Wednesday, June 22, 2016


THE FORD ESCORT 1972 RALLY-WINNER CAR SHOULD HAVE been released in kit form years ago. But it’s better late than never, so here is one of Ford’s most popular mid-sized cars from the late 20th century, released to 1:24 scale by Belkits of Belgium.

Mat Irvine: The Ford Escort saloon has been available in smaller scales, as kits, diecasts and slot cars, but this is the first kit to the bigger 1:24 scale. This Ford Escort comes from the Belgian company, Belkits. And from the look of the extra parts that are included in the box, but not used here, we should be seeing other Escort kits in future that do use them. 

Actually, there are already two Belkits Ford Escorts. The kit in this review features the car that won the 1972 Daily Mirror RAC Rally, as driven by Roger Clark and Tony Mason. The second kit models the winner of the following year's race.

Box side panel (below) shows a different view of the 1972 car.

The Belkits construction style is conventional, with a one-piece body, multi-piece interior, plus chassis and running gear. This is a curbside kit, to use US terminology, in that you don’t get an engine or opening bonnet, but you do get suspension, running gear and the sump of a simplified lower engine block, though this is mostly hidden by the sump guard, a vital protective item for off-road stages.

The parts supplied with the kit allow for a right- or left-hand driving position, and either the original round, or later square headlamps. You get all components for all versions. However, care has to be taken when building, to ensure that you use the correct parts for your particular build. 

The instructions give many drawings that are really irrelevant, such as building up the left-hand drive interior, whereas this particular car was right-hand drive. Building up the square-headlamp version is also shown, though both kits use the traditional round headlamps. So, you will have to ignore any instructions for anything that’s not directly relevant to the version in hand.

Chassis assembly (below) with sump guard not yet fitted below the engine.

The windscreen wipers are also ‘handed’ for left-or right-hand drive. Holes have to be drilled from the inside for the relevant version, though I found it was easier to get the bodywork completed, only then lining up the wipers and drilling the holes.

The sump guard (below right) ready to be added.

Parts for the disc brakes (below) are among the parts included on the photo-etch sheet.

Two sets of tyres are supplied, one looks like road or track, the other off-road, though there is no mention of which to use - so take your pick! 

Completed underside (below). Note the sump guard, now firmly in position between the front wheels.

The Escort’s interior allows the option of using either the supplied decals for the full rallying seat harness, or building it up from the thin ribbon and photo-etch buckles also provided. The latter is the more authentic option, but the material does tend to fray, and where you have to pass two layers through the photo-etch buckles, the slots are just not wide enough. 

In the end, I did a slight cheat. Some material was threaded through, but the majority of cases the belts were made up and the buckles were then glued into place! Note that it is the navigator - in this case Tony Mason - who had the larger seat. The driver had the steering wheel to hold onto, the navigator had to have as much seat support as he could get! 

I made the seat belts (below) using the supplied thin ribbon and photo-etch parts.

Belkits also supplies instrument decals, a footrest for the navigator, roll cage and container for the rear seat panel (made from vinyl) which holds tools and the fire extinguisher. Besides the tyres, vinyl is also used for the mud flaps, though again these are supplied for all versions. This particular car used only one set at the rear.

Interior cocoon (below) complete with roll cage. Note the fire extinguisher attached to the rear panel.

There are comprehensive decals, made by the specialist company, Cartograf. This Escort is basically all white, and I used Humbrol acrylic Gloss White over the matt finish I had sprayed as a base coat. The blue stripes are on the decal sheet, though decal softener was needed to get them to seat snugly around the wheel arches. The FORD letters for the bonnet and boot are supplied on the decal sheet as conventional waterslide decals, but are also provided on a separate metallized decal sheet. Oddly, this is not mentioned in the instructions.

Positioning the circular headlamps (below). These fit into place from the inside of the bodywork.

The body and interior-chassis (below) ready for final assembly.

The completed Belkits Ford Escort RS1600 (three pix below). The model could really do with some figures to set it off. Maybe an aftermarket company, such as Scale Production, will oblige.

Closeup of the front (below) complete with four massive spotlamps. The neat grille is a photo-etch part.

Even with the few little niggles I mentioned, the Belkits Ford Escort is still a very welcome kit. It fills an important gap in any collection of rally cars, especially all-British ones, as this Escort was a Ford of Britain product with a Lotus-built engine. It was this car and its drivers that broke the Scandinavian grip on the RAC rally, the first time for 13 years.  

The other Belkits Ford Escort (below) is the RS1600 that won the 1973 Daily Mirror RAC Rally.

The German specialist car kit producer Scale Production has already issued what they call a ‘Transkit’ (below) for the Belkits Escort. The Transkit includes a separate bonnet, engine bay interior, and twin-cam Lotus engine.

Check out the BBC World/Top Gear video (below) introduced by Tony Mason, in which he and Roger Clark take the rebuilt original car for a spin. 

In the video, Tony Mason solves the mystery of why the Belkits decal sheet includes four black stripes, visible either side of the number 4 on the rebuilt car, though not on the box-art photograph. He explains that after a particularly wet and windy stage (common for the RAC Rally) the numbers were starting to peel off. Tony stuck them back on with black sticky tape, as missing numbers on the car would have led to immediate disqualification!
Scale stats
Belkits: Ford Escort RS1600 Mk I 1972 RAC Rally Winner
Scale: 1:24
Parts: 90 plus photo-etch
Assembled length: 170 mm (6.75 in)
Manufacturer’s ref: BEL007

Thanks to The Hobby Company, Belkits UK importer and distributor, for the review kit.