Robert McLean formerly from New Zealand but now living in Sydney, Australia, is the proud owner of this unique Escort RS2000 prototype. He has been a keen RS fan since an early age and has also owned a concourse winning MK2 RS2000, factory built to Group 1 specification. He was also the MK2 RS Registrar for the New Zealand RS Owners Club. Here, in his own words, is the story of the car’s history and of his determination to own it!
It was on July 4th 1973 when the Escort RS2000 first went into production at AVO. Initially available in LHD only, it wasn’t until later that year that they started to produce RHD RS2000’s for the UK market. This was announced at the October 1973 Earls Court Motor Show, for which Ford AVO prepared a very special RHD RS2000 to display. That car is the one pictured above and this is its story
In May 1973, AVO built three LHD RS2000’s all of which were painted in Diamond White with blue stripes. Of these pre-production cars, one was registered to Ford Motor Company, the second was exported to Sweden and the third car’s history is uncertain. All three of these cars are no longer in existence.
Shortly afterwards in June 1973, AVO built a single RHD RS2000 pre-production car which was painted in Olympic Blue with blue stripes. AVO prepared this Type 49 Escort RS bodyshell to a higher standard than the production RS Escorts. Unusually, this RS2000’s body plate indicates that it is fitted with the custom pack option as standard, which includes centre console with clock, Ford radio, cigarette lighter, hazard lights, heated rear window, engine kill switch and RS 3 spoke steering wheel. The RS seat’s were reclining and trimmed in plush black velour and had no head rest’s. Also fitted were a set of RS alloy wheels. The Body Plate was stamped with the words “SHOW UNIT” which was essentially used for internal purposes within the Halewood manufacturing plant. There were only ever two cars with this stamped into the body plate, the other being an RS1600.
Ford AVO used this prototype to announce to the UK buyer’s for the first time at the Earls Court Motor Show, that the RS2000 would be sold in RHD. After the show, Ford used the car extensively as a display car at RS Dealer showrooms throughout the UK. Finally it was sold and registered as TKO 425N on 1st August 1974.
The third owners were a couple called Guy and Gina Howard-Wills of Kent, who bought the car on 5th August 1975 with 17,000 miles on the clock. Several week’s later it was loaded onto a ship accompanying the couple as they emigrated to New Zealand. The ex-Earls Court Show Car arrived in Auckland and on 13th November 1975 was registered HN5671. Guy and Gina kept the RS2000 for 6 months before selling it on.
When Robert McLean was 14 years old, he spotted this Olympic Blue RS2000 in the car park at a race meeting in 1982 and never forgot about the car. In 1988 the RS2000 came up for sale and Robert made lots of enquiries but it was more than he could afford. The car was sold and disappeared until 1990. Once again Robert enquired but due to lack of money had to leave without the RS2000. Finally in 1992 his persistence was rewarded when the RS2000 came up for sale again, and this time Robert had the money and the Earl’s Court RS2000 was his!!
Now the RS2000 has been in dry storage for over 8 years and was used at the 1997 New Zealand RSOC National Day where it won ‘Best MK 1 RS Escort’. The car has now done 79,000 miles and is still in original, immaculate condition and unrestored. It was re-sprayed in 1988-1990 when they also sprayed the stripes on and did a great job, but for the side stripes which are slightly the wrong shape. The interior is also still original and in immaculate condition, but the carpet has been replaced by an after-market one and the black plush seats have now faded to a red-brown colour (still original Earls Court upholstery though).
Robert managed to track down it original owners, Guy and Gina Howard-Wills and re-united them with the RS2000 in 1997. It was an emotional reunion after not seeing the car for 22 years, but it was exactly how they remembered it. Guy presented Robert with the original UK ownership papers and number plates TKO 425N (still in new condition).