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The Ford Sierra

The Ford Sierra is a mid-size car or large family car that was built by Ford Europe from 1982 to 1993.

It was designed by Uwe Bahnsen, Robert Lutz and Patrick le Quément.

The code used during development was "Project Toni".

Its name came from the Spanish word for mountain range.

The Ford Sierra was first unveiled on 22 September 1982 at the British International Motor Show hosted at the NEC in Birmingham. with sales beginning on 15 October 1982,replacing the Ford Cortina.

Its aerodynamic styling was ahead of its time and as such, many conservative buyers (including company car drivers) did not take fondly to the Cortina's replacement.

It was mainly manufactured in Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, although Sierras were also assembled in Ireland, Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa and New Zealand. By 1978, Ford Europe was working on a new mid-range model to replace the Cortina/Taunus during the early 1980s, working under the codename "Project Toni".

Ford had confirmed during 1981, a year before the Sierra's official launch, that its new mid-range car would carry the Sierra name, signalling the end of the Cortina nameplate after 20 years and five generations.

In September that year, it had unveiled the Probe III concept car at the Frankfurt Motor Show, hinting at what the new car would look like when the final product was unveiled 12 months later.

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 was nicknamed "the jellymould".

The shape served a purpose though, producing a drag coefficient of 0.34, a significant improvement over the boxy outgoing Cortina's 0.45.

The interior was more conventional, although Ford took a page from BMW by angling the center of the dashboard towards the driver.

Sales were slow in the first months - the situation being exacerbated by heavy discounting by Ford dealers of surplus Cortina stock from the autumn of 1982 onwards, with more than 11,000 new Cortinas being registered in 1983.

However in 1983, its first full year of sales, the Sierra managed nearly 160,000 sales in Britain, outsold only by the smaller Escort. Ford had also launched the more conservatively designed Escort-based Orion saloon that year, which found favour with buyers who would otherwise have been the Sierra's target customers.

In West Germany, it was proving very popular from an early stage; within months of its launch, it was reportedly achieving treble the number of sales that the Taunus had been attaining - though in West Germany, the Taunus had not been quite as popular or iconic as its Cortina equivalent had been in Britain.

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, though the Sierra had been tweaked on several occasions and many new engines had been added.

The most notable changes came at the autumn of 1987, with a major facelift and the addition of a 4-door saloon (UK: Sapphire). As other manufacturers adopted similar aerodynamic styling, the Sierra looked more normal.

At its peak, it was Britain's second best selling car in 1983, 1988 and 1989, and was still Britain's fifth best selling car in 1992. Its best year was 1989, when more than 175,000 were sold.

However, it was outsold by the Vauxhall Cavalier in MK2 form during 1984 and 1985, and then from 1990 until its demise by the MK3 Cavalier. Nevertheless, it comfortably outsold its second key rival, the Austin Montego, which was launched in April 1984. Between 1985 and 1988, the Sierra faced fresh competition in Europe from the likes of the Renault 21 and Peugeot 405, while Japanese carmaker Nissan was producing its Bluebird model in Britain from 1986.

An early 1983 Sierra L-model, without the "strakes" to adjust crosswind stability 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, when it was outsold by its key rival the Vauxhall Cavalier in 1984 and 1985.

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 in its early months on sale, with UK press making a report that Ford would reintroduce the previous Cortina model out of desperation.

These reports were swiftly denied by Ford. However, sales began to rise during 1983, and it finished as Britain's second best selling car behind the Escort.

After being outsold by the Cavalier for the next two years, it regained its lead of the market sector in Britain during 1986, and a refreshed range (with more engine options as well as the introduction of a saloon) enjoyed a surge in sales from 1987, though the MK3 Cavalier finally outsold it in 1990.

Even in 1992, the Sierra was still Britain's fifth best selling car. It was nicknamed "the salesman's spaceship" on account of its status as a popular fleet car in Britain. Additionally, earlier models used the 1.3, 1.6 and 2.0 litre versions of the Pinto engine (as used in the Ford Cortina) paired with a four- or five speed manual gearbox.

At a time when the rival Vauxhall Cavalier was offered with a five-speed, this led to some critics commenting that the Sierra was somewhat underpowered. In the mid-1980s, many smaller cars (some even two segments smaller) featured five-speed gearboxes.

At its launch, some of the Sierra's external styling differed depending on the specification. In place of the model's regular two-bar grille, which was unpainted on the lowest-specification model, the Ghia featured a narrower blanked-off grille between wider, but still inset headlights, while the front bumper was also restyled and featured combined indicator/foglight units compared to the lower-spec model's slimmer but wider indicator units.

The XR4i had an identical front end to the Ghia, bar the bumper which was slightly different. The rear lights of the Ghia were the same shape and layout as other models, but featured tiny horizontal strakes on the lenses to give the impression that they were smoked.

For the 1985 model year, all the lower-spec models, except the base model, adopted the Ghia and XR4i's front grille and headlight treatment.

The car was replaced by the Mondeo in Europe in March 1993, though stocks lasted for about two years afterwards.

The Sierra remained a popular second-hand buy and common sight on British roads until well beyond the year 2000.

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