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The Ford Escort RS Cosworth's Spoilers Were Inspired By a WWI Triplane

Automobile logo Automobile 5/22/2020 Ed Tahaney
a car on the side of a road: Ford Escort Cosworth Wheeler Dealers Rear © Automobile Magazine Staff Ford Escort Cosworth Wheeler Dealers Rear

Ever wonder where renowned automotive designer Frank Stephenson got the idea for the Ford Escort RS Cosworth's famous rear spoilers?

That's right—plural, spoilers. Well, in the YouTube video below, you can hear the how the Cosworth sprouted its signature stacked rear wing design from Frank himself, and that the car originally was conceived with three spoilers in mind.

The RS Cosworth's design was the first project Stephenson tackled after graduating from design school in the mid-1980s. Like any designer, recent grad or otherwise, he was thrilled to create a race car at Ford's design studio in Cologne, Germany using the Escort platform. To keep the car glued to the pavement, Stephenson turned the road car into an aerodynamic dream project. He started with the two spoilers we know of today, with a larger one on top that is connected to the lower deck lid one and attached them both in the middle to help stabilize the rear.

a view of a car © Automobile Magazine Staff

Now here's where the young designer came to think outside of the box—he was inspired by the Red Baron's Fokker Dr.1  three-winged fighter plane from World War 1. That fighter, piloted by Manfred von Richthofen, ruled the skies during the last century's global pandemic and war. You know, the one Snoopy chases around in the sky in Peanuts, right? Anyway, he added a third functional spoiler between the two to create the automotive version of the Fokker Dr.1 triplane. Pure awesome genius, if you ask us. When the Cosworth was eventually tested the results were amazing in terms of its downforce by using this innovative design around back.

Replay Video

Of course, the FoMoCo bean counters didn't see it the same way, and to save a few bucks the revolutionary idea of a middle spoiler was removed. However, despite this the car still performed extremely well and was a motorsports winner for several years despite its loss of character.

"That always felt for me like a big loss in terms of design this car could have been so much more impactful design-wise it's still considered one of the most iconic of the '80s in terms of the cars that were developed in this way," said Stephenson in the short video.

a car parked on the side of a road © Automobile Magazine Staff

He also says he feels like it was a child born with nine fingers instead of ten. We agree, we think, digitary weirdness aside. Sure, the Escort Cosworth is still plenty rad with two spoilers, but man, three really would be the jam.

The designer's vision was eventually tested at a later phase on an episode of our parent company Discovery's Wheeler Dealers (full episodes are available on the MotorTrend App), where we can see it in all its splendid tri-spoiler glory. Check it out as well as a photo gallery of Escort RS Cosworths below.

Replay Video

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