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Wednesday 19th March 2008

PH Heroes: Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

In the eighties it brought supercar performance to the masses. Ollie Stallwood drives the Sierra RS Cosworth...



If you heard the words ‘insurance’ and ‘premium’ in the Eighties it’s a good chance the conversation would be about a Ford Sierra. Not just any Sierra of course, it would have to be the three-door version with ‘Cosworth’ written on the back, just below one of the biggest whale-tail spoilers ever fitted to a production car. The Sierra RS Cosworth was outrageous, plain and simple.

Although the Ford Sierra’s slippery looks had created a stir in 1982 for being oh so futuristic, by the mid-eighties it was happily settling into the role of jelly mould repmobile. Sales had been slow at first, with the conservative scared off by the styling, and oddly the car retained rear-wheel drive, whereas competitors such as the Vauxhall Cavalier had front drive. Had it not have been for this quirky aspect of the Sierra however, one of the lariest cars to wear the blue oval may have never existed.


What Ford basically did in July 1986 was launch a supercar, based on the slow-selling three-door version of a slow-selling repmobile, with seemingly the most outlandish styling that the company’s designers thought they could get away with. The Cosworth’s spoiler alone looked like the product of a game of dare with the designers of the Porsche 911 Turbo, and the bonnet grills would be glued on to family hatchbacks for years to come. I clearly remember going with my dad to look at a Sierra XR4x4 and the dealer showed us a car draped in a sheet hidden in a garage out the back. He said the car was brand new and not yet launched, before pulling off the cover to reveal a Moonstone Blue Sierra Cosworth. The only problem was £15,000 seemed like a hell of a lot in those days and unfortunately it never ended up on our drive.


Ever since then I’ve always loved the Sierra Cosworth. The small, spoked alloys look perfect, the car’s proportions are spot on, and the styling is fantastically 'up yours'. The car is an ASBO with four wheels, the council estate hero that made its name on the world stage. Even today 204bhp is respectable, but in the mid-eighties, in a lightweight body, it made the car a riot. 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 149mph is still quick, and twenty years ago it meant this Sierra was taking chunks out of supercars. The 2.0l  Pinto-based block with Cosworth 16-valve aluminium head was designed to be tuned and soon owners were arriving at track days with talk of 400 to 500bhp under the bonnet. The car had of course been developed to win on the track, which explained the faintly ridiculous styling, and Ford was rewarded by success in both touring car championships and rallying.


To find out what all the fuss is about I decide to head over to Dagenham to have a go in their mint 30,000 mile Sierra Cosworth. When it was released the wild Cosworth quickly developed a fearsome reputation, with tales surfacing such as journalist David Vivian’s long termer being totalled before he even got to drive it. With this is mind I’m keeping one eye on the black clouds overhead as I head towards Essex and am relieved that the rain has failed to materialise when I arrive at Ford’s Heritage Centre in Dagenham. Waiting for me is a white D-reg Cossie, wrapped in a plastic dust-sheet like a stored museum piece, serving to remind me of just how precious it is. I pull off the sheet and get comfortable inside. The car is small, seemingly smaller than a Golf and is spartan by today’s standards. The only addition is a roll cage, which I’m hoping I won’t need, and the Recaros are a very snug fit indeed. The leather wheel harks back to the days when such things were seen as a luxury and there are electric windows.


Turning the key makes the whole car jump into life. The shell seems to buzz with anticipation, the 2.0 litre lump sounding purposeful if not tuneful, and there is definitely an underlying competition feel to the Cossie. The car pulls away cleanly, the clutch is light, the gearchange long but direct and not at all heavy. I quickly find a back road and with the car suitably warmed up, squeeze the throttle. The turbo whistles loudly and the four-cylinder throws the car forward; the old school power delivery is not refined, more a kick in the back as the car fires towards the red line. It sounds frantic and raw, the acceleration coming in a series of explosive hits, accentuated by traditional eighties turbo lag. I’m left in no doubt that this is a seriously quick car, even by today’s standards.


Coming into a village I soon realise that the Cosworth is a bit of a local hero. People stop and stare, while others give me the thumbs-up or nod approvingly. It’s like Rocky running through the streets of Philadelphia; the car gets great respect from the locals in a way no Ferrari or Porsche would. Out of the village I start to push on again; the Cossie feels nicely damped compared to some modern sports cars and flows over bumps, making progress easy. You might expect the car to crash through potholes or be unsettled by changing camber but it takes it in its stride without rolling too much in the corners. The steering has plenty of feel without being overly heavy and the car feels lively and compact as I hussle it down narrow lanes.


Third gear at about 3,500rpm and the Cossie really starts to fly, and this is where I can imagine getting caught out by the lively tail. Plant your foot down through a corner and the car will squat on the outside rear wheel. Get it right and the rear can be brought round to balance the car nicely; get it wrong and it feels like the back end will snap out very quickly indeed. There is great balance to the chassis and even off the race-track there is huge fun to be had. I dread to think what would happen if I overcooked it in this beautiful white Cossie so I retreat to a more sensible pace.


It was around this time that I get completely lost. But driving through endless suburbs, looking for my way back to Dagenham, is when this thinly-veiled race car throws up its biggest surprise. It is astonishingly easy to drive, the engine is perfectly tractable, humming away off boost and making driving in town an absolute doddle. As I pass one man he looks around at the car like he has seen a long-lost friend, and I remember quite what this car means to Ford and those who remember its glory days in the eighties.


Ironically the Sierra Cosworth was its own worst enemy. The car’s performance meant it was a joyrider’s dream and insurance premiums hit the roof. The Escort Cosworth continued the legacy but in the end the Sierra Cosworth may have been the beginning of the end. Ford had to tone down its performance range towards the end of the nineties and the Cosworth-badged Ford all but disappeared. But the Sierra Cosworth is certainly not forgotten and goes to show that even Dagenham can have an exotic side.

PH Hero Rating: 8.75/10

 

Oli S
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Author Discussion

mat205125

Original Poster:

14,776 posts

100 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
What a way to start the day. I'm sitting here on cloud9, and about to switch over to the classifieds.

Had the 2wd Saph, and the Escort, but never scratched my 3dr itch frown

duff

557 posts

86 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Love it. One car I have always wanted to have.

A white RS500 please.cool

Edited by duff on Wednesday 19th March 08:23

The Dirty Bubble

717 posts

91 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
If only you could find one that hasn't been thrashed to within an inch of its life.


L100NYY

30,112 posts

130 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Still miss my white 3dr and this thread has not helped. cry

mr_spock

1,647 posts

102 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
That's the one I drove on my "Ford Day". After being a test driver training car (hence the roll cage) it was totally rebuilt. It's as close to a new one as you'll find I suspect. And yes, it is rather fun wink
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PulseTurbo

670 posts

88 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Better not show my cousin this... He's in love with Sierras!

m4tthew

5,643 posts

89 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Great way to start a boring Wednesday!

Although the Sierra Cosworth was released for homoligation purposes and the rear wing and styling were all about aero packages that could be used for racing. Im sure I remember reading the short one page story at the back of Evo a few years ago that said the designers were tasked to make the Cossie as good for racing as they possibly could.

My mate has a Moonstone blue 3dr with about 350bhp and it flies!

Shaw Tarse

22,881 posts

90 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Looks great in white cool

toohuge

2,423 posts

103 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
My dad owned a black seirra sapphire cosworth. I fell in love with it when i was 5 years old. Still an awesome car.

PompeyM3

1,414 posts

92 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
I used to have a poster from ford with a picture of a moonstone blue 3 door on my wall when I was younger. It was just so "In your face" with performance to kick a few supercars around.

Always a head turner when I see one now, which is not that often.

Terry Barr

104 posts

85 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
The last really desireable Ford.

ScoobieWRX

4,863 posts

113 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
weepingcloud9bowyescool

Nuff said!!

paul26982

3,810 posts

105 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
that pic of it being stored just makes my heart race, i wish i had that

clonmult

9,108 posts

96 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Mate had an XR4i years back, that was pretty sweet even though it was only packing around 150bhp, one of these would be heavenly!

What sort of weight are they dragging around? 200bhp in one of those is surely more effective than 200bhp in a lardy scooby?

Alfahorn

6,374 posts

95 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Still looks great after 21 years.

bam50

218 posts

92 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Picture of my old 3 door from the early 1990s when my brother got married:-

ATG

12,378 posts

159 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
Guess it would be about ten years ago that the local taxi mafia started buying these in shed condition. I was making weekly trips back home from London as my Dad was ill, so I'd climb off the train shortly before midnight and fall into the back of a taxi for the last ten miles home. And if my taxi bumped into another cossie taxi on the way there, they'd have a bleeding race. No point getting wound up about your imminent death .. just sit back and listen to the turbo's whistle.

ScoobieWRX

4,863 posts

113 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
clonmult said:
Mate had an XR4i years back, that was pretty sweet even though it was only packing around 150bhp, one of these would be heavenly!

What sort of weight are they dragging around? 200bhp in one of those is surely more effective than 200bhp in a lardy scooby?
or a lardy BMW, or Audi, or VW, or Ford, or Vauxhall or........ rolleyes

clonmult

9,108 posts

96 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
ScoobieWRX said:
clonmult said:
Mate had an XR4i years back, that was pretty sweet even though it was only packing around 150bhp, one of these would be heavenly!

What sort of weight are they dragging around? 200bhp in one of those is surely more effective than 200bhp in a lardy scooby?
or a lardy BMW, or Audi, or VW, or Ford, or Vauxhall or........ rolleyes
True ... but the RS Cossie and the Impreza are at least like for like comparisons, both road/race/rally cars.

L100NYY

30,112 posts

130 months

[news] 
Wednesday 19th March 2008 quote quote all
bam50 said:
Picture of my old 3 door from the early 1990s when my brother got married:-
Your brother married a Sierra!?!? eek
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