Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Ford Sierra Cosworth

Published: 1st May 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Sierra Cosworth
Ford Sierra Cosworth
Ford Sierra Cosworth
Ford Sierra Cosworth
Ford Sierra Cosworth
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith


Ford’s Sierra RS Cosworth was dynamite when it burst on the scene almost 30 years ago yet strangely remains an overlooked blue collar classic. Is it because of who drove them then and now?

Take two fast Fords, albeit from different eras, and guess which one is the most desired and highly valued. Both are hot shot competition-aimed spin-offs from their family car roots; one has the performance that an average diesel hatch will now easily see off, was horrendously unreliable but steeped in motorsport folklore. The other is a 150mph projectile that still makes mincemeat of most supercars yet is utterly practical, and has an equally prestigious performance portfolio – yet can still be bought for less than the price of a good Morris Minor.

We’re talking about the Lotus Cortina and its 1980’s descendent, the Sierra Cosworth RS with the former taking the spoils of victory just like it did back in the 1960s.

Parallels of these two are uncanny. Both were made with sport in mind plus provide a flagship road-going model into the bargain and the pair equally relied upon a new twin cam tune of their trusty family car engines for added pep, developed by two of the most established names of their generations.

The Cortina relied upon Lotus input (and mostly regretted it in terms of build quality at least) and also Cosworth to sort out the engine, while the Sierra instantly turned to that famed engine maker. Ford plus had its SVE division for special projects, a descendent of the famous AVO (Advanced Vehicle Operations) to develop the car.

But the Sierra very nearly didn’t happen, recalled Ford’s motorsport head Stuart Turner. He exclusively told Classic Motoring that it was only a picture of Jim Clark wagging a wheel in a Cortina in his office that caught the attention of Ford’s head Sam Toy. “Are you saying that the Cosworth can do to the Sierra what Lotus did for the Cortina?”, he asked Turner. “Yes!” replied Stuart and the car was given the green light.


While the Cortina, ‘developed by Lotus’ to give it its proper title bought new performance levels to a humble saloon market, the Sierra RS Cosworth elevated Ford into the supercar bracket during a decade when sports saloons were truly coming into their own.

Before then, a GT was little more than a warmed up derivative, but during the 1980s, fuel injected 16-valve engines allied to high geared five-speed transmissions and superior aerodynamics, resulted in sports saloons living up to their name, providing 130+mph pace. Cars like the Sierra RS Cosworth (and the even wilder Lotus Carlton from Vauxhall) closed the gap between a racy, reliable repmobile and a sultry, sulky supercar to the point where you couldn’t slide a gold Amex card between them.


The Cossie, as it became known, was actually Ford’s second stab at making the Sierra sporty and sexy. The first was the curious but now collectible three-door XR4i, fitted with a novel twin-wing biplane rear spoiler, and the same fuel injected 2.8 V6 found in the Capri two years earlier.

You’d think that the more advanced Sierra would be the preferred pick even at £9946 which was some £2000 dealer than the rapidly ageing Capri. However, road tests called the XR4i sloppy and in twin tests against the Capri, it was the old timer which invariably came out best.

The Capri was developed by the newly formed Special Vehicle Engineering division at Dunton in Essex and before the RS Sierra came along, it worked its magic on the badly turned out tuned German Escorts.


Like the Lotus Cortina, the Cossie was made for motorsport. To homologate the car for racing, 5000 had to be made. In 201bhp tune (300bhp for racers, with more to come), the results were nothing short of staggering. Motor saw 149.5mph from its test car and at the press launch two brave jurnos found that they could keep station with a jumbo jet coming into land!

The car flew on the road equally well with 60 coming up in a smidgen over six seconds, but Ford wasn’t finished and made the most of the Group A production car regulations by producing the RS500 two years later in 1987. Like the Escort RS1600i, in road tune it fared little better but in racing spec up to 500bhp could be achieved making it virtually unbeatable. The cars were made by Aston Martin Tickford as a sort of prelude to Ford taking over the company. But once the allotted number of three-door Cosworths were made (5000 normal and 500 RS500s) the three- door boy racer was replaced by a more sophisticated Sapphire saloon in 1988, although the model was always referred to as Sierra. It was a softer car aimed at yuppie executives who fancied a blue collar working Ford instead of a more snobby BMW, Mercedes or even Porsche.

Just because you can afford one doesn’t mean that you can handle one, and the tetchy racer-bred Sierra was too much for many and why Ford ultimately equipped it with four-wheel drive in 1990. Now boasting leather trim and luxury saloon appointments, the £25,000 RS Cosworth 4x4 was ten grand dearer than the original three-door of five years earlier and its character had changed somewhat from a knife-edged road racer to sure-footed cosy Cossie that, now devoid of a big rear wing that masked chasing police cars, could almost be treated with nonchalance like a 1.6L – in the dry anyway.

What do they say about those that can do and those that can’t teach? Perhaps that should also imply ‘write’ because Ford’s press car fleet of the three-door Cossies was soon reduced to rubble! But to be fair the car’s heroics even caught out professionals too, including two experienced police officers who were killed evaluating the car on a treacherous night not far from Dunton on the A127, a well known fast two lane arterial that Ford used as an unofficial test track when developing the Escort Mexico and other classics. The Cosworth was allegedly a left-hand drive version and the driver accidentally selected second instead of fourth at 140mph.

Like the Lotus Carlton, in many ways the Cosworth was too fast for its own good. The twitchiest of them all were the original press launch cars and so Ford speedily revised the rear suspension but even
then they remained a handful and a totally different animal to, say, a Capri V6. Those who traded up from RS Escorts were in for a rude awakening too, and as for those who came out of a grippy, fool-proof, front-wheel drive hot hatch like an XR3 or a Golf GTi…

Owning a RS Cosworth was always eventful because even if you arrived at your destination in one piece you never quite knew whether the car would be there on your return and fast Fords took on a whole new meaning. A sophisticated alarm was installed by Ford and some owners even chained up the car to their driveways and yet they were still nicked.

Others were stolen, found by the Police but pinched again – before the owner had time to turn up and collect it!

What thieves wanted these super Sierras for is anybody’s guess but a good many ended up as race or rally cars (no identification needed). The mid 90s were a time of soaring auto thefts and resultant rocketing insurance premiums for such cars, so much so that it was a main reason why Ford pulled the plug on the replacement RS Escort Cosworth much earlier than intended.


It’s only fairly recently that Cosworths have shown their worth as a classic and even now it’s only the very best, totally original examples – and there’s precious few of these left because the majority have been altered. Tuning one further is an easy task; slot in a new ECU chip for its ‘brain’, add bigger fuel injectors and turn up the turbo pressure. “Shall we call it a day at 400bhp, sir – or do you want 600?”.

As the insurance furore died down, Cosworths became sellable once again yet price for saloons rarely nudge past £6000; Escort Mexicos and RS2000s cost more. The only exception is the RS5000 where Lotus Cortina-like prices of around £40,000 are fast becoming the norm.

The problem is finding a totally original car because the vast majority have been altered and those who now hanker for originality are pretty stuffed when it comes to obtaining the right parts; specialist Kent-based Andy Auto Body Retro Ford Specialist (01634 818442) recently sold a new Sapphire front bumper for £600 and the RS Owners’ Club reckons there’s probably only 15 original cars on its books.

Not even the RS Escort Cosworth (effectively a Sapphire 4x4 clothed in a big-winged Escort body) created such a stir like the Sierra and we don’t think any of the latter RS Focus blood relations (and they’re all great cars) come close. It’s becoming a bit of a classic car cliché to say “buy one while they’re still affordable” but in the case of the Cossie it’s all true.

We wondered right at the start why the old Cortina beats a swifter Sierra. After all, they boast equally illustrious names and are blessed with that wonderful no nonsense crudity about them that marks out a classic Ford. Given that the Sunday Express called it “The most exciting road car Ford has produced since the GT40”, perhaps it’s more down to the famous names who piloted them, like that Le Mans racer?

In the case of the Ford Sierra it was drivers trying to make the grade – like Damon Hill. In the case of the Lotus, legends such as Clark, Hill senior, Ickx, Stewart and Whitmore already had.

When The Car Was The Star

You wouldn’t, of course, see a smoothie crime buster drive a Cossie so it was appropriate that no nonsense Jimmy Nail used one in his role as an off beat TV detective in the 1990’s BBC series Spender. Three four-door Sapphires were used in the Tyneside-based series. Cossies were always linked with the good guys, oddly enough, as they were also used as Police cars in the popular Ashes-to-Ashes and Inspector Morse.

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%