The history of the Ford Sierra

   

The Ford Sierra is a large family car built by Ford Europe from 1982 until 1993. It was designed by Uwe Bahnsen, Robert Lutz and Patrick le Quément. The code used during development was "Project Toni".
Released on 21 September 1982, it replaced the Ford Cortina and Ford Taunus. Its aerodynamic styling was ahead of its time but many conservative buyers did not take fondly to the styling.
Possibly for this reason (and the fact that the smaller Escort was enjoying an increase in sales during the early 1980s), and the early lack of a saloon variant, it never quite achieved the sales volumes of the Cortina or the Taunus, although sales were still strong; a total of 2,700,500 Sierras were made, mainly manufactured in Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, although Sierras were also assembled in Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa, and New Zealand.
The first Ford vehicle to have the bold new "aero" look styling was the 1981 Ford Probe III concept car. The good reception this received encouraged Ford management to go ahead with a production car with styling almost as challenging. This "aero" look influenced Fords worldwide; the 1983 Ford Thunderbird in North America introduced similar rounded, flowing lines, and some other new Fords of the time adopted the look. The aerodynamic features of the Sierra were developed from those first seen in the Escort Mark III the "Aeroback" bootlid stump was proved to reduce the drag coefficient of the bodyshell significantly, which was a class leading 0.34 at its launch, though not as good as the 0.22 of the visually similar Ford Probe III concept car of the previous year.
At first, many found the design blob-like and difficult to accept after being used to 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). 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life that the styling began to pay off; ten years after its introduction, the Sierra's styling was not nearly as outdated as its contemporaries, even though all major competitors were newer designs, although the Sierra had been tweaked on several occasions.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.
Early versions suffered from crosswind stability problems, which were addressed in 1985 with the addition of "strakes" (small spoilers), on the rear edge of the rubber seals of the rear most side windows. These shortcomings saw a lot of press attention, and contributed to early slow sales. Other rumours that the car hid major crash damage (in part true, as the new bumper design sprung back after minor impact and couldn't be "read" to interpret major damage) also harmed the car's reputation. This reached near-hysterical heights at one point with UK press making a report that Ford would reintroduce the previous Cortina model out of desperation. However, these reports were swiftly denied by Ford's heads.
Styling was slightly different on the luxury "Ghia" and sporty "XR4i" models, which had a different front panel, with wider, double headlamps compared with the lower specified cars, and lacking their grille slats. After the model's mid-life facelift, the front without a grille became the standard look, although yet later a square grille panel would be re-introduced.
The Sierra was Ford's answer to the similar-sized Opel Ascona, which had been launched a year earlier with front-wheel drive and a hatchback bodystyle. Unusually in its sector by that time, the Sierra was still rear-wheel drive. It was a strong competitor for other rivals of the early 1980s, including the Talbot Alpine, Renault 18, Peugeot 505 and Morris Ital and the Citroen BX, but later in its life it had to compete with the Austin Montego (1984), Peugeot 405 (1987) and Opel Vectra (1988).
In another departure from tradition, the Sierra was initially unavailable as a saloon. At its launch it was available as a 5-door hatchback and a 5-door estate, and from 1983 as a 3-door hatchback. Until the launch of the Orion in 1983, the larger and more expensive Granada was the only saloon-bodied car available in the European Ford range.
During the life of the car, two different styles of 3-door body were used; one with two pillars rear of the door, looking very much like a modified 5-door frame, as used on the high-performance XR4i; and a one-pillar design used on standard-performance 3-door hatchbacks and also at the other end of the scale as the basis for the very high-performance RS Cosworth. At the time of the car's launch, both styles were already envisaged, and a demonstration model with one style on either side was displayed at a Sierra design exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The Ford Cortina had been manufactured in saloon and estate bodystyles but after the switch to the Sierra, combined with the redesign of the Ford Escort to Mark III level in 1980 and the introduction of the Ford Granada Mark III in 1985, Ford had changed its saloon-based line-up into a hatchback-based one.
The company launched the Ford Orion in 1983 to fill the gap in the saloon range between the late Cortina and the new Sierra. Ford found that customers were more attached to the idea of a saloon than they had expected, and this was further addressed in 1987 by the production of a saloon version of the Sierra. In the UK, this model was called the Ford Sierra Sapphire. This differed from the other Sierra models in having a traditional black grille, which only appeared in right hand drive markets. The 3-door Sierra was dropped in the UK in 1985, although the Cosworth version continued. Production of the 3-door Sierra continued in Europe, including after the Sierra range was given a facelift in 1987. The remodelled 3-door was never offered in the UK, having been withdrawn in 1984.
Sporting models utilized the 2.8 / 2.9 litre V6 engines coupled to a four wheel drive system (GLS4X4/XR4x4) and, more notably the well known Cosworth model which was powered by a turbocharged 16 valve 4-cylinder engine known as the YB which was based on the Ford 'Pinto' block. The Ford Sierra Cosworth was first introduced in 1985 as a three door hatchback, with a 2 litre DOHC turbo engine producing 204 PS (150 kW; 201 hp). At the time Ford wanted to compete in group A touring cars and therefore eligible to produce a limited run of 10% of the initial production, therefore this would be 500 cars. this was known as an 'evolution' model. Ford employed Tickford to help with the development. The Sierra RS500 as it was known sported a small additional rear spoiler, and larger front chin spoiler, extra cooling ducts for the engine, brakes and intercooler. Under the bonnet a larger turbo and intercooler was fitted along with an extra set of injectors, so instead of the standard four injectors it was built with eight, although in road trim these extra injectors did not function. These modifications produced 225 PS (165 kW; 222 hp) in road trim and around 550 hp (410 kW) in race trim. They were very successful in motorsport and are highly tunable road cars with a very large following.
In 1987, Ford introduced a four door saloon (marketed in the UK as the Sierra Sapphire), which was sold alongside the hatchback and estate until the Sierra was replaced by the Mondeo in early 1993. The last Sierra rolled off the production line in December 1992.

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