Hammond’s icons: Escort Cosworth | Top Gear
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  • Independent suspension all-round and four-wheel drive with 34/66 split front/rear are cool features
    on a modern car; but on something appearing in 1992, well, it showed the Escort Cosworth was deadly serious. This Monte Carlo special edition even featured wheels just like those on the legendary WRC cars. But these are irrelevant points right now. Because... look at the wing. Gawping at an Escort Cosworth and commenting on anything else is like complimenting a pole dancer's eyebrows. Just look at that bloody wing... it's massive.

    Yes, later versions of the Escort Cosworth featured a smaller turbo and, though less powerful - down to 217 from 227bhp - were considered the better drive, but... look at the wing.

    This feature first appeared in the February 2012 issue of Top Gear magazine

    Words: Richard Hammond
    Photos: Justin Leighton 

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  • The car sort of hangs off it, like a trapeze artist under a particularly massive and aerodynamically optimised swing. This, in fact, was the Cossie wing in full, unabated majesty. Later on, it would be cruelly shrunk to appease miserable anti-fun-ists like the Swiss, and later still it was dropped entirely for the final models in 1996. But let's not dwell on the sad, grey days to come, let's savour the moment and pay homage to the wing.

    Leaping in, I sort of carried on, leaping through time, back to about 1989, before the Cossie Escort was even out. I started work at a local radio station in the North. The news editor volunteered to take me on a job, and we dashed - I thought rather heroically - to the underground car park and hopped into the station car; an Escort, albeit not the same version as this one today. This was, as far as I knew, the first time a member of the Hammond clan had ever ridden in a brand-new car. And it had the name of the radio station emblazoned down the side.

  • I fairly died of excitement, but contained it and stared in awe at the new dash, the new seats, the new stereo like a 747's flight deck. The editor, a man of unimaginable power and influence, fired it up, hit the gas, reversed out of the slot like something from The Sweeney and crashed it into a concrete pillar. The day ended. But, as I haven't told you that it was BBC Radio York, you can't possibly work out that the editor was Alan Grieveson, and so his blushes are saved.

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  • One glance in the rearview mirror is enough to remind me that we are not in the same humble, shopping version that the editor-who-shall-remain-nameless stuffed - the wing is there, looming up behind, filling the mirror entirely. But the thing is, that was the last time I sat in an Escort of this vintage, and the inside, it has to be said, has aged less well than the outside. There is actually a cd player, but it is an entirely separate unit from the radio-cassette player.

  • The edges on the plastic dash trim could be used to saw through rope. And the seats, a special Monte Carlo edition option, feature a pattern designed specifically to mask Sharon's shame when she barfs after too many Bacardi and Cokes. Though that would have been, there is no doubt in the world, the end of Sharon's sojourn as the girlfriend of whoever was driving. And the ending would not have been handled gently.

  • This was not a car for the shy and retiring type, nor the poor. It cost 25 grand. A hell of a lot then. And the insurance was, of course, crippling. This car was part of the movement that saw the end of the fast-car dream for anyone under the age of 95, as premiums soared, yobbos stole, police pursued and premiums soared some more.

  • But to hell with it. Fire up the 2.0-litre engine with an appropriate cough and a blat, check in the mirror - yup, it's full of wing, completely full - and hit it. It certainly wasn't a slow car in its day, and neither is it now. Sixty from a standstill takes six seconds; top speed is 140mph.

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  • And, all the time, there it is, in the mirror, that wing. Image was all in 1992, and, even today, pedalling the Cossie around our track, whilst I'm well aware of the rear-biased four-wheel drive split giving me excellent control and balance through corners, with the availability of big lairy slides should I choose, we are only there, the car and I, to drive the wing about. Bigger was better, and this was the biggest. It's flawed, yes, but fully deserving of its status as a legend, if only for the point in automotive history that it marks.

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