Original Aussie Escort RS1800 set to return 'home' - RallySport Magazine
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Original Aussie Escort RS1800 set to return ‘home’

Colin Bond drove YJA444 in the 1979 Southern Cross Rally. Photo: Dallas Dogger

New Zealander Jeff Judd has purchased one of the original Ford Australia Rally Team Escort RS1800s, and will shortly have the car shipped to New Zealand.

The car has been residing in Japan with former owner Akira Kawada, who ironically, purchased the car from New Zealand after it was rebuilt in 1995.

Originally registered YJA444, the Ford Australia BDA was famously driven by Ari Vatanen in the 1980 Southern Cross Rally.

Among many other well remembered outings, Colin Bond drove the car in the 1979 Southern Cross Rally, and Greg Carr steered the car in Caltex colours in the 1981 Castrol International Rally after the factory Ford team had been disbanded.

The car is currently painted blue, but Judd will repaint the car in its original iconic yellow, orange and red livery.

While many ‘works’ cars are like grandfather’s axe, with just about everything being replaced over time, Judd believes YJA444 still retains much of its originality.

“I’ve found a lot of good information on the car and it’s history, including that it still retains the original shell,” Judd says.

“Only a section of the floor was replaced after Colin Bond did some damage to it in any event in the late 70s.”

The original BDA engine found its way into a speedway car long ago, and a Terry Hoyle BDG now powers the car, having been sourced from the UK.

Akira Kawada (right) and former Toyota Team Europe driver, Yoshio Fujimoto.

Akira Kawada painted the car blue after Hannu Mikkola’s former co-driver, Arne Hertz, told him that “Mk 2 Escorts should be blue!”

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In recent years it has also been driven by former Toyota Team Europe driver, Yoshio Fujimoto, who competed in the Legends of Rally event in Japan in 2015.

Once the car arrives into New Zealand from Japan, it will be returned to its original livery, and used for special tarmac events.

“I plan to use it for events such as the Leadfoot Festival and the Skope Classic, and may even take it to Adelaide for their classic rally,” Judd added.

Vatanen steers YJA444 around the Amaroo Park dirt track in the 1980 Southern Cross Rally.

Seeing the car back in the classic colour scheme of the 1970s and early 1980s will rekindle fond memories for rally fans across the world, particularly in Australia.

While its home will be in New Zealand for now, Judd certainly hasn’t ruled out basing the car in Australia, given its incredible history.

Outside of the Greg Carr-driven IYK000, YJA444 is probably Australia’s most famous Escort, and it will be good to have it back close to where it belongs.

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