You could say Jackson Foster is a Ford fan. He certainly likes the older ones, even his work van is a 1979 Transit. And he must have a sense of humour, for his car for summer road trips is a sporty 1979 Escort RS2000, and his race mount, an Escort van. Yes, he’s even done Targa in it.
The MkI Escort was launched in the UK in late 1967 to replace the Anglia, and became a best-seller, with two million built by mid-1974. Soon they were used in rallying, successfully, with the model’s 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally win leading to the release of the 1598cc Escort Mexico.
An RS1600 was also developed, using a Cosworth BDA engine, sports suspension and a stronger body shell, and it wasn’t long before an RS2000 joined it, boasting a 2.0-litre Pinto engine and anticipating the hot-hatch market to come.
Jackson Foster’s mates chipped in to rebuild the Ford Escort RS2000.
Foster’s car is the MkII RS2000, of which 2400 were built in Australia. But he couldn’t afford one when they first went on sale. “I’ve always wanted one, but I was an apprentice plumber. They were stupid money and I was earning a dollar an hour, so it wasn’t going to happen.”
He spotted this one in 1997 as a bit of a wreck.
“I should have walked away from it, really.” It was about to be parted out for bits, but the owner sold it to Foster, instead.
It had a blown motor and rust everywhere. He pulled it apart, got the panel work done and then put it into storage at a mate’s scaffolding business, “at the back of his workshop, getting bird s**t and dust all over it”.
The bare shell sat there for more than 10 years while the rest was piled into boxes and moved from house to house.
Then in 2011, “I got the hard word off one of my mates who wanted it for a wedding car, that was a year away, so we went hard out. My mate, Chris, at Suspension Tech out in Karaka is an Escort-mad geezer, rally mad and has built heaps of them, he knows every nut and bolt that comes off one, so he was instrumental in giving me the impetus to get it done.
“It was [fix it] now or sell it, and it worked out better to dive in and finish it.”
It had been Venetian red, but Foster already had a red Escort panel van, so he considered black, then orange, then back to red, but when the Falcon XR6 came out in bionic blue, that went into the mix. There was a similar colour originally, and it looked period – and it does suit the car.
The engine was rebuilt by another mate, in Tauranga.
“We hotted it up mildly as best we could to run it on 98 without going overboard, we didn’t want to run it on Avgas. It’s got about 90kW at the back wheels, and that’s enough.”
The wheels are new aftermarket replicas, though he kept the originals, “They needed a refurbish, it was going to be something like $1600 and I bought these brand new for $600, it was a no-brainer. And they’re slightly wider.”
He also had the original seats recovered, new carpet and headlining fitted, a new windscreen and rubbers.
The instrument panel is original, just refreshed, and he fitted new Bilstein adjustable coilover shocks up front, Bilstein in the rear, and lowered the back 50mm, then slotted in bigger brakes up front with vented Capri discs and the original calipers, with a spacer kit to take the wider disc.
The rear brakes are the standard drum.
“We got it done two weeks before my mate Craig’s wedding, got it finished with a WoF, rego, insurance — we took it to the wedding and used it for that. Since then there are always little bits to finish off, alter and change, it’s an almost never-ending process.”
It’s now what he calls a “cruise car” that he’s taken to Rotorua, to Tauranga. “It gets used every week, as long as it’s fine.”
He hasn’t taken it to the track. “It’s not for that. I’ve got a race car, and accidents happen, even if you’re careful. It’s not worth it. I have the Escort race van, it’s pretty cool, it’s a different sort of beast. The RS is because I wanted one.”
It’d be pretty valuable now.
“They’re quite rare. Even pretty average Escort Sports go for quite a bit, but you never see these, no one wants to sell them. Everyone remembers them, but you’d struggle to find one now.”
They haven’t been forgotten though.
“No. You can’t go anywhere without people stopping you and coming up, ‘Oh mate, I love your car; what an awesome car!’”