Ford essentially used an Mk3 Escort body shell with a lot of front-end structural changes. Ford Motorsport assembled the first prototype vehicle, placing a 1.8 litre turbocharged BDA Cosworth engine, north/south in the engine bay coupled to a Hewland transaxle by a massive aluminium torque tube between the two.The gearbox was a quick shift five speed (non synchromesh “dog box”) for the rally car and a fully synchromesh five speed gearbox for the road version, with a estimated 52/48 weight distribution, with a 0-60mph time of 4.2 seconds.
Ford Motorsport biggest problem was how on earth they were going to get 200 road versions built and sell them through the Ford RS dealership network as required for Group B homologation. Ford approached Aston Martin Tickford, Lotus and Reliant to assemble the 200 cars required. Lotus was chosen for the job, but by this time Ford had come to realise that a 4×4 version would have to be designed. The 4×4 project never got of the ground.On March 15th 1983 Ford announced the appointment of Stuart Turner to Director of Ford European Motorsport. With about 200 body panels already made, the assembly of 200 engines with 200 synchromesh transaxles ready to go Ford pulled the pin on project “Columbia”, coming to the realisation that the Escort 1700T would never beat a 4×4 rally car in Group B rallying in this configuration.
Most of the prototype RS1700T vehicles were stripped down and shipped off to South Africa to take part in non homologation rallying events.One Escort RS1700T road prepared prototype survives to this day. Owned by Malcolm Wilson of M-Sport, this car is blue in colour and is somewhat tatty in appearance. The Escort RS1700T resides at M-Sports headquarters in their museum at Dovenby Hall, Dovenby Cumbria, in the UK.