Richard Hammond and The Smallest Cog’s first project – a restored Ford Escort RS2000 – could be yours

by James Mills
16 September 2021 4 min read
Richard Hammond and The Smallest Cog’s first project – a restored Ford Escort RS2000 – could be yours
Photos: CCA and Nathan Morgan

Richard Hammond and the team at The Smallest Cog, his new classic car restoration business, are ready to rev up fans of fast Fords, with the sale of a freshly recommissioned RS2000 Mk2 – that’s been worked on by Hammond himself.

The 1979 Rallye Sport model, which was designed to keep Ford ahead of a chasing pack on the rally and motor circuits of Europe, is one of the first projects to emerge from The Smallest Cog.

It is set to be sold at Classic Car Auctions (CCA) on Saturday 25th September at Stoneleigh Park, with a reserve price set at £35,000 to £40,000. You can compare that with average ’79 RS2000 values shown in The Hagerty Price Guide by clicking here.

In its day, the RS2000 was as hot as everyman cars got. The 1993cc, single overhead cam Pinto engine, mounted longitudinally in the engine bay with the gearbox bolted to the back of it, developed 110bhp and powered the fast Ford to 60mph in 8.5 seconds, and onto a top speed of 108mph. It was rarely seen driving at anything other than right angles to the direction of travel, and its front MacPherson strut and rear leaf-spring suspension is famed for the amount of travel it afforded rally-prepared models – perhaps most notably the David Sutton-prepared, Rothmans-sponsored, Escort RS1800 that Ari Vatanen and David Richards drove to the 1981 World Rally Championship.

The signature features of the 1979 RS2000 in custom trim include ‘fishnet’ Recaro seats – so-called for the mesh inserts in the headrests – full door cards, a clock and pod, centre console, 6Jx13-inch RS alloy wheels, boot carpet, a remotely operated drivers door mirror and black finish for the panel around the rear lights.

Finished in a new coat of Midnight Blue paint, chassis number GCATWE00347 is an opportunity for any Rallye Sport collector and fan of Richard Hammond. It has a recorded 81,566 miles showing on its odometer, and the recommissioning work includes a new interior fitted by Aldridge Trimmers as well as new front suspension and front and rear brakes.

Richard Hammond: ‘Restoring cars makes me happy’

Richard Hammond with his Ford RS2000 project car
Richard Hammond with the Ford RS2000 project car

Hammond has previously told Hagerty that learning skills from his colleagues at The Smallest Cog, as well as giving something back to the hobby that has been so good to him, is hugely appealing as he contemplates entering the next chapter in life – life after The Grand Tour.

“For me to be able to mooch in here on a Sunday morning my own,” said Hammond, “and actually work on restoring one of my own cars myself; the ultimate for me would be to bring a car out of that paintbooth that I’ve done from scratch – the welding, the fabrication, prep, paint, out the door, I’ve done it – I’ll be the happiest boy in the world.”

The Ford RS2000 before restoration by The Smallest Cog
The Ford RS2000 before restoration by The Smallest Cog

The 51-year old TV personality is under the tutelage of Neil Greenhouse, master craftsman at The Smallest Cog. Earlier this year, Hagerty saw the fast Ford undergoing recommissioning at the company’s new workshop, based in Hereford, with the body fresh from its respray and the car awaiting assembly. Richard and his team took the car to The London Classic Car Show before recommissioning. Since, the example has been recommissioned and prepared for this sale and recently appeared at Hampton Court Concours D’Elegance where it is said to have received many positive comments.

The RS2000 was originally supplied to the UK, but then spent some time in the Isle of Man before forming part of a collection in the Republic of Ireland. The car is on a Notification of Vehicle Arrivals (NOVA) and awaiting registration in the UK.

Within the history file is the Irish log book, first application for taxation of the car in Ireland, Irish import receipt (dated 12/2014), Irish SORN notifications as well as IoM log books confirming import to the IoM in 1981 and confirming original UK registration mark prior to import. Certificate of permanent export from the IoM dated November 2014, copy duplicate IoM registration certificates, invoices for work carried out and a selection of period road test re-prints, period sales media, brochures and articles, are all included in the sale.

And if you’d like to have the glovebox or sun visor signed by its one significant ‘owner’, perhaps that could be arranged…

John Mayhead, Manager of Automotive Intelligence at Hagerty, says there’s a chance that the RS2000 prepared by The Smallest Cog could exceed current market values. “Values of the Mk II Escort RS2000 have increased significantly since they were added to the Hagerty Price Guide back in January 2012, with our top price more than doubling from £17,100 to £36,200. Although collectors still prefer the design and pedigree of the Mk I and values are consequently higher, the Mk II is gaining in popularity, especially with other cars from the era really starting to become highly collectable.

“The estimate of £35,000 to £40,000 sits just above our top Hagerty Price Guide value of £36,200 for the model, but with the reported quality of this restoration plus the link to Richard Hammond, it could quite easily exceed our guide and break records for a car without competition history.

“With both Mk I and Mk II cars, it seems owners want cars in better condition, with our ‘fair’ values less than a third of the ‘concours’ examples in each case.”

Read more

Richard Hammond exclusive: ‘From rolling cars to rolling the dice on The Smallest Cog, my biggest gamble yet’
Hammond sells his ‘toy collection’ to raise £230,000 for The Smallest Cog
Little red devil: MST Mk2 Escort review

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  • Andrew Duffield says:

    As a qualified mechanical engineer with 45 years experience, a past classic restorer and the previous owner of three Mk2 RS2000’s, the RS2000 restored by The Smallest Cog appears to have points noticeable to the experienced eye that detract from the car. For example the car is sitting too high, the rear leaf spring should be a single leaf spring not multiple.

    You have to be very aware at what you are buying. I ran an engineering business for 35 years and took early retirement but still get involved in overseeing car restorations for owners done by restoration companies as a hobby and I am very interested in both cars and the engineering. This ensures the quality and specification is maintained and documented.

    It would be interesting to look at the RS2000 in more detail.

  • Andrew Hawton says:

    I had a MKII RS2000 custom in black, great car and regret letting her go

  • Mark Bryant says:

    I had an RS2000 XEM647W as a Police Traffic Car in Merseyside Police. I adored it covering 127,000miles in 2 years. Always wanted my own but couldn’t afford one.

  • Terry says:

    Andrew Duffield – ride height: was just about to leave a comment on the ride height when I read yours – a common problem when restorers have used new off the shelf springs without checking the original spec, perhaps that is the case here? If it had multi leaf rear springs originally and was competed, maybe that is correct for this car, but who would have rallied it in this finished state if that reflects the original? I was lucky to have a Mk 1 RS2000 in orange with the darker orange stripes in 1977and 78, never did like the look of the Mk2!

  • rick hough says:

    Brake pipes look a bit wavy. I usually make mine in cupro/nickel but I’m a fussy bugger. Like to straighten it all up before I start pulling curves around the chassis. I agree she looks a tad high but I wouldn’t say no to her.

  • Eamonn says:

    Is this car still for sale ?? Irish buyer .

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