Wednesday January 10, 2018
Imagine settling down one evening to watch 3-2-1 on an autumn evening only to encounter this vision of the future during the commercial break - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7jiTlv9wwI. After experiencing just 30 seconds of the new Sierra, even Dusty Bin would pale into insignificance. Many people of an age to have experienced Britain of 1982 will remember the impact of Ford’s replacement for the Cortina. They might have seen the Ford stand at the NEC Motor Show, acquired the excellent Corgi die-cast model of the Ghia at their toy emporium or read the famous headline on the front cover of Car magazine’s October edition - 'SIERRA SHOCK! It really is a good car.’
‘Project Toni dated back to 1978 and when the Sierra eventually debuted on September 25th, 1982, it caused alarm and consternation amongst the nations’ fleet buyers, not least because of its coachwork. If the drag coefficient of 0.34 was remarkable enough by the standards of the day, there was a marked absence of a separate boot, although the Sierra was not the first five-door car in its class. The Renault 16 was unveiled as early as 1965, with VW offering the Passat B1 and Saab the 99 Combi in the following decade.
From the UK there was the Austin Maxi, a model that merited far more development than British Leyland could afford to offer, and seven years later the somewhat understated Chrysler/Talbot Alpine. 1981 had marked the launch of the second-generation Cavalier, with its front wheel drive and choice of five or four-door bodies, which was to give Vauxhall a potential sales advantage. At that time, Ford reserved FWD for its smaller models but there would not be a saloon version of the Sierra until the 1987 Sapphire.
A further departure from the norm was represented by the absence of a famous brand name. The car that ‘represented man and machine in perfect harmony’ may have shared its engine and transmission with its predecessors but in other respects, it was indeed all-new – and so Ford took the brave step not to badge it the ‘Cortina Mk. VI’. In the UK, the impending demise of the famous name was extensively covered by the media, for how many other cars had the distinction of coming to define an entire sector of the market? A punk band from Bristol named themselves after the archetypal company car and The Tom Robinson Band wished they had a grey Cortina. There was even the brilliant BBC Arena eulogy, The Private Life of The Ford Cortina, fronted by Alexei Sayle in the guise of a manic sales rep - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2khUrnuOzZ8
The challenge for any car to succeed that had become a part of the country’s fabric was immense but when Motor Sport tested a 1.6L, they concluded that ‘what a very fine family-bus this is, which one feels will repay Ford's £660 million investment in it’. Within two years, Sierras could be seen in any motorway services car park, their smartly suited owners busily planning their next sales appointment and/or manipulating their expenses.
And, prior to the days of the XR4i, the ultimate version was the Ghia 2.3 Litre, for having a Solar Gold or Imperial Red example parked in your driveway was as much a status symbol as £599 worth of Ferguson VHS video recorder having pride of place in your living room. This was a Ford that was as up to minute as an Atari video computer system and Sierra ownership was further proof that you were now a part of the technological revolution - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL0T_NZje24