Ford RS200 Evolution – The Ultimate Street-Legal Group B Monster
In the 1980s, Ford sought to challenge Audi and Peugeot in the brutal Group B era of rally racing. Their weapon was the RS200, a mid-engine turbocharged monster purpose-built for competition. While the regular RS200 was unbelievable enough, Ford created the even more extreme RS200 Evolution model tuned to over 600 horsepower for the ultimate street-legal Group B experience.
With upgraded aero, chassis, and power, the RS200 Evolution dominated rallying in 1986. Just 24 road-legal examples were produced, making the RS200 Evo one of the rarest and most extreme Fords ever sold to the public. It distilled the dangers and excitement of Group B into a genuinely unrelenting road car.
Group B – Rallying Without Limits
To understand the RS200 Evolution, one must first understand the context of Group B rallying in the 1980s. With essentially no rules on modifications, teams went to extremes adding turbochargers, aerodynamics, and 4WD traction to production-based cars. Audi Quattro, Lancia, Peugeot and Ford all engaged in an arms race to develop the fastest, most powerful cars possible.
Homologation rules required road-going versions to be sold to the public. But even these road cars featured over 400 horsepower just to keep up with full competition trim rally cars boasting 600+ horsepower. Group B produced the most violent rally monsters ever constructed during one of motorsport’s most unrestricted eras.
Building a Group B Monster
After limited success with the rear-drive Escort RS1700T, Ford aimed to beat Audi at their own game with a mid-engine, turbocharged, and 4WD RS200. Designed by Ghia in Italy, the RS200 road car already packed incredible power from a 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder making 250hp along with a lightweight Kevlar-reinforced fiberglass chassis and huge aero.
But Ford hungered for more, creating the Evolution variant specifically for competing in Group B’s top class. Displacement bumped to 2.1L while the turbocharged engine exploded to over 600hp. Downforce doubled, the chassis stiffened, and weight dropped close to just 2,200 pounds. Ford had built one of the most frightening rally weapons imaginable.
Unleashing the Beast
The RS200 Evolution fulfilled its purpose immediately, bringing Ford victory at the 1986 Swedish Rally in the hands of Stig Blomqvist. It proved utterly dominant on the World Rally stage through the 1986 season against the world’s best competitors. Blomqvist described the Evo as “on the limit, all the time.” No other rally car could match its performance extremes.
But Group B’s dangers proved all too real when three spectators were killed after Joaquim Santos lost control of his RS200 in Portugal. Group B was soon banned – the RS200 Evolution’s rally career was brilliant but tragically brief. With just 24 street versions built, it remains among the rarest 1980s rally icons.
Legacy of Performance
The RS200 Evo distilled Group B’s thrills and perils into one incredible package. Its mind-boggling performance perfectly embodied rallying’s most excessive era. While dangerous and unhinged, the RS200 Evolution and its Group B rivals represent a period of unfettered imagination in motorsports that will likely never be matched again. The Evo’s audacious existence will eternally mark Ford and racing history.