Watch the Ford Escort Cosworth's Designer Draw the Car's Original, Even Crazier Rear Spoiler

Two rear wings wasn't enough.

escort wing lead image
Frank Stephenson

The Ford Escort Cosworth has the most flamboyant rear spoilers⁠—yes that's spoilers, plural—on any regular production car ever made. That's of course excluding supercars, whose purpose is to be as ostentatious as possible. It may surprise you then that the original rear aero was actually even crazier. The designer of the car, Frank Stephenson, has made a great YouTube channel during the lockdown to go over some of his designs, and the Escort Cosworth is his latest entry.

The Ford Escort Cosworth began life as a regular fifth-generation Escort, actually a rather depressing car in stock trim. Its journey to legendary automotive status began in 1992, when the body-style was chosen to be homologated into a Group A rally car.  

The rally car—although it never won a championship outright—was quite successful, having ten WRC victories under its belt, three of which were won by Carlos Sainz Sr., the father of recent Ferrari F1 hire, Carlos Sainz Jr.

The road car was noteworthy for a few reasons. Due to its 224 horsepower Cosworth YBT it was one of the fastest cars you could buy in the United Kingdom when it was released. It was also remarkably cheap considering the performance because of the blue oval on the hood. That power, combined with a five-speed manual and four-wheel drive, made it a legendary street machine. The most impressive visual feature, however, was its massive rear wing, which delivered whatever it lacked in actual downforce in visibility-obscuring style. 

You'll be surprised to learn then that the Escort Cosworth was originally slated to have three rear spoilers, not just two. The louver-esque aerodynamic setup was a must-have for the car's designer, Frank Stephenson. As well as penning other handsome vehicles such as the Ferrari F430 and redesigned 2001 Mini Cooper, Stephenson was assigned to the Escort Cosworth very early in his career. Anyone who has experience in transportation or product design knows: the best time to do wild stuff is when everyone assumes you're just a naive kid.

Stephenson took advantage of his fresh-out-of-school status to pitch the Cosworth's triple rear wing. He stuck with it until his colleagues grew to like it, so it made it onto many prototype renderings, and at least one model. What Stephenson says about starting crazy and ending a bit more conventional is a very common practice in design—I was taught the practice in my industrial design studio as the "mild-to-wild" technique.

Eventually—and this sort of thing tends to happen designing for production—the third, middle wing was removed to save a few bucks. Just five Deutsche Marks, actually (around $3 today). It's a shame, too, because Stephenson insists the aerodynamic benefit of such a setup was impressive. 

Luckily for us, you can see one of these cars being driven around with its third wing on a recent episode of Wheeler Dealers. The extra aero piece was somehow sourced for the car, and it's on display at the back, obscuring the view out of the rear windshield in all of its glory.

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