By on December 7, 2018

Ford Sierra and Merkur XR4ti, Image: Sajeev Mehta

The prolonged journey of TTAC’s Ford Sierra is partly because of my prolonged recovery from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. While other projects never help matters, the excuses end now.

Because, even during the depths of my recovery, my vision never faltered; thanks to prednisone’s side effects during treatment, said vision became a C4 Corvette-like laser-infused slalom but with Young the Giant screeching in the background.

So it’s about time I drove to my friend Brian’s shop and made it happen.

Merkur Xr4ti parts car, Image: Sajeev Mehta

Let’s do it, but remember the mission: to improve performance via Ford donor cars of the era, honoring the time when boneheaded computers made radical aerodynamic shapes that altered our automotive landscape.

The 1989 Merkur XR4ti’s superior suspension, brakes and larger differential bolted up easily, but our donor had a bashed engine crossmember. Mercifully, the Sierra’s unit accepted everything up front — being right hand drive wasn’t an issue!

Upgrades include Koni shocks and rear disc brakes from one of the Thunderbird donor cars.

Ford Sierra Ghia Suspension Swap, Image: Sajeev MehtaAdding American ingenuity to West German engineering involved upgraded rolling stock… parts of which haven’t been rolling for years. This better work! Ford Sierra with Mustang wheels, Image: Sajeev Mehta

Can you say sleeper?

The choice of the 15×7-inch Ford Mustang 10-hole (teledial) wheels (with grippy Spec Miata rain tires) is the widest setup to fit a stock chassis. And these Fox Body wheels provide the perfect offset and 1980s aerodynamic swagger for a Ghia-spec, near-luxury, British family car.

Ford Sierra with Mustang wheels, Image: Sajeev Mehta

While no Chevy Nova on slicks, the difference from a 165 mm, 13-inch wheel to a 205 mm, 15-incher gives the little Ford a tough demeanor.

No wonder the Bondurant Driving School used them on their Merkurs!

Ford 2.3 Turbo parts, Image: Sajeev Mehta

Since the body was ready to test fit its new motor, we spent hours determining the best bits: parts from a 1985 and 1987 Thunderbird Turbo, plus the 1989 Merkur gave us options.

I also splashed the cash on ported intakes (one is on the right), even a ported and ceramic-coated “E6” exhaust manifold (the better flowing option).Ford 2.3 Turbo parts, Image: Sajeev Mehta

The most important bit was the larger Garrett T3 from earlier turbo Fords, seen here getting a clean with leftover cam covers (destined to be garage art).

Ford Motorsport 2.3 valve cover, Image: Sajeev Mehta

Those factory covers were cool, until the uber-rare Ford Motorsport cam cover (finished in brown like the motor, ‘natch) hit my Facebook feed. And it’s beyond worthy considering there’s a BoPort 2.1 roller camshaft within.

So let’s get that motor installed!Ford Sierra and Chevy Nova, Image: Sajeev Mehta

Out goes the Nova so the Sierra can get its new engine. Except not.

The fancy aluminum engine mounts/brackets of a Merkur’s 2.3-liter turbo “Lima” are 2 inches wider than the Sierra’s 2.0L “Pinto” crossmember.

We huffed, we puffed, we failed: why, oh why, did our donor car have a smashed crossmember? That’s one bit we cannot replicate (easily).

Mercifully the Turbo Ford community on Facebook is strong, and a solid Merkur XR4ti crossmember was boxed up within hours of hitting this brick wall. Apparently those addicted to social media are not always clueless!

While this won’t be the last roadblock, it hopefully was the worst.Ford 2.3 Turbo parts, Image: Sajeev Mehta
Why? Because everything else in our parts cache is appears intact, as they were pulled from running vehicles.

The only thing missing to complete the engine swap is a low-mount alternator: it shall clean up the engine bay and smooth out/shorten the distance from the (aftermarket front-mount) intercooler to the throttle body. Shouldn’t be hard considering the Sierra has no power steering or A/C to complicate matters, right?

1992-1994 Ford Ranger Alternator, Image: Mustang Forums

Oh Google Image Search, what wonders you find us!

Here’s to hoping the local junkyards have a 92-94 only (yes, really) Ford Ranger with these brackets and pulleys. I’m visiting one with a complete (looking?) 1992 Ranger shortly after I hit the send button on this article!

Not to worry, the Sierra’s time will come. Soon.

[Images:© 2018 Sajeev Mehta and]

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23 Comments on “TTAC Project Car: It’s About Time!...”

  • avatar

    Which begs the question, how many Merkurs does it take to get one working example?

  • avatar

    That front end is so unfortunate, an ’80s clip art “car”.

    • 0 avatar

      My immediate wonder is how it gets any airflow for cooling, but I suppose the cooling needs of this 4-banger are much less than the engines I’m used to dealing with.

      • 0 avatar

        NoID: cars have been cooled from the bumper since…well since the 1982 Ford Sierra!

        • 0 avatar

          People started realising low mounted grilles were agood thing before WW2 (thanks partly to Lincoln having tried the exact opposite).
          The Turbocharged Cosworths did have a grille opening between the headlights though, and louvers in the hood so it’s possible you will need more cooling.
          (had a Cosworth grill and hood on my XR4i with a 2.8i engine, and had slight problems making any heat in the winter)

        • 0 avatar

          Corvettes, Loti, and water cooled Porsches also were mouth breathers considerably earlier.

  • avatar

    If you don’t give this a Sierra 117 theme (as it is clearly an augmented super-soldier-sedan) I will be very disappointed.

  • avatar

    Yes! Finally, an update on the Sierra! And the wheels look exactly right on that car! Period-perfect, while still being a nice upgrade. Well-played, Sir.

    Looking forward to seeing the finished product. I grew up in Germany, and always loved the Sierra.

  • avatar

    Love that you are doing this across the pond.

    Over here they were a controversial replacement to the conservative Cortina/Taunus (not to be confused with Taurus) sedan, a “no surprises” RWD car with a range of engines from 1.3 I4 up to 2.8 V6.

    AROnline gives a fantastic history here

    But needless to say when it launched it was as polarising as a Silverado medium duty truck’s face. Some appreciated the futuristic look (as predicated by a close-to-production concept beforehand), others went to GM’s J body Cavalier/Ascona which was available as a sedan and fastback.

    Hyundai even proposed the Cortina based Stellar as an alternative.

    The Sierra though seemed to age well during the 80s, and was joined by a sedan (based Sapphire in the UK). It influenced the US Ford Tempo, and pretty soon all manufacturers were replacing 70s/80s straight edges with aero styling. Even GM – the mk3 Cavalier / Opel Vectra A was a world away from the J body.

    Ford eventually replaced the Sierra with the Mondeo in 1993, having been stung by criticism to the 1990 Escort they made sure that it was a quality FWD product. Sold in the US as the Ford Contour, where it was seen as being too small compared to the Taurus.

    Needless to say that in 2018 most survivors that haven’t been demolition derby’d are now seen as classics, mostly top spec Ghias, RS Cosworth/500s and XR4is have survived.

  • avatar

    I wondered what had become of this. Looking forward to seeing the final product!

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’ve always loved the look of the Sierra/XR4Ti, especially when fitted with the ‘biplane’ spoiler. My current car (Hyundai Ioniq EV) has its own ‘biplane’ look on the liftback:

    Looking forward to the finished product!

  • avatar

    Sorry to hear you were rather severely under the weather. I just got back from a disturbing trip to the SJS wikipedia page and that does not look fun. I am quite disappointed that your evil twin Sanjeev didn’t pick up the slack on the project while you were out of commission, but I guess that’s why they call him the evil twin.

  • avatar

    Sajeev, thanks for the update, and glad to hear your recovery is/has going/gone well.

    Very interesting project, I’ve always loved these cars, especially after having the joy of driving an XR4Ti.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    First hopefully continued good health.

    Second, Ford Canada actually had a program lending Merkur’s to prospective customers for a couple of days. One of my friends took advantage of this, and we treated it accordingly. It was actually considered rather ‘sprightly’ for the era.

    Finally, the 1990’s hit U.K TV series ‘Spender’ starring Jimmy Nail as an undercover police officer, featured the Ford Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth as his vehicle of choice. Always wondered what it would be like driving one.

  • avatar

    Had never heard of S-J Syndrome but after looking it up obviously bad shiite so good on you for getting well.

  • avatar

    Nice! Best wishes for your recovery. I am glad you have a fun project to help you keep active. I have a soft spot for the 1980s Fords, especially turbo ones. And I like the global reach of the parts-bin raiding!

  • avatar

    Sajeev, so glad you’re getting better. Sounds like a great project. (I drove one of these in France almost 30 years ago–nice car.)

  • avatar

    I always loved the Merkur XR4ti. The idea that you’re basically building a 4-door one gets me all kinds of excited.

    But no power steering and no AC? No bueno.

  • avatar

    Good morning,

    very nice article!

    I have the ranger set up & brackets if you need them including PS pump. You can find me on the merkurclub forum; just listed some XR’s…


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    I need a Lima 2.3T in my life. I think an 85-88 Thunderbird Turbo would fit the bill. But then I’d be tempted to try to make an ecoboost 3.5 fit.

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