Marcus Nicholls on a 1:24 replica of Timo Mäkinen’s Escort RS1600
Last May we lost Timo Mäkinen, truly one of the greatest drivers of all time and the original Flying Finn. He was perhaps best known for his exploits in Mini Coopers, driving in terrible weather conditions, but he took the early rally-rigged Ford Escort RS cars to new heights, too. One of his most colourful machines was the Pepsi-sponsored Ford Escort RS1600 MkI that competed in the 1972 Monte Carlo Rally with Englishman Henry Liddon as his co-driver.
The Escort is available in various diecast forms, but for pure scale-modelling pleasure it just has to be a plastic kit – and specifically the exquisite 1:24 model from Belgian producer Belkits. It comes as a full build-up production with miniature leaf-spring suspension and detailed cabin interior with rollcage, racing seats and scale-perfect fabric seat harnesses.
The main parts of the Ford are injection-moulded in white polystyrene, the perfect polymer for this type of model as it can be cut and sanded easily and takes acrylic and cellulose paints well. As the accompanying photos hopefully attest, the manufacturer has captured the Escort’s profile perfectly, something not always guaranteed in a model. In the past, kit manufacturers would measure and photograph the full-sized subject’s body shape then attempt to reproduce the complex curves in miniature. Now, using portable laser-scanning technology and even CAD data direct from the real car’s maker, near perfect scaled-down versions of bodies are achievable, accurate down to the smallest detail despite being a fraction of the original’s size.
The Escort we see here has had some additional work done, in the form of aftermarket items; just like full-size cars, there’s a whole world of add-ons for scaled-down replicas. The idea for this particular project was to depict a newly restored classic Timo Mäkinen rally car that was to be used in historic events. With that comes new rules in order to compete, such as upgraded bucket seats, fire and safety systems, wiring, electric cut-offs and so on, all incorporated during construction.
The Minilite wheels in the kit were replaced with better detailed resin castings, the new seats represent Sparco designs to reflect the modern usage and there is a new-style fire extinguisher fitted. The model comes with windscreen wipers moulded in the same material as the bodyshell and, while this is practical option, the plastic can’t reflect the spindly nature of the real things. Here, photo-etched metal comes into its own; it replicates pressed sheet-metal parts brilliantly (because it is sheet metal!) and doesn’t need to be painted to simulate stainless steel.
The Pepsi livery (another aftermarket item) comes in the form of waterslide decals that, once trimmed out, are briefly soaked in water, then slid from their paper backing sheet onto the model and nudged into place with a fingertip. In the case of this model, the markings were given a two-part epoxy varnish overcoat to give them a ‘painted-on’ appearance. The combination of high quality model kit, some aftermarket goodies plus lots of time and patience have resulted in an exquisite replica of Timo’s RS1600 and a fine tribute to the original Flying Finn.