What was the fastest road-legal Ford sold in South Africa in June 1980? You might think it was the big-engined XR6 or even a local special with a V8 shoehorned under the bonnet of a tame saloon but it was, in fact, a 1600 Sport Escort, force-fed by a turbo-charger and sold through Pretoria-based Ford dealer, Steyns Ford.
Unique to South Africa the standard Escort 1600 Sport, which launched in 1979, was a nippy runabout that provided a more entry-level performance Ford to those that lusted after the 2-litre RS2000. The ‘1-6-double O’ differed from the rest of the Escorts on sale by means of 5.5j Rosstyle wheels, round halogen headlights, spotlights, matt black quarter bumpers and twin side mirrors, and ‘1600 Sport’ decals. Inside the cabin seating was amped up with headrests, Chevron cloth upholstery, three-spoked steering wheel and full set of gauges, glove box and an electric clock mounted in the centre console.
With Formula 1 employing the monstrous 1500bhp four-cylinder turbo layout in the early 1980s it was no surprise that the ‘real car guys’ talked the turbo talk – especially those on the Highveld, where a turbo would somewhat negate the lack of air created by the altitude. Alan Brough, through his Randburg-based Brospeed Developments, was vocal about the benefits (performance, economy and relatively cheap smiles) of turbos in South Africa and the deal between Steyns Ford and Brospeed kicked off into 1980, with the first unit ready and tested by June.