Back in the mid-1970's John Robinson gained a reputation for building extremly fast and reliable spaceframe Ford Escort silhouette race cars. First using mark 1 bodywork for first himself and then Nick Whiting. For 1977 Whiting gained a new car with RS2000 panels and 3.4 Cosworth G.A.A. engine. Whiting won dozens of races through this period and Robinson sold a few customer cars off the back of his increasing reputation. One such customer was Edinburgh frozen meat producer that had gained a reputation as fast racer with a mark 1 Escort. Entered by Sports-Tune Walter had a Robinson bored 2.2 BDG fitted for its debut at Croft ,March 20th 1977. A more regular 1975cc BDG followed by June as Walter appeared at his local Ingliston circuit ,the return meeting at Knockhill and dipped into England a few times at Croft ,the newly re-opened Donington Park and Cadwell Park.
A change of livery wasn't the main change for 1978 as Walter changed the BDG for one of the new BMW M12 Formula Two 2-litre units. These DOHC 16-valve engines gave a peak 300 bhp at 9250rpm ,perfectly enough to make this lightweight car fly ,the weight of which is believed to be as low as 750 kgs. In comparison Group 5 BMW 320's with the same engine weighed about 790. The extra sponsorship came from S.G.Barker ( Leith ) Ltd.
Walter embarked on a very busy race scheduel taking him right down the length of the country including the 850-mile round trip to Brands Hatch. The BRDC had picked up the Super Saloon baton and Walter raced in all 8 rounds in the 2500cc class finishing in the top 3 in class every time with 3 class wins. This consistancy won him the 2500cc class ,the highlight of his 2-season association with the car as Super Saloons were packed full of the very cream of the sport. Class rivals included Tony Sugden ( Daf BDG ), Tony Dickinson and Derek Walker ( Skodas ) and Graham Goode ( Escort ). Tony Sugden states that Walter was one of the best opponents he ever raced against. Besides Supersaloons Walter also did 10 rounds in the BRSCC 'Rivet Supply' Championship which was also well supported and also well rewarded with prize money to attract these top machines. Tony Sugden won the 2500 class with Walter 2nd. Kettlewell's guide states Walter had 15 wins in 1978 which are class wins. 3rd in class in the Scottish Special Saloon championship mostly at his local Ingliston circuit was also recorded.
Walter Robertson Escort-BDG - 1977 known results :
Walter Robertson Escort-Bmw - 1978 known results :
more results to be added. 15 class wins noted by Mike Kettlewell.
The BMW M12 unit exposed in this shot that also shows the spaceframed front section.
What happened next ? Well Walter went even one better and splashed out on the unique DFVW raced by Colin Hawker in Supersaloons since 1975. The Escort was advertised for £4995 less engine and sold on. It`s believed the car never raced on track again but went into Hillclimb competition with Tony Baines, pictured here at Harewood in 1980. Changes included a different engine ( not known, maybe the crossflow ) and more subtle boot spoiler.
The next 20 years during the 1980s and 1990s the history of the car is unclear but at some point it was turned into a road legal car. The more recent photographs clearly show side indicators have been fitted along with the other road legal requirements. In the 2017 article in Practical Performance Car magazine the then long term owner Dave Manser was quoted 'It ( the Escort ) dropped off the radar for a while,then a Greek hot rodder owned it, fittingit with a very quick Ford crossflow. Then it changed hands a few times before a mate of mine owned it. Unfortynately though he got MS and could no longer drive the car, which was when i stepped in and bought it, 16 years ago' which would have been around 2001.
Manser down on the south coast at Hove changed the crossflow for the car`s current unit a 248 bhp Pinto unit with CNC head and twin 50 carbs. The engine swap required alot of work though with new gearbox, custom exhaust ,propshaft etc. 'Ive had it to 140mph at Goodwood and that was hairy. It`s got so much grunt. The car is actually easy to drive to a point. Once you get near the limit though it can really bite you if you get it wrong.' he added 'I did get 'spin of the day' at Goodwood with the car coming out of the chicane' . Used by Dave sparyingly in sprints and at the local Brighton speed trials this was the closest competition the ageing car had to date. Manser had previously dragged a Corvette Stingray down Madeira Drive in the 80s and again more recently.
The car spent a while for sale a couple of times on EBAY before in 2019 a new buyer from the Derby area who had been following progress for a while stepped in and bought her. The car is hoped to make a rare public appearence at a CSCC Special saloon round this coming season so the story should continue for this fascinating and rare car.
the Donington fastest lap of 1m 17.2 equalled the class record.
FURTHER READING :
The Escort has featured a few times in print ,
CCC mag circa 1987 , centre page photo feature + 3 page article in December 2000 issue of 'Performance Ford' magazine. both incorrectly referred to it as a Zakspeed. August 2013 Retro Ford magazine issue 89.
May 2017 Practical Performance Car issue 157
Walter Robertson Escort-Bmw - 1978 Super Saloon qualifying time comparison :
NB - Walter won the 2500cc Supersaloon class honours that year and as the table shows he didnt have the fastest car in qualifying to do it as rivals Sugden, Dickinson, Walker ,Evans and Goode all qualified faster in the rounds i have the qualifying sheets for. Consistant finishing ,fast driving and reliability overcame any slight disadvantage in raw pace.