Courtesy of Artcurial
As the copy of a letter from Ford Motorsport, signed by Bob Howe [Ford’s RS200 program sales chief] and dated October 15, 1991, indicates, this RS200 was sold new to a Swedish enthusiast for £57,498. It was one of the few RS200s to have been finished in dark red when it came off the production line. At the request of its first owner, however, in September it was repainted white at the factory before being delivered. In addition to its condition, one of the remarkable things about this car is that — according to the information published by Justin Smith, a specialist in the model and co-author of the book Ford RS200: The Story So Far — it is a rare, so-called “S” model. It is understood that the cars would have been fitted with a more powerful engine than standard, developing over 300 hp. The RS200 remains a remarkable homologation special, the only car designed from scratch for the legendary Group B. Its only shortcoming was that it came too late to play a leading role in the World Championship. As well as its rarity and driving dynamics, the RS200 we are presenting offers the exclusivity of a special model, originally built in left-hand drive, with low mileage and in superb condition. These qualities will not be lost on the new generation of collectors who are devoted to this golden age of motoring.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1991 Ford RS200
Years Produced:1985–86
Number Produced:148
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Chassis Number Location:Data plate on right front of chassis
Engine Number Location:Near cam cover
Club Info:RS Owners Club
Alternatives:1984–86 Peugeot 205 T16, 1985–86 MG Metro 6R4, 1985–86 Lancia Delta S4 Stradale

This car, Lot 356, sold for $325,414 (€295,616), including buyer’s premium, at Artcurial’s Paris sale on March 19, 2022.

The ending of Group B rallying in 1986 after a series of accidents involving spectators consigned the cars mostly to a backwater of collectors fondly remembering a bygone era. A few found their way into rallycross, where all-wheel drive and the potential for 600-plus horsepower (with the boost turned up, and a later ECU) looked attractive, but their eligibility ran out in 1992. The nearest these will now get to a rally stage will be if you join the Slowly Sideways group, which stages occasional demonstrations of its Group B cars.


The RS200 was a very considered device, unlike most of its rivals. Audi’s Quattro, which started the all-wheel-drive turbo era rolling, was increasingly modified (and eventually shortened) from a production coupe. Peugeot’s T16 hid its mid-engine mechanicals within a body shell that looked like the stock hatch, and the MG Metro profile was recognizable struggling out of the steroidal 6R4. But the RS200, like the Lancia Stratos and 037, was designed from scratch as a rally car.

Under the Ghia-styled composite body is an all-wheel-drive chassis with adjustable torque split. Power comes from the good old BD-series engine that powered the rear-drive rally Ford Escorts, in this case a BDT of 1,803 cc. (Remember that turbo cars were subject to a multiplication factor of 1.4 to calculate their “equivalent” displacement.) To get the weight in the right places — the Achilles’ heel of the T16, and to an extent, the Quattro — the gearbox is amidships. Drive is fed forward from the motor to the transmission, then forward and back to the front and rear diffs by separate shafts.

Designer Tony Southgate, with Ford’s John Wheeler, paid attention to the needs of service crews in the field. The front and rear clamshells lift wide (and on the Works cars, easily detach) to give unhindered access to the oily bits. The conventional wishbone suspension is attached to the steel tub via bolted-on mild-steel tube subframes. The idea was that your gorilla driver might knock a corner off, but the service crew could fit new parts and have him on his way.

Thing is, the rules then said Ford had to build 200 identical examples to homologate its new rally weapon, and it didn’t have the facility. Who was good at making composite cars in small volumes? Step forward, Reliant. Through good timing it had the capacity, space and trained workforce, having made its living with three-wheelers before the radical Tom Karen-designed GTE sports estate.

Small volume, big fun

Of the 150-ish originally built, most were in road trim (50 or so were dismantled for spares, with some cars built back up from those parts). These were fitted with carpets, and the motor was turned down to 250 hp as originally homologated, plus the front/rear torque split was fixed at 37/63 and (sometimes) the lever that controls it was deleted, though supplied with the car. Customers could opt for left- or right-hand drive, red or black seats, “road” (white) or “rally” (red) springs, and more power, up to 350 hp. (“Standard” 250-hp cars exit their exhausts on the right, the rest on the left.)

A friend had one and says, “As a road car, they’re much nicer in rear-wheel drive. All that noise, vibration and harshness goes away. But as a track car it’s phenomenal in four-wheel drive — it really digs in, even with old Pirelli P700s. There’s nothing really complicated about them, though you do regular maintenance. The cam-belt interval is 6,000 miles. If you want to attract attention, just stop at a gas station and lift the rear body to fuel it up.”

Twenty-four cars were reserved for rallying and upgraded to 2.1-liter “evo” spec, with around 450 hp. I was once aviated in one on the old Silverstone Rally sprint course by Works driver Malcolm Wilson, and it was fascinating to see how he controlled the car’s attitude in flight on the throttle, the gyroscopic effect of winding up the wheels and all that transmission presumably helping keep the nose in the air.

By all accounts, the cars were only loosely assembled. At point-of-sale, Ford would issue a chassis number and send them from storage at its rally base in Boreham, Essex, to Tickford in Newport Pagnell to be properly finished before they were sold.

An unusual subject

Our subject car is an interesting case. The catalog states that it is a rare S model, which I admit I’d never heard of. This unofficial name was given to a series of 20 cars built for a Canadian order and fitted with better heating and ventilation than standard, as well as the more powerful engines. That deal fell apart and only one car made it to Canada, all being sold directly by Ford Motorsport. According to the RS Owners Club, based on papers retained by Ford’s RS200 sales chief Bob Howe, only 148 complete cars were assembled.

Our subject is from the collection of late Belgian rally driver Baudouin Lempereur, who bought it in unused condition from an Antwerp showroom in 1997. He used it occasionally for rallies, though juding by the lack of roll cage and harnesses, as a course-opening “zero car.” It presents in good order today, showing 7,130 km (4,430 miles), with some of the original red paint still visible under the bonnet.

The torque-split lever is worth having. I drove an RS200 on an ice track in the early 2000s and found it almost impossible to steer in four-wheel drive with the diffs locked and only just manageable in rear-drive.

The motor bears an “Octobre 2013” sticker, suggesting that might be when it was last serviced. Lempereur added the Works-style stripes, and a spacer behind the steering wheel, but otherwise it’s stock, still with the Ford radio and toolkit in the front boot.

Above estimate, but well sold

We saw a relative rash of RS200 sales at auction in 2017-18, when standard road-trim cars climbed gently from $180k to around $220k. More-recent sales have been of modified or 2.1-liter models, which are harder to value, as they’re priced according to their fierceness and/or provenance. Generally Evos and competition cars attract twice as much, to the point where an Evo was extremely well sold at $507,500 on Bring a Trailer last year (SCM# 6941807).

With its S spec, this one falls somewhere in the middle. I’m going to call it well sold, bringing nearly $40k more than its pre-sale top estimate. It’s still much cheaper than a Sport Quattro, though worth more than a T16 or 6R4. Given their relative rarity out of captivity, that feels about right for a car that you can’t do much with except watch it appreciate — slowly. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Artcurial.)

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