Time for another collection update. If you read my recent look back at all the versions of the ’12 Ford Fiesta, you can probably sense a theme developing here. Small fast Fords with a whiff of rally about them make up quite a percentage of my Hot Wheels collection.
Until the Hot Wheels came along, it had been a while since we’d seen a model Mk.1 Escort in 1:64/three-inch size. Corgi Rockets/Juniors had one – originally as part of a James Bond On Her Majesty’s Secret Service set from 1970 that’s now insanely expensive. You can see my regular blue Whizz Wheels version below. Mk.1s were also made by Polistil, Schuco and probably some other brands I don’t know about, back while the big-selling real Escort was in production from 1967-75.
I was instantly taken with the Hot Wheels ’70 Ford Escort RS1600 when it first appeared in 2015. The casting has fantastic proportions and a great stance – something that can’t be said for the Fast & Furious Escort that Mattel made in 1:55 scale. Add in the Mk.1 Escort’s incredible rally and circuit racing pedigree, plus a high-profile movie connection, and it’s a winning recipe.
As with many recent Hot Wheels castings, the RS1600 has had plenty of mileage as a licensed Fast & Furious movie model. The real car was driven in Fast & Furious 6 by Brian O’Conner, played by the late Paul Walker. We’ll step through all 16 versions of this beautiful Escort in a minute, but first some notes on its creation from designer, Fraser Campbell.
“I was probably the one who added the Escort as a model submission prior to when the movie license was even considered,” remembers Fraser. “When the project was started, I think the license deal for the movie was still in the works. Getting the Ford license was no big deal so first and foremost, the reference we used had to be from an RS1600 – just in case we couldn’t get the movie license. That explains some of the differences from the movie car.
“As with most of my models this was a pleasure to work on, but I think this one turned out quite special,” he continues. “I was particularly chuffed with the stance. I had to use the medium wheels to get the correct size and proportions, but they needed to cut into the flares. Since the flares are such an iconic feature of the design, that was quite tricky to get right. I recall several rounds of comments with the engineer were needed. I was also quite happy that we were able to attach the spotlights to the windows, keeping the part count to four, but keeping the detail level high.”
Fraser adds that the Escort may have been his first licensed car with chrome bumpers. “One of my favourite castings is the Matchbox 1972 Lotus Europa Special, which was created by Ryu Asada,” he explains. “He had a lovely method to get those thin bumpers so I used it on this.” Ryu himself adds that the Matchbox Lotus was a favourite project. “I had to fight hours or days to keep those chrome filler caps as separate parts,” he says. Here’s a look at the Europa and Escort together.
Those thin bumpers are great, aren’t they?
OK, time to run down all the versions so far of the ’70 Ford Escort RS1600.
1) 2015 mainline – blue
The Escort made its bow as #221 in the 2015 mainline, in a blue-and-white scheme that we’ll see plenty more of in the listings to come. I’d have liked to see the white stripe extend right across the arches, but it still looks brilliant. What a start!
2) 2015 mainline – white
An inverse scheme for the 2015 recolour, but another fine choice – an authentic look and reminiscent of some of the most famous Mk.1 Escort rally cars back in the day.
3 & 4) 2016 mainline – red & white
This pair brought a race-style deco to the RS1600 for the first time. Both Broadspeed and Zakspeed raced Castrol-sponsored RS1600s in the 1970s so the choice of Castrol here is spot on. The hood of the white car in particular is very close to an actual Broadspeed livery.
5) 2017 Fast & Furious – metallic blue
The first licensed Fast & Furious Escort outside the mainline was #6 of an eight-car series in 2017. It’s not great, though – the movie car’s blue wasn’t metallic, the gold MC5 wheels don’t look the best and a copyright statement appears on the left-hand door.
6) 2017 multipack – yellow
Definitely the most distinctive of all the Escort versions. Yellow with a black stripe has echoes of a real Escort Mexico even if the wheels are a bit over the top. Mine came from a three-pack but it was available in 10-packs, too.
7 & 8) 2018 mainline/Super Treasure Hunt – blue
The RS1600 returned to the mainline in 2018 as part of the Hot Wheels 50th Race Team set. There were 10 different castings in all, some of which came in multiple colours, including the Escort, which had both a regular release in matt French blue and a Super Treasure Hunt issue in a darker, spectraflame shade. As you’d expect, the Super is a real beauty – one of the very best of all the RS1600s. I was fortunate to get it in a trade.
9) 2019 Car Culture Fast Imports – blue
The following year saw another premium release of the Escort, this time in the best of the Fast & Furious versions seen to date. It’s a special model, with great detail printed all around the car (including the correct London license plate at the rear, YLV 7J), fantastic weight from the metal base and some well-chosen Minilite-style wheels. All it needs (again) is a continuous white stripe!
10 & 11) 2019 mainline – white and black
The two Gumball 3000 issues from 2019 are nicely done. I especially like the off-white version, which has a vintage rally look about it and would make a good basis for a custom rally car, if I had the time and talent!
12) 2019 Fast & Furious five-pack – blue
You’ve seen this one before, right? Well, kind of. With its 5SP rims, it’s very similar to the debut release and has a lot in common with both the earlier, metallic Fast & Furious car and the Car Culture edition. Note that this one has tinted windows compared to the mainline debut’s clear ones and there’s no Hot Wheels logo ahead of the rear arches.
13) 2019 Hot Wheels id – blue
Take one great casting in an iconic paint scheme, bling it up a bit, add an RFID chip, and voilà! The first RS1600 id car. The combination of spectraflame light-blue paint and gold id wheels looks fabulous on this car – well worth tracking down.
14) 2020 mainline – orange
Another authentic 70s Escort colour is the basis for the last mainline release to date. The fictitious rally livery isn’t the best and the model has warmed the pegs in my local supermarket for some months.
15) 2020 Hot Wheels id chase – orange
The orange mainline model spawned an id chase model, too. I never saw this in-store but picked it up through a Facebook auction. It’s definitely the lesser of the two id Escorts in my view.
16) 2020 Car Culture Door Slammers – black
And finally, the most recent release was this appealing black-green spectraflame version with gold pinstriping. It looks great and the deco contains a namecheck for Ford and rally-loving designer, Mark Jones, who brought us the ’12 Ford Fiesta as well as the recent new RS200 and Lancia 037 castings in the Thrill Climbers series.
With the exception of the Super, I’ve been fortunate that all the Escorts issued so far have been relatively inexpensive to find. I’ll continue to hunt down future versions of the RS1600, too. The real cars were raced and rallied so extensively that there are still plenty of untapped ideas for future decos. I’m getting a little tired of the recent Gulf overload, but there was a real racing Escort in Gulf colours that would make a great model, for example. The distinctive Alan Mann racers in gold and red would look fantastic, too, as would one of Ford’s most famous rally machines, Hannu Mikkola’s London to Mexico World Cup Rally-winning car from 1970. How about it, Hot Wheels?