Salad days

Ford produced some incredible Cosworth-badged cars in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, with the Sierra and Escort variants dominating racing and rallying – and on the streets.

‘Cossies’, as they quickly became known, acquired cult status almost as soon as the first Sierra RS Cosworth was released in 1985. It wasn’t long before a huge tuning industry built up around the sub-brand, mainly to squeeze the maximum horsepower out of the 2.0-litre Cosworth YB turbo engine. So much so that it soon became rare to come across an unaltered copy.

The cars and aftermarket industry around them shone brightly for years. But as the saying goes: ‘You can have too much of a good thing’, and that goes for Steve Richardson.

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Today, as SR Autobodies, Steve has built an enviable reputation as an outstanding restorer of Nissan S and R bodies. Many incredible examples have come from his workshop in Lincolnshire, Great Britain – including Mark’s Project Thirteen Four – but he started this journey with Cossies.

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“My dad used to be a big player on the scene, and I grew up helping out in his workshop at the weekends, surrounded by Cosworths and RS500s. I joined the army when I left school, but when I got out I decided to treat myself to a Sierra Cosworth,” Steve explained.

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“The car I went to look at turned out to be a dog, but a friend of the seller, who happened to be there, told me he had an R33 Skyline GTS25t for sale and asked if I wanted to take a look. I took it for a test drive and was sold: it was a lot more car for half the money of the Cossie. To be honest, I thought I would never drive a Ford again.”

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But time heals all wounds, and twelve years later HJA Group – one of SR Autobodies’ regular customers – called to say they had just imported a T25 (aka small turbo) Escort RS Cosworth from Japan and were wondering or Steve would be Because he could carry out a restoration of the underbody and the engine compartment, he seized the opportunity.

“We work on Skylines all day long, so it’s nice to do something different every now and then. The Escort Cosworth is a rare car in Japan and it had only driven 30,000 kilometers. In fact, it seemed to be completely standard. It has never been modified and, as far as we know, has had no bodywork or welding (repairs).”

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However, HJA didn’t just want Steve to give this unhindered Escort the works. They had already found a new home for the car and the British owner was very specific with his requirements. It had to be exactly as it would have come from the factory: overspray on the bottom, generously applied seam sealing and all.

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“It is important to point out that this car has not yet been finished to concours level,” Steve says. “Instead, it is exactly – as far as we can get it – as it would have come out of the Karmann factory in Germany in 1995. We actually made it messier.”

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“I spent hours talking to my dad because he knew these cars inside and out when they were new, and he would stay up until 2 a.m. most nights researching specific items. I’ve been down deep internet rabbit holes, let me tell you.”

A clean one

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Like many products from Ford of Europe in the 1990s, the Mk5 Escort platform on which the RS Cosworth is based is prone to rust, but when Steve and his team removed all the underbody undercarriage it was found to be in remarkably poor condition . good shape.

“Once we removed the anti-corrosion coating, we found that no more welding was required. The owner was adamant that it shouldn’t be there, so if one of the jacking points was damaged we had to whip it back into shape rather than replace it.” Steve explained.

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With that minor issue out of the way, Steve could concentrate on cleaning and removing the paint from the underside (before reapplying the seam sealer in a somewhat haphazard manner) and then preparing for fresh paint before applying the clearly ‘factory added accents.

“I spent four days airbrushing the different colors Ford used on the underbody: cream, baby sick green primer, black for the wheel arches and even beige. We had a local paint company come in and scan the original colors, and once they were mixed, they were adjusted until they were just right.”

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To give you another idea of ​​the insane effort SR Autobodies went to with this restoration, where the sills meet the underbody, they sprayed a thin black line across the seam seal to make it look like there was a gap. And where bolt holes were covered on the production line to prevent them becoming clogged with paint, Steve again made sure to approach this in a slightly wishy-washy way – like a slightly disgruntled worker keen to have a cup of tea. have done.

“It sounds strange, but it took more time to do all this in a less than neat way, rather than trying to make everything look perfect,” Steve says.

Bay Look

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With the underside well underway, Steve turned his attention to the engine compartment.

“The car had been standing still for years and the YB engines don’t like that; there were oil leaks everywhere. We had no choice but to take the engine out, strip it down to the block and go straight through.”

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The SR Autobodies vapor blaster was put to good use, with both engine and chassis components immediately stripped, cleaned and galvanized or powder coated where necessary. The YBP specification engine was then rebuilt with new gaskets, seals, nuts and bolts – parts sourced from across Europe by the local Ford main dealer TC Harrisonwhere Mark photographed the car.

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The engine and undercarriage were reassembled and Steve then reapplied the numerous production line details that the Escort would have come with, including decals – faithfully produced and applied in a somewhat shaky manner – and various paint blobs and markings that line workers used to to indicate a certain situation. job was completed.

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Was Steve tempted to add a few mods along the way?

“No way, this had to remain standard. When it arrived it even came with a pair of strut brackets that I thought were aftermarket. But my dad pointed out that they are genuine dealer-assembled Ford Motorsport examples, so we reinstalled them.”

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The result is so good that when Steve took the car to TC Harrison for an MOT (vehicle roadworthiness) test, they decided to also carry out a PDI (pre-delivery inspection), just like any new car that arrives at the dealer. He scored 97%, which means that in theory this Escort could be sold with a new car warranty.

Built to be used

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Is this Escort destined to end up in yet another car collection? Not quite.

“The owner is determined to use it, so we gave the underbody a satin coating so all they have to do is pressure wash it after a ride. Yes, it won’t last forever, but it is better protected than most modern cars.” Steve says.

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“I have fond memories of working on this car. Getting it done was a real family affair, and even my four-year-old daughter helped out by dipping the caliper bolts in paint. We all enjoyed it very much. So much so that we have another Escort Cosworth planned soon. But we don’t expect to get much back from the blasters with this one…’

Simon Woolley
Instagram: firesafe_simon

Photographed by Mark Riccioni
Instagram: mark_scenemedia
Twitter/X: markriccioni
mark@scene-media.com

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