It seems hard to believe now that the humble Sierra was a revolutionary of its time. It succeeded the Cortina and represented a giant risk for market-leader Ford, as it tried to leapfrog the competition with a radical ‘aero’ shape. The gamble paid off, after some initial buyer resistance, and the Sierra was a huge success with private and fleet buyers alike. Ironically, the car’s successor, the Mondeo, has battled to live up to the Sierra’s successes, worthy though it is. Strong competition from the Vauxhall Vectra has kept the Mondeo from any chance of repeating its predecessors’ long-lived reputation as a benchmark car and the most familiar sight on UK roads.
The early cars are getting on a bit now, so you’re probably best to concern yourself with 1990 or younger examples. The car was in production from late 1982, so any bugs were well and truly ironed out by then. The range of cars on offer is obviously enormous and quality will vary by just as much. There are three bodyshells to choose from; five-door hatchback, four-door saloon and five-door estate, each with a multitude of trim options. The saloons were officially called ‘Sapphire’ but the name never really caught on, so don’t be surprised to see a four-door car claiming to be an ordinary Sierra. The last cars are generally easy to spot – the front indicator lenses are white, not orange, and remained so until the end of production in 1993 when the range was replaced by the all-new (and much better) Mondeo. Anything from a humble bread and butter family saloon to a tearaway sports-racer. The majority of decent cars still on sale will be the 1.8 and 2.0-litre hatchbacks and they make sensible buying. The trade always preferred the rear-wheel drive Sierra to its Cavalier competitor, mostly because of the long, 10-year production run and the relative simplicity of the mechanicals. Even if you do get problems with any of these cars, chances are, there’ll be someone who can fix them quickly and cheaply, close by. There are certainly advantages to driving what everyone else seemed to be driving only yesterday.
As you can probably imagine, Sierra prices depend greatly on the individual car’s condition and it’s best to restrict your search to later examples if you can. A 1993 K-plate 2.0i with Ghia trim might reach £500 but the 1.8-litre turbo diesels have maintained a stronger grip on their value with a GLX on K-plates going for around £1,000. Sapphire saloon and 5-door hatchbacks are priced at roughly equivalent levels. The sporty Sierras are lead by the all-conquering RS Cosworth priced between £3,000 and £4,500 in standard form or between £5,000 and £7,000 if you want the 4×4. XR4x4s with 2.9-litre V6 power are also around and even the late plate examples are now available for under £800. Unsurprisingly, little. Be wary of very-high mileage cars for obvious reasons, though, with service records, you should be safe. Turbo cars can be a little fragile and temperamental, like most of their ilk, so buy with extra care and check for oil leaks, worn transmission (especially with 4×4 models) and an overly-smoky exhaust. Electrical gadgets are great convenience features but a real pain to repair. Check the sunroof, all windows, mirrors and central locking, to be sure. Be careful with recorded mileage too: the Sierra has only a five-digit readout so a car with more than 99,999 miles may not show it on the dashboard. The car that changed the face of Ford and the look of British traffic jams everywhere. Honest, uncomplicated, reliable and cheap second-hand. Supply is plentiful so happy hunting for a cheap used car!
(approx based on a 1988 Sierra 2.0 GLX) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly will be around £85 and an alternator should be close to £65. Brake pads are around £15 a set, a replacement headlamp is close to £60 and a door mirror should be in the region of £40. A full exhaust system is about £75 and a starter motor around £100. A front wing is around £60, a windscreen about £75, a tail lamp about £45 and a catalyst about £295 (with a £10 surcharge for the old unit). Front dampers are around £30 each and rears around £15 each.
Virtually the last of the rear-wheel-drive rep-mobiles, the Sierra was always a good-handler, compared to many of its contemporary front-drive competitors. Trouble is, what was a good chassis at the original 1982 launch, had well and truly reached its sell-by date even by the late 1980s. If your priority is comfort and your staple journey a daily motorway or A-road crawl, then a Sierra could be just the job. Get yourself a bargain-priced well equipped late model and you could have the last laugh at those jelly-mould jokes you’ll cop down the pub.