1986 ad promoting Fords “Sierra” car.

The Ford Sierra is a large family car built by Ford Europe between 1982 and 1993, originally 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 more conservative buyers found it unappealing.

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.

Styling

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; 1983’s new 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 .

The aerodynamic styling of the Sierra would later be seen in North America’s equally revolutionary Ford Taurus.

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life that the styling began to pay off; ten years after its introduction, the Sierra’s styling was not nearly as outdated as its contemporaries. 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 erroneously reporting Ford would reintroduce the previous Cortina model out of desperation.

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 Vauxhall Cavalier, 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 305 and Morris Ital, but later in its life it had to compete with the Austin Montego (1984), Peugeot 405 (1987) and Mark III Vauxhall Cavalier (1988).

Body Styles

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 as a 3-door hatchback. 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.

Info taken from Wikipedia

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