By on October 30, 2010

I’m going drifting. I’m going drifting dressed in the finest English brown velour ever to roll out of Dagenham, England. I’m going drifting in what this week’s Curbside Classic should have been, a 1983 Ford Sierra. And with that, I rejoin TTAC after a long hiatus due to our wonderful country sending me to various deserts to hunt for Osama bin Laden.

I have survived, although my Hilux did not after one ill-placed Taliban rocket sent shrapnel through the radiator. I also relish returning to write for one of the finest audiences I know, the Best and Brightest.

Sajeev “Piston Slap” Mehta and I concocted a plan worthy of poetic balads (or at least a YouTube auto-tune) late this Friday night. We were commenting on how the Ford Tempo really should have been the Ford Sierra. Ford did eventually import the Sierra in the Merkur XR4ti guise in 1987, yet, how successful would the Sierra have been should they have built it from the start in the United States back in 1984? It was RWD, had independent suspension on all four corners, came with a wide variety of engines, looked great, and sported the finest shades of brown that year, specifically “Rio Brown”. Horsepower ranged from 59bhp in the 1.3L Pinto to 201bhp in the Cosworth. Ford could have used the 2.0L four-cylinder, and the 2.8L fuel-injected Cologne V6, and had a real winner on its hands.

Instead, Ford graced us with the Tempo, and lost money on the expensively imported, and mismarketed Merkurs.

Sajeev and I continued to talk while perusing the classifieds in the United Kingdom, the source of my recently purchased, and absolutely mint condition 1986 Peugeot 205 GTI (more on that later). Sodding a lark, I discovered the holiest of holies. An unmolested, low-mileage, one-owner, completely rust free, Rio Brown Ford Sierra 2.0L. Ghia optioned, with the rear curtains intact. The brown velour interior might surround an automatic gearbox lever, but no matter, we decided we have plans for this most humdrum, but ultimately awesome (and aerodynamic!) vehicle.

Sajeev possesses several 5.0L Ford V8′s. And an intact Thunderbird Turbo parts car. I have the ability to purchase and register a European car in Germany, and have it exported. The planets aligned. The first TTAC project vehicle has come together. And at this point, we need your suggestions, yes, the Best and Brightest shall have some input on how awesome, or terrible, this vehicle shall become. Which V8, turbo 4, or even V6 (SHOtime?) shall we use?

I say a 5.0L Mustang engine with a manual gearbox conversion. Sajeev suggests the GT-40 infused 5.0L and electronic-automatic duo from an Explorer. I say full custom aftermarket coil-over suspension to handle the power. Sajeev wants OEM-spec Ford Cosworth bits from England. The “Sierra of Brownshire” should arrive in Texas in late-winter, after I return from Operation Enduring Freedom, allowing you, the B&B plenty of time to convince of our course of attack, and us enough time to come to our senses.

EDITORS NOTE: We posted one shot of the (so Brown!) Sierra Ghia in question on our Facebook page for comments and queries. Facebook Fans, here are your answers:

Kevin M:  Goofy-fun daily driver is the intention, as it is a 5-door hatch. Though the Sierra’s 2700lbs curb weight will make it super fun to drive, if we spring for aluminum heads to keep the 5.0 as light (?) as the stock iron motor. Rob A: the exchange rate won’t let that happen, its not gonna be a $500 LeMons car anyway. James M: No, this is not Cammy Corrigan’s car, she wouldn’t be caught dead in a Sierra Ghia! Scott M: we don’t have a ‘busa motor lying around, plus there are several 5.0 Merkurs rattling around the Internet for proof.


Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

53 Comments on “TTAC Project: The Zombie Sierra...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    One word: “Sweet!”
     
    Three words: “Keep us updated.”

  • avatar
    Syke

    Rock and roll! Just what I’d love to have, a Euro-trash street rod. Which means, no OHV V-8, please. That’s way too American. OK, I can live with the ex-Buick (seeing Rover got way more use out of it) aluminum V-8, but that’s about it.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Back in the day, I thought the Sierra/xR4Ti was the most beautiful car ever, and I still think it’s a head-turner.  Ford really bungled its import to the States.

    Transmission: convert it to a manual.  You’ll always think the automatic was a compromise.

    Engine: stick with a Ford unit.  Even though the 5.0 is reliable and smooth, an OHC turbo-4 would be more authentic and provide better weight balance.

    And one more thing - consider getting new wheels for it.

    Thanks for your service to us in the fight for freedom, and welcome back to TTAC!

  • avatar
    Monty

    27 years old? Holy crap, that car looks like it’s no more than 2 or 3 years old – judging from both the interior and exterior.

    Sajeev’s right in wanting to use the oem Cosworth bits; I would want to drop in the 2.0 turbo. With over 200 HP, match it with a stick shift, and that’s one serious little Euro rocket.

    Dan says it best – “keep us updated”

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Most worthy project indeed. I rather like the 5.0 V8, since it’s going to be a bi-cultural affair.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      I like the project. Haven’t read the whole post, but I agree with you. In fact, local guys have swapped 5.0 in Sierras for some time. Mostly for dragstrip use.
       
      See: http://articulo.tucarro.com.ve/MLV-26656602-ford-sierra-rs-1993-_JM , I have seen cleaner ones in the classifieds.
       
      Since you live in the 1st world and have more platica than us, I suggest the new 5.0 VVCTi DOHC 32V or Sajeev’s favorite: LS1

  • avatar
    fiasco

    Great car. The 5.0 swap could be neat, a 302 with aluminum heads is allegedly lighter than a stock 2.3 turbo from the XR4Ti/SVO/ThunderChicken.
    You could also go Cozzie, I know where there are a few of those engines sitting around.
    How about a turbo Duratec (Mazdaspeed3) engine? When I run out of 2.3s to blow up in my XR4Ti, I’ll probably do one of the above…

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    It’s great to finally see this car on an american site. Boy did you americans miss out on this one (even if you did get the XR4Ti) I’ve had more of these cars than I can count on my fingers. They actually have the record for most sold car in one year of one model in Norway, 11.000 in 1986. Which should say something about the size of the car market in Norway… It also means that they used to be quite plentiful a few years ago. Nowadays they are quite popular among kids who like cheap rwd cars (it really was the last one here in Europe, i can hardly count BMW’s in the cheap fun rwd crowd) I now only own three v6 cars (the now ultra rare Xr4i, rusted to death and scavenged for parts, and two 2,3 v6 cars, one GL and one Ghia). And I have a 1989 2.0 Scorpio as a daily driver :)

  • avatar
    Garak

    Ah, the Sierra. You don’t see too many of those today, most have been destroyed by rust and boy racers. One of the last middle-class European RWD cars: when the Sierra was gone, you had to enter the executive class, or buy a Lada to get a car with drive wheels in the correct end.
    I especially love the bizarre 1.3 turbo version built to exploit a tax loophole in Finland.

  • avatar
    JimC

    Do the batteries normally sit against the firewall in those?  That makes more sense than close behind the headlights like most cars, but I’m just curious…

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      Yes they do, as far back and to the left as possible, probably to help the weight distribution a bit (to the right on continental cars ), as the original cast iron engines (as mentioned above) weren’t too much lighter than a smallblock v8.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    How about an ecoboost 6?

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe I should email Ford PR and see if they are crazy enough to join us in the celebration! To commemorate Ford’s reintroduction of the Fiesta and Focus, we make the Sierra Ghia to end all Sierra Ghias?

    • 0 avatar
      Trend-Shifter

      Absolutely perfect, even the NA 3.7 305 hp version. 

      Coming to a junkyard near you! 
      There will be a multitute of damaged 2011-12 secretary Mustangs scattered across this great land in waiting.    Ready to go, engine to axle. 

      I want to do this transplant into my 73 Volvo 1800 ES over the next 2-3 years between my stays in China.  
      Imagine the power, mileage, and handling improvements in a 2600 lb car.   I can be totally green in emissions and fuel economy.   Don’t kick the CAT, love the CAT! 
         
      In addition, no energy will be spent to manufacture the base car. Hey, even the drivetrain is recycled.  It doesn’t get much greener than that with any ICE vehicle.     

      TTAC  (and Ford) could kick off a completely new trend that makes restoring small older sports cars with this drivetrain as “the green thing to do”.      Even the sports car purists would give in after understanding the improved power, handling, mileage, and reliability.   That Alpha or Lotus just got viable to take that long trip.   

      Imagine the wide scope of publications and internet articles this project could be marketed to.   Who would have thought we could find common ground between hot rodders and tree huggers?   It’s all WIN!  

      BTW Ford, my car is already in the Detroit area.    Sorry Mike, just saying.     :o)
        

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I think the best choice of engine for a Sierra would be an aluminum headed 5.0 v8. The original 2.0 can take some tuning, but it won’t save much weight, and there are no really good (cheap) transmission alternatives for it. And as mentioned earlier, there are lots of everyday driven evidence that a v-8 swap is no problem. (they even made 250 v-8 5-door XR8′s in South africa for race homologation in 84-85) Even if it may be a bit boring, it will move those 2500 (or less) pounds around quite swiftly.

  • avatar

    The Ford V8 / T5 is probably the best swap. The turbo four weighs just as much and the SHO, while beautiful, weighs more. Might need a rear diff update too – the T-bird came with a strong, alloy beauty.

    • 0 avatar
      fiasco

      Use the diff from a late 80′s Toyota Supra:
      http://www.rallyanarchy.com/phorum/read.php?5,39240,39289#msg-39289
      This is the hiding place of a bunch of completely lunatic XR4/Sierra, Volvo, Saab and other low-buck rally freaks. May offend the easily offended.

  • avatar
    martin schwoerer

    According to my memory, Merkur was the first major project that a certain William Clay “Bill” Ford worked on, at the company of which he is now the Executive Chairman.
     
    Anyway, the Sierra was a very fine car. And it’s certainly good to read something from Capt Mike again. You sure have a way of putting things, Mike.

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    Ford South Africa had fitted 302cid V8 in Sierra XR8 as part of homologation requirement for the local racing.
     
    Very good information:
     
    http://users.tkk.fi/kimmo/xr8.html
    http://passionford.com/forum/pictures-video-and-photoshop-forum/175077-ford-sierra-xr8-south-africa.html
     
    That wasn’t the first time Ford have melded European model with American muscle: Ford Granada Mk1 (Perana) from the 1970s was also the recepient of the American muscle (Windsor 302).
     
    South Africa is the place to find the “hybrid” of European cars with American motors as well as the European vehicles with unique motors that are never sold anywhere else. For instance, BMW South Africa sold the locally built 745i with exotic albeit slightly detuned M88/3 (same as M1 motor) instead of turbocharged 3,2-litre six-cylinder lump for a few years. That predated the first M5 and M635CSi by a couple of years. Another is Alfa-Romeo GTV8 with 2,6-litre Montreal V8.

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    Ford South Africa had fitted 302cid V8 in Sierra XR8 as part of homologation requirement for the local racing.
     
    Very good information:
    http://users.tkk.fi/kimmo/xr8.html
    http://passionford.com/forum/pictures-video-and-photoshop-forum/175077-ford-sierra-xr8-south-africa.html
     
    That wasn’t the first time Ford have melded European model with American muscle: Ford Granada Mk1 (Perana) from the 1970s was also the recepient of the American muscle (Windsor 302).
     
    South Africa is the place to find the “hybrid” of European cars with American motors as well as the European vehicles with unique motors that are never sold anywhere else. For instance, BMW South Africa sold the locally built 745i with exotic albeit slightly detuned M88/3 (same as M1 motor) instead of turbocharged 3,2-litre six-cylinder lump for a few years. That predated the first M5 and M635CSi by a couple of years. Another is Alfa-Romeo GTV8 with 2,6-litre Montreal V8.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Whatever you do, make it the ultimate sleeper. It is so beautiful in its Sleeping Beauty shade of Rio Brown. Whataver you do, don’t change the exterior in any visible way. The trick is to make it virtually inidistinguishable from any other Sierra on the road. Because, nobody will expect *that* car to have any stopping power. Mechanical tidbits annd whatnots is only food for thought, anything interesting will do. The selling point of this project is to make it the ultimate Q-car.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Love me a Q-ship sedan!  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-ship   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q-car
       
      Although with all the posers out there now a days, it would be even more shocking to have a car that is “all go” and “no show.”

    • 0 avatar
      Ingvar

      Thank you! Educator (of people) Dan. Q-car is a nice english term…

  • avatar
    James2

    I guess mine is the only vote for the Yamaha SHO V6. Whatever you do, though, please tack on the biplane spoiler.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    There’s an old joke about a driver in Cork who asks a policeman the way to Dublin , and the reply he gets is ” Well I wouldn’t be starting from here… ”
    Do yourself a favour , crush the jellymould Sierra and find a 4-door Sierra Saphire – ideally a Cossie. If the engine is sound then keep the car stock , it doesn’t need ANYTHING. If the engine is shot , then you can think about tranplanting a V8.

    • 0 avatar
      fiasco

      Sapphires aren’t legal to import for street use…yet (need to be 25 years old). Although you could graft the Mk2 nose on it…but I vote for keeping it stock looking and super stealthy. Just put some 15″ wheels on it so you can get decent rubber and brakes underneath it.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      No offense, but to me the Sapphire has always felt a bit like Ford saying ‘ Sorry for that look into the future, here’s something more ordinary and boxy looking for you old folks’….

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed, the Saph was a total cop out. The original Taurus was designed to be a great looking sedan from the start, but the Sierra wasn’t and it showed.

    • 0 avatar
      Uncle Mellow

      “to me the Sapphire has always felt a bit like Ford saying ‘ Sorry for that look into the future”,Quote Zykotec
      The original Sierra was mutton dressed-up as lamb.When it was launched it had to compete with the General Motors ‘J’ car , the Opel Ascona and its’ Vauxhall Cavalier clone , and these cars had front-wheel drive.FWD WAS the future for mass-market family cars , and the Sierra didn’t fool anybody.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I know, it was all looks (and aerodynamics), and I just mean the original ‘spaceship’ Sierra is a lot cooler than the ‘normal’ looking Sapphire, but the good old well tested rwd platform still drove a lot better than the fwd platforms it was competing with, allthough it forsaked some interior space. And now, who spends years modifying and caring for their early 80′s fwd mid size cars? What I always loved about the Sierra’s (and I think others do to ) is that it was the last real cheap rwd saloon, that still had easily tuned and modifiable ‘stoneage’ mechanics.
       

  • avatar
    hyundaivirgin

    As an American citizen with no military service, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation. Should you ever want to tell use the results of your desert road-test of the Hilux, I would be all ears.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Welcome back Mike.
    One vote for sleeper, 5.0, 5mt, Al heads, big brakes, full coil over conversion, but not TOO low (sleepy=street speed).   Then thrash it mercilessly and keep us all updated.

  • avatar
    MattPete


    I was in love with Merkur xr4ti’s.  To this day, I think they are one of the coolest cars ever built.
     
    Back around 1990, I talked my parents into letting me testdrive a Merkur (I don’t know why they agreed — maybe they were bored that weekend).  It was an automatic (3 speed?) because I couldn’t drive a stick, and (IIRC), the automatic had less horsepower than the manual.  Although I wanted to love the car, it felt cheap inside (compare to my parents’ ’88 Honda Acccord) and the [low power?] turbo + automatic was not fun.  Still, a cool car.
     
    My suggestion is to put a Mustang v8 in the Sierra.  IIRC, Rousch ran Merkur in IMSA (or was it Trans Am) with v8′s because the Sierra was sold in South Africa with the same V8s.

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      My second suggestion would be to swap the engine for a Mustang SVO engine (same era).

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      As I’ve never driven the American version, I don’t really know how the turbo engine feels, but I’m guessing the slushbox didn’t mate very well with a laggy small 4 cylinder. And as far as the interior goes, in 1983 this was a cheap car, by 1990 a Honda Accord was two generations ahead, and at least one level up from a Sierra. (I’ve owned a 1990 2.2 Accord, and it was as lovely as a fwd car with a large motorcycle engine can get, allthough with the turning radius of Titanic)

    • 0 avatar
      MattPete

      On our shores, the Merkur was sold as an up-market car, like a Saab, BMW, or Audi, and 1 level above an Accord.  Given that the Merkur was only a few years old — actually, I think my parent’s Accord was an 88 with pop-up headlights — I was surprised by the interior.  But, then again, Honda was known for quality interiors compared to their domestic (American) competitors.
       
      According to Wikipedia, the turbo-4 had 145bhp when mated to the automatic, and 175 when mated to the manual transmission.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    If you want to see some interesting conversions, go to the all-Ford nationals at Carlisle sometime. My fellow Merkur club bretheren have swapped all manner of ford powertrains into these cars. 2.9L Cologne V6′s from Scorpios, 3.0L Taurus SHO units, 3.8L supercharged T-bird engines and of course the obligatory 5.0L Mustang engine. It’s all been done before folks, so know that it is more than possible.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    No one has mentioned a Cosworth V6 BOA fitted with twin turbo. The engines fit perfectly in Sierra’s and also mate up to the Type 9 5 speed box perfectly. It would sound fricking awesome too!
    http://i156.photobucket.com/albums/t40/Topbombingkid/DSC00245.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      There’s only two little problems with that route,
      1. the Cosworth v6 weighs almost the same as a smallblock.
      2. the type 9 would take one look at that twin turbo monster and just kill itself in fear..
      Luckily the stronger mt75 box that was fitted to the later Cosworth 4×4′s also exist with a v6 bolt pattern, so it can be made to work.
       

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    The best would be finding a 2011 basket case from some moron hooning it into an immovable object. The new 5.0 is supposed to be just beautiful. Something that new can’t have that many miles on it yet. Have Sajeev keep doing wrecker searches in Texas before you get it back to the states. I’m sure either Texas or Florida is where something will show up first.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Glad someone remembered the XR8. It was nick named “the monster” and was just that. South Africans have a history of putting mad engines in cars. The Chevy Can Am is another :-)

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Ford brought them right here in Venezuela. All of them were V6, the XR4i being injected. Yes all of them Cologne V6.
     
    From what I have seen here: try to use a light engine, the front clip doesn’t hold well the weight and the strut towers will start to bend inward. I’m doing my best to translate what is known here as compacto abierto. Put a strut bar in it if using an engine heavier than that 4 banger (you got scammed, someone stole you 2 cylinders).
     
    Other stuff you need to give attention are, the cooling system and the brakes. Both of them are weak. Those cars are notorious here for overheating. Also for weak brakes, although they solved this one after 1988 with the 300 (it was previously 280).
     
    They’re still fast when found in good condition. Comfortable and beautiful inside when upholstered in leather.
     
    Here people swap 5.0s and I saw one with a turbo 4, but in the US you have plenty of choice, even in Europe. You could do a 5.0, the new Coyote 5.0 (neat), the SHO V6, the new 3.7, LS1, etc…
     
     

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The Sierra with a 5.0/T-5 would be a great sleeper and tons of fun, myself having owned a few ’80s & ’90s Mustang GTs with either 308, 373 or 410 gear sets, but the Mustang I miss the most was a bone stock 175HP ’84 SVO.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    http://forum.merkurclub.com/forum/
    This could come in handy for finding info and parts, though there are some differences between a Sierra and the Merkur.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Do some research on the South African Ford Sierra XR8. This actually had a factory installed 302 V8 so you may be able to find some uesful parts or at least get a good idea of what should fit where.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India