One of the most important events in the automobile industry in 1982
was, without doubt, the announcement of the Sierra, the car that replaced Ford's best-selling Cortina/Taunus model. Released on 21 September 1982
, the Sierra was designed by Uwe Bahnsen, Robert Lutz and Patrick le Quément. The code used during development was "Project Toni".
The change of name was a sign of a new philosophy. With this car, Ford had moved from a car based on cost-effectiveness to one based on technology. As evidence of this new direction, and not without internal conflict, Ford had given the new car a very original style.
Gone were the straight lines and angles of the Cortina
, to be replaced by curving shapes that pointed the way towards the aerodynamic models that would follow. The resulting 2-1/2 box shape was reminiscent of the concept pioneered by the Escort
, but with more flowing lines.
It had a Cd of 0.34, which fell to 0.32 for the high-performance XR4 model which featured smoothed-out wheelarches and biplane wing, first seen on the Probe III, a car that was used as a styling exercise to investigate details for the Sierra.
At first, many found the design characterless following the sharp-edged, straight-line styling of the Cortina
, and it picked up nicknames such as "Jellymould" and "The Salesman's Spaceship" (the latter thanks to its status as a popular fleet car in the United Kingdom).
The revolutionary design and new name of the Cortina replacement attracted notable criticism on television from comedian Alexi Sayle, who blasted the Sierra for "not speaking English volumes" the way the Cortina had.
The Sierra retained a front-engine/rear-drive layout because it was felt that the gains in interior space front-wheel drive offered were not sufficiently important in a car of this size - and at release we can find no evidence that the Ford engineers knew in making the decision they were designing a car to be all conquering at the Mount
There were no less than eight engine options on the Sierra, starting with the old four-cylinder OHC units from the Cortina
. The 1.3-liter produced 44 kW (60 hp - although emission restrictions lowered this in certain markets - and the 1.6 version 55 kW (75 hp), an increase of 2 hp. The 1.6 was also available in an Economy version which had a higher compression ratio (9.2: 1) and electronic ignition control based on a map of 576 points.
All the four-cylinder engines benefited from detail improvements such as pistons designed for lower friction and a free-flow exhaust system. In the 2-liter capacity class, there was a choice of engines: the four-cylinder power output went up to 77 kW (105 hp, an increase of 4 hp), but the V6' s output stayed the same at 66 kW (90 hp).
Cast-iron, push rod OHV engines, the V6 series also included a 2.3-liter version producing 84 kW (114 hp), and a 2.8-liter injection model with a power output of 110 kW (150 hp), which was used in the top-of-the-line XR4 released early in 1983. Also available was a 2. 3-liter Peugeot-built Diesel, which delivered 49 kW (67 hp) in normally aspirated form; and at launch Ford considered that the aerodynamic efficiency of the Sierra rendered a turbo version unnecessary - although things would change in 1986
with the release of the Cosworth.
Gearboxes had either four or five speeds depending on the power unit and degree of refinement, although a five-speed box was standard on the Diesel and XR4 versions. The car's slippery shape enabled a tall final-drive ratio to be used, and mph per 1000 revs figures ranged from 18.6 for the 1600 to 26.2 for the 2.3-liter with fivespeed box. The C3 Ford 3-speed automatic transmission was also available, and a four-speed version later followed.
4 Wheel Independent Suspension
The rigid rear axle had had its day at Ford, at least for rear-drive cars, and the Sierra had four-wheel independent suspension by means of MacPherson struts, coil springs and an anti-roll bar at the front, and semitrailing arms, coil springs and separately mounted dampers at the rear. The braking system was the conventional disc front/drum rear set-up, with size increasing in line with engine power. Ventilated discs were standard on the 2-liter and larger models. The rack and pinion steering had optional power assistance which brought with it a more direct ratio. Tyre sizes ranged from 165 SR 13 to 195/60 VR 14 on the XR4.
Slightly longer than the Cortina
at 173 inches, the Sierra was available as a four-door hatchback or as a fully fledged station wagon measuring 176.8 inches overall. The XR4 was the only two-door model in the range. Elbow-room was generous, but the boot-space was a little low at 12.5 cu ft. It could be enlarged, however, by folding down the back of the rear seat, which was split unequally for this purpose.
Ford offered its usual wide spread of trim and equipment options for the Sierra, most engine sizes being available in basic, L, GL, and Ghia versions. This latter iteration offered almost everything that could be desired: fog and spot lamps, a front spoiler, tinted windows with electric operation, sunroof, height-adjustable driver's seat, headrests for all four seats, electric release for the hatchback, heated exterior mirrors with remote control, central locking, etc. (and remember, this was 1982
Slow Sales At First, But The Styling Gamble Pays Off
Sales were slow at first. It was later in the Sierra's life that the styling began to pay off; ten years after its introduction, the Sierra's styling was not nearly as outdated as its contemporaries, even though all major competitiors were newer designs, although the Sierra had been tweaked on several occasions. The most notable changes came at the start of 1987
, with a major facelift the addition of a Sapphire saloon. As other manufacturers adopted similar aerodynamic styling, the Sierra looked more normal.
Performance ranged from unremarkable in the 1300 versions to remarkable 185 km/h, 115 mph, for the 2-liter four and outstanding 210 km/h, 130 mph, and 0 to 100 km/h in 8.7 sec for the XR4. In July 1986, a special version, the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, was launched. The Sierra Cosworth used a 204 hp (DIN) 2.0 L DOHC engine developed by Cosworth, with a Garret T3 turbocharger and intercooler. It was designed by Ford's Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE) group and made in Ford's Genk factory in Belgium for use in group A. It was based on a three-door Sierra with the dashboard from the Merkur XR4Ti. The car was available in only white, black or Ford's 'Moonstone Blue' and only 5545 were made.
Made For The Mount, The Sierra Cosworth RS500
, a 224 bhp (167 kW) Sierra Cosworth, the RS500, was sold alongside the 204 hp (152 kW) version. Only 500 were produced as the minimum number of road-going cars required to meet with newly introduced homologation racing rules, allowing it to compete in evolution form for group A racing.
The car was modified by the Tickford Engineering Company in conjunction with Ford. Revisions included uprated brakes and larger brake cooling ducts and modified front and rear spoilers (a second smaller rear spoiler was added beneath the large "whale-tail"), a modified front bumper to allow extra cooling for a larger intercooler, as well as various engine upgrades including a larger turbocharger and a second fuel rail (which did not operate on road models). Race outputs were as high as 550 bhp (410 kW; 558 PS), in which the Sierra dominated group A series around the world.
Racing versions of the Cosworth were highly successful in European and World touring car racing throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s', and the RS500 helped Ford to win the manufacturer's title in the 1987 World Touring Car Championship. Ford was forced to fall back on the Sierra for rallying from 1987, after the banning of the Group B formula. With only rear-drive, the Sierra struggled to compete on looser surfaces but was very quick on asphalt, Didier Auriol winning his first World Championship rally in a Sierra in Corsica, 1988.
It was replaced by the 4x4 Sapphire version from 1990, which never managed to win a World Championship event but became a popular and successful car in national championships. The Sierra was replaced by the Escort Cosworth in 1993.
In 1988, a new Cosworth was produced which was based on the Sierra Sapphire saloon. 13,140 were produced until it was replaced in 1990 by a four wheel drive version, the Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth 4x4, of which 12,250 were built. Its replacement came in the form of the Escort RS Cosworth which appeared in 1992, which used a shortened and developed version of the Sierra platform and running gear but clothed with an Escort-esque bodyshell and the return of the whale-tail spoiler.
By the early 1990s, however, it had become clear that the Sierra had fallen out of step technologically against modern Japanese rivals which offered multi-valve engines, multi-link rear suspension and front wheel drive. All of these features appeared on the Sierra's long-awaited replacement, the Mondeo, which was unveiled at the end of 1992 and launched the following March.