A brief history of Ford RS

Many will have heard of Ford's RS cars, but what do those initials mean? We take a tour of the great RS cars of the past

Almost every carmaker’s range has at least one sporty version in its line-up. Some of them just look fast, while others have the speed and handling to back up their lairy looks. There’s no doubt that sportiness sells, and one major manufacturer to have always taken the art of going quickly very seriously indeed is Ford.

The Ford Focus RS has power and handling far beyond the humble hatchback it’s based on. Achieving this is no easy task – the Focus is designed for comfort, economy and safety, and to avoid sacrificing these while adding serious driver appeal takes some skilled of engineers. It also helps if your company has an illustrious motorsport heritage – and Ford certainly has.

It also has the legendary RS badge. These famous initials – which stand for Rally Sport – were first seen on cars intended for one purpose only: to dominate rally stages. It’s a badge that has been very carefully used over the years, only ever being applied to cars that really deserve it.

Today’s Ford Focus RS undoubtedly belongs to that category – it’s an excellent driver’s car with serious speed and fantastic handling that’s the latest in a long line of high performers from Ford’s rally experts, which in some cases only faintly resembled the family cars they had evolved from.

Before the RS name appeared, Ford collaborated with Lotus to create the Lotus Cortina. This sixties antecedent of today’s Mondeo was an instant motorsport legend and its twin-cam engine went on to power the Escort Twin Cam, a hot version of the first Ford Escort introduced in the late sixties. It was this car’s replacement, the Escort RS1600, that was the first car to bear the RS badge, with help from another famous name: Cosworth.

From the beginning, one of the main aims of the RS series was to allow Ford cars to participate in certain production-based motorsport categories through a process called homologation. This is where a certain number of roadgoing versions of a racing car have to be sold to make it eligible for competition. Many of these limited-run specials have become bona-fide classics and are highly sought-after today.

Ford is one company that definitely realises that motorsport success is an invaluable publicity asset – something which continues with the current Le Mans-winning Ford GT supercar. Visit the gallery below to find out more about some of the greatest Ford RS cars of all time.

Recommended

Next-generation Ford Ranger teased ahead of 2022 launch
Ford Ranger teaser
Ford Ranger
9 Sep 2021

Next-generation Ford Ranger teased ahead of 2022 launch

Ford Puma SUV review
Ford Puma SUV driving
Ford Puma
20 Aug 2021

Ford Puma SUV review

Cheap fun cars: our picks from £1,000 to £10,000
Honda Civic Type R front
Toyota
12 Aug 2021

Cheap fun cars: our picks from £1,000 to £10,000

New Ford Mustang Mach-E GT now available to order
Ford Mustang Mach-E GT driving
Ford
9 Jul 2021

New Ford Mustang Mach-E GT now available to order

Most Popular

Top 10 best small estates 2021
Skoda Octavia Estate
Skoda Octavia Estate
22 Sep 2021

Top 10 best small estates 2021

Electric Citroen Ami to launch in the UK next year
2022 Citroen Ami
Citroen Ami
21 Sep 2021

Electric Citroen Ami to launch in the UK next year

New 2022 Toyota RAV4 Adventure revealed
Toyota RAV4 Adventure
Toyota RAV4
14 Sep 2021

New 2022 Toyota RAV4 Adventure revealed

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
10 Aug 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
15 Jun 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2021
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
12 Aug 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Mercedes AMG A45 - rear
Hot hatches
25 Jun 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks