Characteristic from Quick Ford journal. Phrases: Dan Williamson. Photographs: Ade Brannan.
August 1997 was drawing to an in depth. Hundreds of thousands – most likely billions – of individuals across the globe had been waking as much as surprising information: Diana, Princess of Wales had died.
She’d died in a automobile crash through the early hours of the morning; the Mercedes S280 she was touring in had collided with a Fiat Uno and hit right into a roof assist pillar in a Paris underpass. She died in hospital at 3am.
No matter your views on royalty, there’s no denying how a lot affect Diana’s dying made around the globe. Outpourings of feelings grew to become surreal, persevering with for months; even years. For a lot of, it was life altering: Diana had been an inspiration; a fairy-tale princess.
The Individuals’s Princess, because it turned out, was considered one of us. And we imply that within the Quick Automotive sense; automobiles had been entwined with Di’s public appearances, and she or he spent a few years behind the wheel of an excellent Blue Oval.
Her first was a 1981 Escort 1.6 Ghia, which changed the Austin Metro that Diana was driving when she got here to the general public’s consideration. Prince Charles, Di’s future husband, had purchased the silver Mk3 five-door as an engagement current for his fiancé in Might 1981; it sported a frog mascot on the bonnet to signify a fairy story by which a lady finds her prince by kissing a frog.
At public sale in 2021, the Ghia bought for £52,640.
Diana’s subsequent Blue Oval was believed to be a Regency Purple Mk3 1.6i Cabriolet (A462 RHK), provided on mortgage by Ford’s public affairs division, led by Harry Calton. It was the job of SVE’s particular automobile programmes supervisor Geoff Fox – who additionally occurred to run the Cabriolet undertaking at Karmann – to supply the automobile.
Geoff remembers, “The Cabrio was a particular construct, because the physique color was solely obtainable on the Ghia Cabriolet, not the 1.6i. So if there’s an XR3i Cabriolet in Regency Purple, there’s a bloody good probability it’s the identical automobile.”
Geoff was additionally liable for caring for the drop-top whereas it hung out again at base. He says, “I as soon as had the automobile with me, and it’s superb how many individuals wished to borrow the important thing so they might sniff the seat…”
By then a fully-fledged member of the British royal household, Diana was given round the clock bodyguards by SO14, the Metropolitan Police’s royalty safety group. SO14 thought-about the convertible too conspicuous – and too straightforward to focus on by terrorists – within the days when the IRA was nonetheless lively in mainland Nice Britain, so the Met approached Harry Calton to offer one thing extra discreet.
The suggestion was excellent: fashionable sufficient to be seen in round London, sharp sufficient to outrun hassle, and will mix in with the 1000’s of different Fords on the roads. It was the Escort RS Turbo.
The issue was, the RS Turbo was obtainable solely in Diamond White, with cumbersome bodykit and in-your-face decals. It was deemed too noticeable.
Harry had the answer. He had already been in talks with Fleet Avenue boss Jocelyn Stevens (one-time boss of the Every day Categorical and Every day Star, nicknamed Piranha Tooth and reckoned to be happy with his hard-man fame as a ‘posh bully’ with a behavior of for driving sports activities automobiles into lamp-posts; he’d additionally owned a collection of so-called ‘souped-up’ Escorts) about constructing an RS Turbo in manufacturing facility Black. The chance to supply one or two was too good to overlook.
So in summer season 1985, Harry turned to Geoff Fox to give you the products. As Geoff remembers, “You couldn’t get RS Turbos in black, so it was my job to get them collectively. This was all organised over the telephone, as mates and favours; Harry was liable for the order (it was an organization automobile), and I used to be conscious of its proposed person.”
Nevertheless it wasn’t a easy case of sending a couple of Escorts down the road with a distinct shade of paint within the gun. And, as Geoff says, “The complexity of portray the our bodies off-line after meeting was too costly, with a threat to color high quality. So the automobiles had been all painted on line, because the black physique color was present within the plant.”
What’s extra, RS Turbos’ bodykits had been provided to the Saarlouis manufacturing line by Marley Foam, pre-sprayed in Diamond White. Geoff remembers, “I spoke with Gordon Pollard (gross sales director at Marley Foam), and we (SVE) raised a prototype order to cowl the fee to color the physique dress-up equipment, which had been the one elements not obtainable within the plant.”
Three units of black bodykits had been provided to Saarlouis, and three black Sequence One RS Turbos had been constructed; none had been factory-finished in every other colors, aside from white.
Of the three black automobiles, one was Diana’s Escort RS Turbo, one other was to be used by SO14 as a decoy automobile for would-be assassins and paparazzi photographers, and the third was provided to Jocelyn Stevens, who had it chauffeur-driven. So far as Geoff remembers, solely the Diana automobile had an Escort grille so as to look extra like an everyday Mk3; the others wore the everyday Orion/RS Turbo half. All had been provided with blue RS decals and entrance driving lamps.
In order the Cabriolet was returned to public affairs (earlier than being re-registered and bought), Diana was offered with the RS Turbo, registered C462 FHK; the decoy was C973 HAR. Registered on 23 August 1985, she used the RS Turbo as her on a regular basis runabout; for nipping to fancy outlets, lunching with mates, and attending high-profile occasions.
Sometimes, Diana’s passenger can be an armed bodyguard, so there was a radio within the glovebox (its cable nonetheless current right this moment) and a second rear-view mirror mounted atop the windscreen. Up to date pictures additionally confirmed Di driving with then-infant Prince William within the again seat.
By the point the RS was returned to Ford in Might 1988, it had coated 6800 miles – most with Diana on the wheel. It’s not know why it wasn’t changed with a Sequence Two, though Di was snapped on the Guards Polo Membership on 29 June 1988 whereas driving a Sapphire Cosworth; typically regarded as Mercury Gray, the Sapphire was virtually actually Crystal Blue. Its registration quantity E876 EVW has disappeared with no hint.
Di went on to drive a Jaguar XJ-S V12 Cabriolet, adopted by a Mercedes 500SL after which an Audi 80 convertible. A lot for SO14’s insistence on her having a hard-top…
As for the RS Turbo, it was re-registered (as was typical for royal automobiles) by Ford as C515 DYT and bought to Geoff King, one of many agency’s managers, for his spouse to make use of; he paid £2638.
Diana’s Escort RS Turbo subsequent appeared within the limelight in September 1993, when it was given away in a promotional competitors by Kiss FM. The prizewinner, Miss Jones from Essex, obtained the automobile with 12,000 miles on the clock. She didn’t maintain it for lengthy as a result of that’s when it got here to the eye of the quick Ford fraternity – for its Rallye Sport heritage reasonably than its royal blood.
Blue Oval devotee Jeff Windsor tracked down the Escort and acquired it in November 1994. Jeff used the automobile for RS House owners’ Membership occasions, the place curiosity grew on this one-of-a-kind machine.
Earlier than lengthy, it caught the eye of RS fanatic Mark Bailey – higher identified to most Ford followers as proprietor of the Bonkers Assortment.
Mark says, “I approached Jeff by means of the membership discussion board. It took me two years to steer him to promote it, and I paid an terrible lot of cash for it at a time when excellent 20,000-mile RS Turbos had been going for £15,000.”
That was 2008, when the Bonkers Assortment was beginning to be the topic of a lot dialogue on web teams. Mark had begun shopping for the lowest-mileage, lowest-ownership RSs he might discover; they needed to be unique and unrestored. This four-owner and vastly uncommon black Escort match the invoice completely.
Mark confirms, “I wouldn’t have purchased it with out the provenance. There’s an A4 field file filled with all of the historical past, and a letter from Kensington Palace saying they had been conscious of the automobile, however had no pictures.”
On the time, the RS was nonetheless carrying its non-royal registration quantity. However Mark quickly rectified it with a visit to the DVLA.
He remembers, “Within the press picture, Diana’s Escort RS Turbo was C462 FHK. DVLA might inform from the chassis quantity all of the earlier registration numbers, which confirmed that C515 DYT was the identical automobile as C462 FHK. Di actually drove this one.”
Mark requested the DVLA to return his Escort to its unique identification, then started a strategy of additional restoration. Mark’s mechanic, Keith, stripped the RS of its glass, engine and working gear and renovated each part.
“We cleaned the shell, however stored the unique panels and paintwork. We didn’t change the elements – we simply refurbished all of it; we re-zinced nuts and bolts so every thing is unique however higher than new,” provides Mark.
“After we took the manufacturing facility underseal off, we did discover somebody had etched two initials into the shell, on the floorpan the place it meets the chassis legs, earlier than it was painted.” In keeping with Geoff Fox, the initials had been most probably inscribed by staff on the Saarlouis manufacturing line, conscious that the Escort was a particular order, however unaware of fairly how particular its supposed driver can be.
Sadly, Mark couldn’t carry himself to take the RS for a fast blast; he admits, “I’ve completed about 200 miles in it in 14 years, only for the MOT and again. I’ve by no means used the automobile as a result of it’s irreplaceable. To me, it’s so treasured. That is considered one of one.”
Nonetheless, Mark’s an affable chap. He’s all the time been eager to point out his assortment to fellow fanatics, and Diana’s Escort – nonetheless exhibiting simply 24,961 recorded miles – has typically taken centre stage. “Individuals get emotional once they sit in it,” he says. “Individuals wish to sniff the seat.”
Even so, Mark has determined it’s time to let somebody take over custody of this distinctive Ford. After two years’ deliberation and 5 completely different individuals providing six-figure sums, Mark’s entered the Escort into Silverstone Auctions on 27 August 2022 – frustratingly after Quick Ford goes to print however earlier than it’s delivered to your door.
Mark says, “I’m now semi-retired in Monaco, and I’ve nowhere to retailer it. I don’t spend a lot time within the UK, and don’t even get probability to have a look at the automobile.
“I’ll be there on the public sale, and it’ll be an emotional day for me. I put on two hats – a car-dealer hat and car-collector hat. I do get hooked up to automobiles that I’ve fond reminiscences of.
The well-known Diana Escort RS Turbo was a part of a powerful line-up of historically-important automobiles to go underneath the hammer at Silverstone Public sale’s latest occasion at The Traditional, Silverstone weekender. Alongside a number of different sought-after automobiles – together with a number of different quick Fords – it was Diana’s Escort RS Turbo that stole the limelight, promoting for an unimaginable £650,000.
This 12 months marks the 25th anniversary of Diana’s dying, and with a number of documentaries being launched, plus all the present publicity surrounding the Royal Household, the Individuals’s Princess will as soon as once more be on the forefront of the general public’s thoughts. And meaning, regardless of the hefty price ticket this RS Turbo has most likely already confirmed an appreciating funding.
Identical to the Princess Diana, this RS Turbo is actually considered one of variety.