car. Overseen by Ford Motor Sports Chief Engineer John Wheeler, the RS200 project commenced in 1983 with production of 200 cars planned to meet Group B requirements, hence the name. The design, by Tony Southgate, eventually crystallized as a compact mid-engined coupe powered by a turbocharged version of the 1.8-liter 16-valve Cosworth BDA engine and equipped with four-wheel drive. This engine produced 250 bhp in road-going trim with up to 500 bhp available in rally tune. Ford’s Italian subsidiary, Carrozzeria Ghia, was entrusted with the styling, producing a purposeful yet elegant design that has stood the test of time like few of its contemporaries. Aston Martin-owned Tickford built the composite body shells at Newport Pagnell. The RS200 was first publicly displayed in 1984 and homologated in February 1986 after the required 200 examples had been built — all apart from the initial six prototypes being completed at Reliant’s factory at Shenstone, Staffordshire. Its first World Championship event was that year’s Swedish Rally, where the car, driven by Kalle Grundel, finished 3rd overall, a most promising debut. The RS200 went on to achieve a total of 19 wins and 32 podium finishes at international level before the year’s end, securing several national championships along the way. Sadly, that would be the limit of its rallying achievements, as FIA pulled the plug on the Group B supercars at the end of a season blighted by a number of fatal accidents — some involving spectators. Seeking to recoup some of the £10 million ($15 million) rumored to have been spent on the project, Ford stripped down 120 RS200s and rebuilt them as road-legal supercars to be sold at around £50,000 ($75,000) apiece. Purchased new by the current vendor from Stormont Ford of Tunbridge Wells, the right-hand-drive RS200 offered here — chassis 112 — has the uprated 350 bhp engine. After a little over 6,000 miles had been covered, the car was put up on blocks (in 1994) and has been carefully stored and not used since.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1987 Ford RS200 coupe
Years Produced:1985–86
Number Produced:200
Original List Price:£50,000 ($75,000)
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $213,107; high sale, $522,500
Engine Number Location:Top of motor mount intake side
Club Info:Ford RS Owners Club
Alternatives:1984 Audi Quattro S1, 1985–86 Lancia Delta S4, 1985–86 Peugeot 205 T16 E2
Investment Grade:B


This car, Lot 68, sold for $213,107 at Bonhams’ Goodwood, U.K., auction on March 20, 2016.

Okay, let’s start with the basics: Of all the cars sold from a dealership as an ostensibly street-legal ride in the history of the automobile, the Ford RS200 is arguably the most just-flat insane. It is insanely fast, insanely quick, insanely direct and abrupt, and if you are a good enough driver, insanely fun.

This is a tiny, sort-of-weird-looking car that for 12 years held the Guinness Book of World Records title for fastest accelerating car — 0–100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.02 seconds. There are cars today that will do this and better, but they have all the electronic “nannies” — traction control, stability control, plus huge tires — to keep the driver from killing himself.

The RS200 driver had two feet, two hands, and hopefully some good sense. Most rally people know the term “Killer Bs,” which refer to the spectacular and exciting — but also lethal — Group B rally cars of the mid-1980s. This is the car that gave them the name.

Bringing a big hammer

One of the advantages of being a huge company is that you can bring incredible resources to focus on accomplishing something that the top brass wants to see done.

Ford demonstrated this convincingly with the GT40 program in championship endurance racing, and in the mid 1980s, decided to do it again in world rallying.

Audi Quattros, Fiat’s four-wheel-drive Lancias and Peugeots had seriously outclassed Ford’s production-based rally cars, so the decision was made to start from scratch and create a purpose-built racer to beat them. Ford hired the best designers and gave them a blank sheet of paper — and a budget to match. There was a 200-car minimum production for homologation (thus the name RS200) and while Audi and Peugeot fielded variations on their production car (and Lancia made theirs at least look like a production car), Ford just said, “Design us the ultimate rally car and we’ll build 200 of them.”

And they did just that. With an aluminum chassis, a carbon/composite body, a turbocharged Cosworth 4-valve engine set in the middle of the car with the transmission in front, all-wheel-drive, and double coil-over shock/springs at all corners, this was a wickedly complex — but strong and well-balanced — package.

There was absolutely nothing subtle or compromised about this car, which had a spartan interior and no amenities. It drove like a truck at anything less than flat out, and the turbo lag was awful if you didn’t keep the engine spooled up, but in the right hands, doing what it was made to do, it was spectacular.

The advantage to turbocharging and fuel injection is that horsepower can be adjusted by changing boost and fuel delivery, so the relatively anemic 250 horsepower in the street version was easily boosted to almost 500 horsepower in the competition cars. Worried that even that wasn’t enough, Ford modified 24 cars to the “Evolution” version that could make 800 horsepower.

That kind of power, in a 2,200-pound car, makes for an insane ride.

Too powerful and too fast

The problem was that in doing this, Ford had finally stepped over the edge and created a car that was simply too powerful and too fast for use on public roads. Entered for the 1986 season, the RS200 had some moderate success, but then things went wrong. There was a horrible crash in Portugal that killed three spectators and injured 30. Then there was another crash in Germany where the driver and co-driver were lost in a fireball.

The writing was on the wall. At the end of 1986, the FIA abolished Group B cars from rally competition in favor of a more sane approach. A few cars carried on in Rallycross competition (effectively closed-circuit rally racing) and one even tried IMSA in the United States, but fundamentally it was over. The Killer Bs had passed into history.

All of this left Ford in a bit of a pickle. They still had something like 120 incredible weapons built for a battle that no could longer be fought — and those, candidly, weren’t much good for anything else.

With few options available, Ford upgraded the interiors a bit to make them more acceptable and tried to market them as an affordable supercar (if you wanted an unaffordable supercar, Ferrari had just introduced the F40).

They didn’t exactly fly off the showroom floor — it appears that the last car finally left Ford in 1994 — and I understand that the £50,000 ($75,000) sticker price was “negotiable.”

A friend of mine in Denver bought at least six as a package and brought them into the United States as racing cars (to dodge EPA and DOT requirements). Eventually, the ones that didn’t get wrecked in demonstrations (at least one that I know of) were sold off as track toys.

Now a little-used legend

Unlike the GT40, the RS200 never really caught the attention or imagination of the enthusiast community and was soon, if not completely forgotten, relegated to countless barroom stories told by those who had experienced driving the RS200.

The underlying problem with the RS200 is that there is really nothing much that you can do with them short of scaring yourself or your passenger silly (one of the barroom stories has to do with a suburban Denver cop who asked for a ride and returned with very stained pants).

They aren’t much fun to putter around in, and using one at even close to its intended performance requires a professional driver or a death wish (or both). The result is that most of them sit unused in collections. One or two come up for sale in the average year, almost none with any mileage or wear — and seldom even one with history.

Their value has grown slowly but consistently over the past 20 years or so, more in keeping with weapons grade and racing car appreciation than with the collector market. That said, they are very cool in a subversive kind of way. They are a giggle to drive occasionally, and with the horsepower upgrades can get to 100 mph as fast as a Veyron. This is not bad value if you want that kind of thing. I’d say fairly bought. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Bonhams.)

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