Flashback Friday – The Ford Sierra

We continue spending at least part of every Friday looking at some not altogether heroic cars from yesteryear; this week we put the Ford Sierra under the spotlight. The successor to the very long running Cortina this futuristic car divided critics with it’s styling and confused mechanics with its old fashioned technology.

A Car Of Contradiction

Launched in 1982 the first wave of Sierras used the rear wheel drive system and the suspension from the Cortina. This was clearly at odds with the heavily aerodynamic feel of the design. The car was hailed as cutting edge yet sadly to keep servicing costs down and the fleet managers on side Ford decided to leave the forward thinking to the body work team and stuck with the 70’s underneath. Later on this was to change as the running gear was updated in line with the launch of the new Ford Granada.

The Salesman’s Space Ship

The design of the Sierra caused a lot of controversy at the time and for many it was a step to far. They were used to seeing sharp edges and the rounded smooth lines caused industry nicknames to develop like the Jellymould and the Salesman’s Spaceship. Of course, what people didn’t realise at the time was the Sierra would actually change the face of car design forever. OK, so looking back the mark 1 version looks unusual, but breaking away from the standard square car shape paved the way for many of the designs we see on the road today like. The next time you go out, look around, you won’t find any cars that look like the old Cortina’s and Cavaliers, but you will see echoes of the Sierra everywhere, even in its younger brother the Mondeo.

A few Issues

As is often the case, new cars can have some problems. These days these very minor issues can include things like automatic wipers not working or glove boxes not shutting. The Sierra, in line with its design, broke the mould with problems too. Rather than something small the car was found to be unstable at higher speeds and in a cross wind, this rather scary “issue” was soon rectified with the addition of small spoilers near the rear windows. Another rather odd problem was that the bumper design was meant to pop back after a small shunt, when the press found out about this they suggested cars could be in a major crash and people would never know when they bought one. Both these issues lead to a bit of a press bashing and sales failed to take off. To add to this the use of a 4-speed gear box when all the competitors used a 5-speed option meant the press yet again had something to moan about, and in this case they were right.

A Survivor

Despite rumours of Ford actually re-launching the Cortina to avoid the Sierra becoming a disaster, things settled down and this partially cutting edge car went on to run for 12 years over 3 iterations.  The Sierra became a family car, and sales rep car and generally part of British motoring. As with many major releases manufacturers often like to release a sporty version to help with the image, and when Ford teamed up with Cosworth they certainly came up with something special,  The Ford Sierra RS Cosworth was a rocket and with a giant Porsche style spoiler and it stole the heart of many a young car fan as well as a few older ones. Packing over 200 bhp, even in the early models, and with impressive performance figures the “cossy” became a car to be spotted in car parks and shouted about on long car journeys up and down the country.

If you happened to see a Sierra now you could be forgiven for ignoring it, or even having a little chuckle, but don’t forget how this car changed automotive design and the place it has in British motoring, even if it was a bit rubbish.