Peter & Jill Bryan own a 1970 RS1600 GL9897, UK rego DGU888H
Our ex Mike Marshall Escort is a March 1970 Hailwood built RS1600 which was dealer registered DGU888H, and then taken over by the Ford AVO factory where it then became a Test & development car in the later part of 1970.
At the AVO factory the car was fitted with the bubble arch flares, turret kits and all the goodies that were available at the time. The car was later stolen and stripped by a Ford employee. The Police located all the stolen parts at his home. We have Ford archive photos of the car at the AVO factory 1970. The production of RS1600’s at the AVO factory started around Oct 1970
It’s time at Ford from 1971 to mid ’72 is still being researched, hoping that some more information will come to light. The request to the Chelmsford Car Club for more information on whether Mike Hibbert drove the car on the 1972 Britvic Rally produced a reply from Mike Hibbert which did indeed confirm that he did use this car. It ties up with another article written after Mike Marshall had just purchased the vehicle.
Mike Marshall went to England with the help of Ray Stone, purchased the car from Ford UK one week prior to his first Rally in England, the Dukeries Rally. By this stage the car was a fully prepared Rally car but really tired looking and well used. Mike was in the privileged position of being able to take the car to the Boreham workshops where he worked on the car with the help of the Works Escorts mechanics. A quote from Jeremy Walton: “the usually scathing Boreham mechanics referred to Mike Marshall as ‘the NZ Roger Clark’ and an ‘ok guy’ ”. These were great compliments coming from them.
The car was rebuilt and updated prior to the start of the 1972 RAC Rally when it first ran with the Woolmark sponsorship and also his regular NZ co-driver, Arthur McWatt. The spec of the car then was a 1780cc all steel BDA, rocket box, 2 link rear suspension etc. Mike was having clutch problems early on in the RAC and crashed the car heavily into a stone wall on the Great Orme stage, putting Mike in hospital. (Apparently Mike wasn’t wearing his seatbelts??). The badly damaged car was then returned to the Boreham workshops and stripped. Mike bought a brand new old spec. Works/ Gomm shell from Boreham. The car was rebuilt into this shell with the latest Works dash setup and Lockheed servo’s that were also being fitted to the 1973 Monte Carlo Works Escorts. We still retain this original body shell with its Competition Dept. body tag.
With the re-shelled and updated car finished in early 1973, Mike competed in 2 more Rallies, (Snowman and the Circuit of Galway), all with Woolmark sponsorship. Mike’s best result was 3rd over-all to Roger Clark in the Snowman Rally. The car was then shipped back to New Zealand.
The first Rally Mike competed in NZ in this car was the 1973 Shell Triple 100 in the South Island, which he won, followed by a win in the 1973 Woodhill Rally. I also competed in this Rally in my 1600cc 105E Anglia.
Early 1973 planning was well in progress for the 1973 NZ Heatway International Rally.
Heatway were a Company that manufactured electrical heaters and appliances.
Through Ray Stone/Ford NZ, 3 brand new AVO special build RS1600’s were built and sent to NZ for the Heatway Rally. These Special build RS1600’s had the bubble arches, turret kits, 2 link suspension, atlas axles, bilsteins etc but still had standard engines. These cars were intended to be the Ford/Woolmark team cars but this changed with the availability of 2 ex Safari Works Escorts XPU 217L/218L which were still in Mombasa.
Ford sold 2 of the AVO cars due to the availability of the 2 Works cars.
The two Works Escorts were held up in Mombasa due to shipping problems so the cars were then air-freighted to England, refurbished then air-freighted to NZ. With the cars late arrival very close to the start of the Heatway Rally, Mike Marshall opted not to drive the LHD XPU217L as he had not enough time to practice in it or convert it to RHD.
The decision was made by Ford to lease Mike’s own RHD car and transferred all the mechanicals out of XPU217L, e.g., 2litre alloy BDA, 5 speed ZF etc into his Escort, GL9897. Mick Jones, chief mechanic from Boreham, was brought out to help out oversee the service requirements for the team during the Rally.
With Hannu Mikkola in XPU218L, Marshall in GL9897 and Blair Robson in GK780, these cars made up the Woolmark Ford Team winning the Trade team prize for the Rally.
Marshall, Robson and Jim Richards were entered as the Ford NZ Team, coming 2nd to Nissan for the Manufacturers prize. Mikkola was first o/a and Marshall was 2nd.
After the Heatway Rally the Works XPU mechanicals were then transferred out of Mike’s car back into XPU217L which was then converted to RHD and re-registered HC2168. This was Mike's car that he used for several years until the Mk2 in 1975.
GL9897 was then sold to ex Saloon car champion, Dave Simpson in 1974 still with the original 1780 BDA. XPU218L was then sold to Ford Australia.
In 1996 we purchased GL9897. It was still in its original Works shell but unfortunately was left outside under a cover for 8 years and allowed to rust. I have since reshelled the car back to its original period spec’s and it is still currently under restoration using many of the original parts.
Several semi- Works cars were built and prepared from Boreham’s guest bay e.g. Mike Marshall’s car. I also have photos of a RS1600 which was being built alongside Mike’s car with the same specifications. This car was for South Africa.
Hopefully this article may jog some memories from older members and may produce some photos. Restoration progress can be seen on my website.
Peter & Jill Bryan, NZ. www.peter.bryan.org.nz