My Cosworth story: ‘It’s not everyone’s idea of a supercar – but for me it’s a super car’

Cars People Culture

Turbo lag. It’s not seen as something to aspire to.

Look around you. McMindfulness meatheads smash their screens between Zoom calls and online pilates sessions. Anti-vax perps with cabin fever, who get their news from Call of Duty twitch feeds, cop i3s and hunting bows with their bounce back loans.

The projected 2035 ban on sales of new internally combusted cars rushes over the horizon toward us, a genetically encoded harbinger of doom. Motors like the Ford Escort RS Cosworth are as if dropped from another, better, universe.

Front of purple Escort Cosworth with landscape in the background

Turbo lag means a great deal to Dean Long, the owner of the 1993 purple Cossie you see before you.

Dean, who is 42 and originally from Sutton Coldfield, also co-owns CNC machine shop EWL Engineering, who produce machines and turned parts supplying the automotive and automotive industries. Dean knows machines. And turbo lag to Dean means the difference between a guy called Gerald and a guy called Bieber. It’s the difference between washing down a Yellow Burger with a pint of lager and lime and choking out on a substantial venison scotch egg and an over-hopped IPA. He describes to us the guilty pleasure of lag.

“When you put your foot down and there’s that little gap between your pedal movement and kick in the lower back,” he says.

“Those white dials up there on the dashboard do their thing, and you’re projected forward a couple of seconds later – it just never fails to put a smile on your face.”

Escort RS Cosworth steering wheel and dashboard with view out of the front windscreen

At the heart of Dean’s smile is something basic, something essential about what makes us love motors.

“This car reminds me of what it was like to be a young man starting out in the world”, he tells me as we roll along a single track road of the Dark Peak in England’s central uplands. The low sun is glinting off the intake vents in the Cossie’s bonnet. The three-strutted ‘whale tail’ spoiler frames the countryside through the hatch window as it scrolls behind us.

“I’ve had Audis. I’ve had Alfas and even newer RS Fords”, he says as he checks the mirror and shifts down into second. “But nothing really matches up to this. It’s not everyone’s idea of a supercar – but for me it’s a super car.”

He hammers the right foot down and sure enough there’s a low-frequency grunt, the hands creep on the white dials to three thousand revs and boom! The car leaps forward, Dagenham-forged steel panels reverberating around us. That smile spreads. I get it. Totally.

If you grew up anywhere near Dagenham in London’s sprawling estuarine orient, almost everyone you ever knew owned a Ford Escort. Their dads owned a Ford Escort. And so did their dads. But very few owned a genuine RS-badged Escort. That was for the specialists, the aficionados and the sons of the senior management. Applying the RS badge to the fifth-gen Escort and then bolting in the Cosworth engine was a kind of alchemy. Ford took the base metal of the most blue-collar of their everyman motors and conjured something that outstripped the brand itself. Magic.

Purple Ford Escort front side view with wheel in shot

The rationale for producing the Escort RS Cosworth was simple and familiar: homologate their most popular model to qualify for and to win the World Rally Championship. The mission didn’t come to full fruition – but the cars won a number of rally victories between 1993 and 1997, when WRC Focus came along and started another chapter in the Cossie canon. It created in the process something that will be fetishised forever.

Purple Escort Cosworth shown from the back with blue sky in view

Dean’s Cossie is one of the rarer ‘Big Turbo’ versions, which rolled off the line early in the story. Look at the engine. It’s pretty. That’s a T34 turbo. Loads of kick from 3,000 revs. More lag than the later ‘small turbo’ engines. But there’s more boost. No kick till 3,000. And as discussed that lag is logged in the credit column of the experiential spreadsheet (which we doubt existed in the early 1990s).

Dean’s company produces all the trick, colourful bits you see on the engine. But these aesthetic bits and bobs are underpinned by the focussed tuning attention of Matt Lewis Motorsports.

“Paul is a mate,” says Dean. “I make parts for him, and Matt prepares my cars. He loves these cars as much as I do and he’s the only person I would trust with it.”

And those pieces are a breathless litany of rev-head vowels and consonants.

T34 Turbo engine with purple detailing on the Ford Escort RS Cosworth

“She’s got a straight-through stainless steel Mongoose exhaust; a pro alloy swirl pot and header tank. There is uprated boost and coolant hoses and a fuel pump. The intercooler is from an RS500, the chip is tweaked and those are 8mm performance ignition leads. There’s a carbon fibre cam cover, and a one-off machined carbon and anodised aluminium heat shield – and the aluminium tank caps were machined by my own fair hand.”

That smile creeps back on Dean’s face. As he sets off back over the Peak and the Cossie coughs another boosty grunt, the sun comes out perfectly framed across to the west and etches the purple legend in gorgeous relief.