Sierra Shock

Ford’s aero banana skin: The blue oval’s shapely Cortina replacement caused ructions amid press and public. But also within Ford itself. We investigate.

Image credit: (c) complexmania

The Sierra marked a fresh direction for the Blue Oval. The brainchild of Robert Lutz, Ford’s Eurocentric Director of operations, it was designed to take on the upper-middle class European marques in sophistication and appeal. Lutz wanted a more dynamic, technological image, especially in Germany, where the ancient Cortina and Taunus’ models were viewed as throwbacks.

For years, Ford had been purveyors of fleet-fodder with legions of loyal owners and conservative fleet bosses who wanted little else. Both reacted with blank horror at what they saw as little better than an amorphous blob, but that is only part of the story. It appears that even within Ford’s Cologne design fortress, a fierce battle played out over Sierra’s styling direction during the model’s initiation.

Uwe Bahnsen - photo via
Uwe Bahnsen – photo credit: (c)

Work on Project Toni, as the new model was codenamed started in Ford’s Köln-Merkenich studios in 1977. Ford’s European Vice-President of design was urbane German, Uwe Bahnsen, who appointed Ray Everts with overall responsibility for the programme.

Speaking latterly, Klaus Kapitza, then head of Ford’s advanced design studio, credited Gert Hohenester with the chosen styling concept adopted for the car, said by Car Styling magazine in 1982 to be the very first developed. Interestingly, Kapitza also stated that Uwe Bahnsen never really liked the Hohenester concept, but Everts lobbied hard for the proposal, Lutz reportedly was smitten and it was his backing that carried the day.

Another formidable hurdle was to convince Ford’s conservative US board to approve the shape. Although initially horrified by what they saw, Lutz pointed to the rapturous reception given to Giugiaro’s concurrent Ace of Spades and Medusa concepts. This gave the persuasive Lutz the leverage he needed, inspiring a fundamental shift in Ford management’s centre of gravity on style. Radical was in.

That infamous bi-plane rear spoiler - photo via totalcarmagazine
That infamous bi-plane rear spoiler – photo credit: totalcarmagazine

Given the problems that would later beset the car, it has to be assumed the shape was finalised before the aerodynamic package. Hohenester referenced Wolfgang Möebius’ Porsche’s 928 in the treatment of Sierra’s canopy and it’s possible that like Porsche before them, Ford became hooked visually on a shape which didn’t necessarily perform in the manner its appearance suggested.

Because while its overall drag coefficient was a thoroughly respectable 0.34, it stretches belief that Ford’s development engineers didn’t flag up its wayward nature well before launch. And that is before our eyes come to rest upon the biplane rear spoiler of the XR4 model – surely an overt an admission of failure, despite its ability to reduce boy-racers to quivering heaps of unrequited lust at twenty paces.

Much was made of Sierra's superior aerodynamics - photo via toplevelnetworks
Much was made of Sierra’s superior aerodynamics – image :

Ford also made several key errors in the run up to the car’s announcement. Sierra was previewed with the 1981 Probe III concept, a softening-up exercise aimed at lessening the shock of the new. Problem was, few observers believed they’d make anything as radical – a perception the press did little to assuage. Two years later, with the car in the showrooms, the stunned disbelief was palpable.

Additionally, there remained large stockpiles of unsold Cortina’s which required significant discounting. This gave wavering customers an out-clause, which many gratefully took. The lack of a three volume body style was another key error in a market that remained deeply conservative. Ford mistakenly believing the ‘bustle-back’ appearance would provide the visual illusion of a saloon silhouette.

photo via greenmotor
photo credit: greenmotor

In service, Sierra also proved less durable than the market expected – fleet managers finding them surprisingly prone to serious accident damage and early models rust-prone. More alarmingly, serious airflow management issues led to instability under adverse conditions. Several high-profile accidents involving then Labour leader, Neil Kinnock and more seriously, Formula one team owner, Frank Williams, only lent further credence to the anti-Sierra movement.

With memories of the Edsel still lingering and initial sales well below projections, Ford management went into damage-limitation mode as their hard-won market dominance became eroded by bitter rivals, General Motors. Some suggest Uwe Bahnsen was pushed out during Jack Telnack’s 1985 schisms, scapegoated for a poorly performing design he reportedly had little enthusiasm for.

1985 saw small spoilers fitted aft of the rear-three quarter glass to manage airflow where it had been found to break away, creating unstable vortices which afflicted early cars. More radically, hundreds of millions were spent on developing a three-volume saloon version – said to have been developed in  Daimler-Benz’s wind tunnel – its resemblance to Mercedes’ W124 series seeming to be no coincidence.

These too had small spoilers at the leading edges of the rear screen, and these revisions combined with revised visual arrangements for the hatch turned Sierra’s fortunes around. But they never fully nailed that wayward nature – merely neutered it. Although, with the aerodynamically superior three-volume saloon vastly outselling the hatchback, this became somewhat academic.

Ford Sierra Sapphire - photo via
Ford Sierra Sapphire – photo via

So, was Sierra an ill-conceived car brought to market with serious issues Ford should have known about and acted upon? There certainly appears to be some cause to believe so. It’s credible that Ford become smitten with a design that didn’t quite work, but one they couldn’t quite bear to abandon.

Its early career came close to losing them their UK market dominance but whether it hastened the end of a talented and accomplished Design Director’s career remains a matter of considerable debate. Bahnsen himself denied any rancour over Sierra’s poor early sales, telling Car Magazine‘s Geoffrey Howard in 1987, “There was not a single negative comment – as you know, the responsibility for giving the Sierra its particular appearance characteristics was always a joint decision taken collectively by the product committee. I was never under pressure to leave… and at the time I redesigned it, it was all starting to look good again.”

He would go on to mentor a fresh generation of car stylists at the Art Center design college in Switzerland. Following his death in 2013, commentators and design aficionados eulogised him as the man who steered Ford towards radical with the Sierra and Scorpio. But wouldn’t it be grimly ironic if the car he’s perhaps best associated with was the one he liked least?

Sources: AROnline/Car Magazine

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

52 thoughts on “Sierra Shock”

  1. I’ve never driven a Sierra, so can’t comment, but since I’d driven a wealth of cynical Cortinas and Mark 2 Escorts, I was pleasantly surprised at the time that Ford actually seemed to be trying to rise above the expectations of their client base. As is well recorded on these pages, show me a car that a consensus deems is aesthetically challenged and I’ll jump to its defence. Not because I’m willfully perverse, but because the consensus seems to want something that is so bloody dull. So I liked the upper spec cars but, in Ford tradition, the lower spec models with the front grille seemed to have been deliberately styled to looked so awful that you’d fork out for the next model up. It was a pity they didn’t do a version closer to the Probe III show car, although its rear spoiler did see short service on the XR4i. I seem to recall that one of the unluckiest men in politics, Neil Kinnock, had better fortune on the roads when he escaped serious injury in an accident probably caused by the early Sierra’s aerodynamic instability.

  2. Little did I know it but the unsmiling chap whose function I did not know was Hohenester. I used to see him in the canteen when I was working in Merkenich. He was also associated with the chrome grille Scorpio.
    I like that photo of Bahnsen. Its evocative of that tail-end of the 70s that stretched into the early 80s. You can see some of that open, spare, bare world in The American Friend, a film by Wim Wenders.
    I have an Autocar article describing the Sierra at its launch. There is no hint of criticism of the appearance. Did this not develop later? It’s typical that it’s remembered for what people thought it was and not for what it was, a very progressive piece of design. It still looks great.

  3. There was a manufacturer at the time (I think Proton!) who tried to cash in on the disapproval by presenting their now long forgotten piece of folded metal as ‘not a jelly mould’. The Granada wasn’t bad but, until the Mark 3 Escort then the Sierra, Ford’s customers were a wonderfully tolerant bunch putting up with some of the most basic engineering available. The Mark IV Cortina was acceptable to drive but the Mark III was an abysmal car. Since we always hear how Ford’s engineers took apart an original Mini and, correctly, surmised that BMC must be selling them at a loss, the other side of the coin is an interview with a BMC guy I read recently where they were horrified at the lack of torsional stiffness of a Mark I Cortina they dismantled. I’ve always assumed (though without real evidence) that Ford Germany had less of the Transatlantic cynicism that Ford UK showed. Certainly, when they were different cars, Taunuses looked less tacky than Cortinas and, the Sierra was blessedly a Cologne product. Ford’s UK client base should have been weeping with joy to be offered the Sierra, but instead many of them wished they’d been given a Mark VI Cortina. Fools.

    1. If memory serves Sean, it was Hyundai, with the Stellar, advertised squarely at distraught Cortina owners. There may even have been a helpline number. (Actually, no – I made that up…)

    2. Richard

      first you don’t know how to use the reply button, and now you manage to squeeze your comment ahead of an earlier comment. Some things aren’t quite right here…

    3. Laurent. I believe it’s something to do with Denmark being part of the area known as Scandinavia. They benefit from the slack granted to their neighbours in the upper peninsula who, since many of them live either in perpetual night or day for much of the year, consider themselves entirely exempt from the timekeeping the rest of us adhere to. I have never seen Richard, but his mother has told me that he never leaves his room and hasn’t opened the blinds for four years. As such, I hope you will forgive him for any confusion he has caused.

  4. I dont want to generalise too much…but that distinction between Ford UK and Ford Germany is noteable. The UK engineers seemed to want to know how little they could offer while the Germans wanted to see how much they could offer for the money. I think that perceptions of class had a lot to do with it. The chaps at Ford in Essex had soaked up US cynicism (since US cynicism has its roots in the Thames estuary) and taken it forward a few steps. The Sierra needed better upholstery. That is one area Mercedes seemed to intuitively understand: if a few square metres of cloth are what it takes to make car look durable it´s wise to fit that. It costs little and is very impressive.

    1. One of my driving instructors used to work at Fordwerke Köln, and he got downright angry telling me about ‘the rubbish those Englishmen’ had been sending them from Dagenham. Back then, being ever the Anglophile, I took offence and considered it merely yet another case of repressed German wannabe-superiority. But his words came back to mind while reading your statement.

    2. No, both Ford UK and Vauxhall seemed more in thrall of their US masters than Ford Germany and Opel. Whether this was weak management, or just that we Brits were bigger suckers for a bit of flash I don’t know.

  5. Around our way, the Sierra was regarded as somewhat exotic, at least in the right specification. Our next door neighbour always ran Fords and compared to his last generation dark brown Cortina, the replacement B-reg (1985) mint green Sierra Ghia on pepper pot alloys appeared like an artefact from the future. Although it looked great, sadly that mint green Sierra proved to be a bright yellow lemon, regularly shitting its oil over the road, and dying very early on from con rod failure, which I believe the 1.6 units were prone to. Undaunted, the neighbour replaced it with a silver 2.0 Sapphire Ghia that proved to be well sorted and reliable.

    Another chap over the road had a D reg (1987) Sierra hatchback in red. Compared to the mint green Ghia it looked terrible in poverty L specification, but having a 1.8 engine it proved to be much longer lived. I seem to remember that a lot of the press photos featured the lowly L, which always seemed like a mistake to me, having the live comparison outside my bedroom window.

  6. It’s a far more confident shape than the first Mondeo which, excellent car though it was, looked depressingly generic Japanese on first viewing. Again, reverting to our ‘facelifts’ theme of a few months ago, the Mondeo’s was another successful facelift since, although it didn’t make it elegant, it made it distinctive.

    One aspect of the Sierra’s facelift was squaring off the the previously curved corners of the side glass apertures, which must have been very costly. Those jelly mould taunts really had an effect.

  7. The thing about the 1970’s Fords was that while technically in the dark ages, their styling was very assured – largely I believe to the influence of Bahnsen. I would suggest that the 1977 Granada was the quintessential Bahnsen Ford and remains a design that aged very gracefully.

    Having said all that, I really liked the Sierra’s styling when it launched. I remember staring in wonderment at the Probe concept in Dublin’s new ILAC Centre in 1981 hoping Ford would have the nerve to make it, so I was thrilled when they did. However, it only really worked in upper trim levels and it is telling that the nose was restyled very early into the car’s life – everyone hated that poverty-grille treatment.

    I worked in the motor business during the late-80s and with first hand experience of a wide range of Sierra’s of varying stripe during that time, I’d contend that Sierra (Cosworth & V6 models aside) was a distinctly average car. Its GM rival, the Opel Ascona was superior in just about every dynamic metric. (Although the Ford’s interior was nicer.) Dynamically, Sierras weren’t much to write home about – higher-spec 2-litre models with power steering were better and while new ones rode quite well, dampers went off ridiculously quickly and even low mileage Sierra’ s felt distinctly ‘floppy’ within a very short period. I experienced first hand the car’s wayward nature – an alarming experience which suggested to me the little strakes aft of the rear quarter glass were only a sticking plaster for a more fundamental problem.

    Sierra’s were also powered by wheezing Kent OHC engines which could provide a reasonable turn of speed if your ears could stand it. In mitigation, they were better than the 2.3 litre Peugeot-derived diesel unit which barely managed forward motion at all – by far the nastiest, agricultural, most vibratory power unit I’ve ever experienced this side of a farmyard. A mainstream 2.0 litre Sierra Ghia, while perfectly nice was a ponderous thing by comparison to a contemporary Ascona 2.0 CDi. In fact a Citroen BX was streets ahead of either – if you could keep it from falling to pieces.

    I drove an almost-new Sapphire 1.8LX on a regular basis when I first came to the UK. It’s CVH engine was better, but only a little. It was still quite a mediocre car.

    A shame really – its styling promised more.

  8. Klaus Kapitza, by the way, went on to design BMW’s E31 Eight Series. Despite having always found it a pleasing design, the E31 always appeared a bit vast to my eyes, but on today’s roads, its appearance is all of a sudden of an almost delicate nature.
    I noticed something similar happening to the way I regard the R129 SL. That car also seems to have lost most of its sense of ostentatiousness and now looks (at least in pre-facelift, unmolested form) like a class act, full stop.

    I never liked the Sierra all that much, despite my mum driving an Escort XR3i convertible (in white! with white pepperpot wheels!) back in the day. It only ever caught my attention in certain press photos, where it was shown in proper Captain Future spec. But one hardly ever saw those Sierras on the German roads of the 1980s. And today, I come across Granadas more frequently than Sierras, particularly early examples, which is a bit of a shame.

  9. I hadn’t spotted that: the Sierra facelift has completely different doors and cant rails. The second series has no gutters on the roof. That’s a very expensive change for a mere facelift.

  10. A very nice article, thanks Richard, and interesting and enjoyable follow-up comments from everyone too. I agree with the point that the Sierra was far more interesting and radical than the Mondeo – I just always inferred that Ford was adopting a “once bitten – twice shy” apporach with the latter.

    Has anyone mentioned the interior? That was the first dashboard I can recall that was so overtly styled to look “ergonomic”. I’m not entirely sure that it was, but it looked that way.

    My Dad, who always had Cortinas as a company car was told he could not have a Sierra due to the insurance costs that went with that reputation for damaging easily/ quickly. He ended up with a Montego, of which he had two more before that model died out. Now if we want to discuss design dogs-dinners, there’s a bottomless pit of a subject …

  11. I think Eoin wrote this one, SV.

    Chrisward makes a point about the trim level. It’s the higher spec versions that people remember but a lot of the time that’s not what is sold. In the short term the poverty spec cars shape the impression that’s made. Would it not be better to make all versions look alright rather than to sell image destroying base models like the “L” ? I think Peugeot tried this with the 406; most have no badges and look the same. I wonder did it work? Lancia’s Kappa was also homogenous across the range barring a wing badge and leather or cloth choices; the 3 series has been more differentiated in the past (316 to 335i) but now I can’t tell.

    1. Sorry, Eoin – I must pay more attention. Nice article.

  12. The base Anglia and Cortina Mark I were both dowdy with ugly painted grilles. I seem to remember the Consul looked unpleasant in basic trim too. So our next door neighbour just bought the trim at a fraction of the cost and upgraded himself – possibly in those days manufacturers hadn’t learned to make most their profits from spare parts.

  13. Very interesting post Eóin on the iconic Ford Sierra. Where did you source your insights on the design politics behind the car, and the various people involved? Most commentaries don’t stray beyond Robert Lutz, Uwe Bahnsen, and Patrick Le Quément’s involvement.
    Or, if any other readers can suggest further reading on this design period for Ford (Europe), I would be very interested to read your suggestions.

    1. Nice of you to stop by Brian, and glad you enjoyed the piece. It’s some time since I researched the article, so my memory is hazy now, but I found some insights relating to Everts and Lutz from a number of US sites. Kapitza himself appears to have posted a rebuttal regarding the model’s styling genesis in the commentary here: All of the principals he mentions were present and correct at the time, and Kapitza (on the face of it at least) appears well placed to know. Of course in a company the size of Ford, there were probably hundreds of designers working on the initial proposals and on refining the eventual one, so to focus on a few principals is perhaps a little unfair. I make no claim to be definitive on this – my aim was more to add to the pool of available knowledge. I would also have to say that I have since found an interview with Bahnsen in Car which refutes any suggestion he was pushed out or that there was any negative internal reaction to the Sierra’s poor early sales. I will amend the text accordingly in due course. Anyway, I hope this clarifies.

      As an aside, I would point out I always liked the Sierra’s styling. It was its driving characteristics that left me a little underwhelmed – which was more a factor of Ford’s penny-pinching attitude than anything the designers did or failed to do. That and its instability under certain conditions. I did by the way once visit Ford’s assembly plant in Cork while they were assembling Sierra’s. That was fascinating…

    2. Thanks again Eóin for your very interesting article and kind reply to my comment and inquiries.
      I think the points of discussion you admirably raised further to other commentaries about events around the design of the Ford Sierra were genuine and sincere in your wish ‘to add to the pool of available knowledge’. I hope my own inquiry about your sources did not alarm you in anyway as my simple motivation is simply to benefit from such discussion on this iconic car of which I have very fond memories as a young teenager at the time.
      You mentioned visiting the Ford Plant in Cork, (being the City coincidentally where I now live). I’m sure you are aware Eóin of the ‘Today Tonight’ Current Affairs Report from 17 January 1984 in the RTÉ Archives commenting on the economies of the European Car Market generally at the time, and the closure of the Ford Plant in 1984 specifically. In the unlikely event you are not aware of it, or have not seen it, here is the direct link to the report.
      Looking forward to reading your further contributions on this topic.

  14. Purely with regard to styling, I like to compare, (if one can legitimately compare at all), the Ford Sierra of its day with the Opel Insignia of today. Two mid to large sized family cars which have both certainly made an impression design and styling wise.

  15. Hi Brian- I am glad to see another Insignia fan. Much as I like the Opel it´s not so daring as the Sierra was. I had a chance to see a museum quality example from Ford´s collection and it looked very neat and tidy and well-resolved. Compared to the other cars on sale at the time, it must have been a meteor. Only Citroen did strange as well. These days the Insignia seems like the very best of a rather uninspiring troupe. The concept car had more oomph. That said, I think they´re a smart choice and they do catch my eye when I see them which is not what you´d expect of a car on sale so long now.

    1. Hi Richard,
      Thanks very much for your friendly and interesting reply to my post. It was a great pleasure to read your reply as one cannot be sure whether to expect positive replies, or just abuse on some sites these days.
      Yes, I love the Opel Insignia! As you might have guessed from my comparison, my admiration for the Insignia is so keen, it is the only car I would compare today to the iconic Ford Sierra, (which trust me says a lot!!). That said, I should explain that apart from my beloved Ford Sierra, I’m also interested in contemporary/modern road cars in particular, and so try to keep an eye on what’s happening. Would you not consider manufacturers like Hyundai and Volkswagen to have produced some very smart cars recently of a similar size/category to the Ford Sierra, Richard? I suppose I’m thinking in particular of the Hyundai i40 and VW Passat, (both Saloon and CC). Do share your thoughts which I’d be very interested in reading, if you so wish.
      I am such an enthusiast for the Ford Sierra however, I have compiled and edited my own compendium entitled ‘Man and Machine in Perfect Harmony: Ford Sierra 1982–1993’ which includes a comprehensive catalogue of scanned Ford brochures of the time promoting the car. Speaking of mint condition Ford Sierras, I’m sure you have admired this pristine Ford Sierra XR4i recently on sale with KGF Classic Cars. Here is the HD video link, just in case you missed it!
      Thanks again for your reply, Richard!

  16. Speaking of Trim levels, I remember the Ford Sierra ‘Saloon’, (or “Base Model”), and also the ‘L’ (I think), coming with only driver’s side door mirrors as standard until about 1985. Aaaargh! If memory serves, I think legislation was passed at the time making door mirrors on both doors mandatory for all manufacturers?
    Loved the phrases above in this blog “poverty spec” and “poverty trim”. Very succinct.

    1. About the mirrors, legislation seems to have been very dependent on countries.
      In Switzerland, even in the mid to late seventies, a second mirror was mandatory for all cars with a tailgate, but not for saloons. On the other hand, a few years back in Sicily, I noticed “poverty spec” Puntos with only one mirror. Note, the earliest of them are from around 1993!

  17. Yes, Simon. Good point well made! I carelessly failed to point out in my comment on Trim Levels that I was thinking of legislation the UK. I checked it in my own compendium since, and it would appear from Ford Brochures detailing Ford Sierra models of the time that in fact the “Passenger Side” door mirrors appeared on the ‘Saloon’ and ‘L’ as early as 1983 with the body colour-toned front grilles, three-door body model, and updated wheel covers on the ‘L’.

  18. Brian: I tried to provide a longer and more interesting reply to your comment a few days back but technical problems confounded me.
    The Insignia is in my view the best resolved of the current batch of saloons and I do find it an eye-catcher. That said, there is not very hot competition in this field and I don´t feel the Insignia breaks any new ground. It´s simply a very good interpretation of the genre and is carried by nice details and truly superb paintwork. A V6 with 4×4 would be my preferred option had I the means and wish to have a spanky, lush new car.
    Of the others, I quite like the outgoing Honda Accord though it became a shade too bulky compared to its predecessor. In fact, this is true of all the C-D class saloons whose size/practicality ratio reached an optimum about two model cycles ago. The second last Accord remained well proportioned and the last Vectra was also a pretty good car. Europeans were treated to a better range of engines, colours and trim than the UK market where is seemed to exist mostly in fleet-fodder form. Anyone with a hedonistic bent would have avoided the car whereas German private buyers could get a very nice and opulent version for rather less than a mundane A4 or 320.
    Your Sierra work sounds invaluable. Is it available in printed format?

    1. Hi Richard,
      I truly sympathise with you feeling technically confounded. Though I don’t know what area of technical matters was proving a nuisance for you, just now I had to reluctantly cancel my email subscription to receive all posts from the excellent site ‘Driven To Write’. It was simply because I was receiving posts by email to all posts to the site rather than posts to Sierra Aero Shock which I think might be an option if I subscribed to ‘Driven To Write’ directly, (I think)? Or something like that. Anyway, I will keep the direct link to this page on my Facebook Page so I can hopefully visit it frequently to read the very interesting and informed opinions. I hasten to add, my “technophobia” is no reflection on ‘Driven To Write’ which I love and respect for the quality of its posts and contributors. Thank you anyway Richard for all your effort to reply to my comments.
      I couldn’t agree with you more about the Honda Accord. A lovely, classy, stylish car which I have admired going back to the late seventies. I must admit I do still rather like the current model as well. As for an Insignia OPC 4×4, say no more! If only!! Perhaps, you might share my biggest bugbear which is nearly all current C-D class road cars which I would suggest are very stylish from the exterior, all have the same uninspiring and monotonous interior front console/driver centre designs. Such a pity! I remember the wondrous ergonomic Driver Zones of the Ford Sierra, (the Ghia in particular with the added Graphic Module Interface and Trip Computer). Wow!
      Concerning my compendium ‘Man and Machine in Perfect Harmony: Ford Sierra 1982 – 1993’ I did print and bind a copy of it for myself just after its completion in the last month which proved enormously expensive from an ink point of view. It was worth it in my opinion however as it is a very faithful catalogue and synopsis of all the Ford Sierra models from launch to finale. It proves a great reference point for reminding the reader of which Sierra was which over the years. I have a promo video of the compendium to represent exactly what it is, but my difficulty is I cannot add the link to the video here as I would be “publishing” the content which might involve some Copyright issues though all its copyright content is fully acknowledged in the Printed & Online Formats of the compendium itself. Umm, I could initially send you the link to the Video by email, but that would involve you sharing your email address with me which you might be reluctant to do. Do you have a Facebook page Richard where I could send you a Private Message including the link through Facebook? Not sure what to do unless you might have any good ideas. Thanks for your interest in my compendium.

    1. Hi Brian: thanks for that but to be honest this is as much social media as I can handle. I had another request from a neighbour to sign up to Face Book as this is the means that parents in the area can arrange play dates for the kids. And at work the students are communicating about lectures and exams via Facebook. I am not unaware of its uses yet I feel adding it to my list of regular internetty activities will fry my brain even further. I think we´ll keep communications to this medium. That said, I´m on LinkedIn (which is utterly useless).
      I feel a bit rude and discourteous -. I hope you don´t mind!

  19. No problem at all, Richard. I perfectly understand your reticence about the internet. In fact, as it happens I have decided to write a second edition of the compendium which would add another section of about 30 pages taking a closer look at the corporate and public reaction to the Ford Sierra. I remain complimented by your interest in my compendium, and look forward to reading your further contributions in ‘Driven to Write’. Thanks again.

  20. Thanks for that, Brian. It´s mostly a matter of limited time. This enterprise consumes my available time and I don´t have any headspace left over for the other options. My wife uses Twitter and that can time consuming as well.
    Where is this compendium available from?
    And have had a chance to peruse our satirical series Gorfe´s Granadas? This is more a wry look at the hazards of classic car ownership rather than Granadas in particular. I happen to be a bit of a fan of that kind of 70s vehicle though I do have a bias towards Opels at the moment.
    Feel free to comment on any of the rest of the site. The more the merrier. We like to think we offer a pleasant and conversational forum for people and so far it has worked out precisely that way.
    All the best!


    1. Hi Richard,
      The Compendium is not published (yet), but is simply a private compilation from official Ford sources with an introduction, two chapters, as well as a synopsis, (and a new section on the way), written by me. A labour of love you might say. I would happily send you a printed copy by land mail if it were not so costly to print and bind individual copies. Plus, to be honest, I’m always sensitive to try and respect internet site user’s privacy as regards their addresses of various types.
      I’ll certainly have a look at Gorfe´s Granadas as I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen of content shared by contributors to ‘Driven To Write’ so far.


    1. Thanks Richard, I’m glad you liked it! I only discovered this website this weekend and have already disappeared down a rabbit hole for several hours reading it! 🙂

    2. John: Thanks for the correction. It’s something of a minefield correctly attributing photos, so apologies for getting it wrong.

    1. I would go a little further than Richard and suggest they are correct. There was an essential rightness to all of the designs created under the supervision of Uwe Bahnsen to my mind. Mind you I had to go and look at some photos to remind myself but while doing so discovered a detail that had hitherto eluded me. While the second-series (1987 I believe) Sierra hatch retained the old-fashioned rain gutter/body join/cantrail, the three volume Sapphire was changed to the more modern roof seam/gutter arrangement, which was much neater. Given that the new model required an entirely new mono-side, it perhaps made sense to do this, but in conjunction with the alterations to the doors as mentioned in a previous comment, the cost implications for these changes must have been colossal.

  21. Richard: No irony intended. I think the original 1982 Sierra has really nice detailing. I’ve observed in the past that the fourth generation Vauxhall Astra essentially copied the Sierra’s A-pillar shutlines.

    I remember reading in Car magazine at the time that the 1987 facelift was properly expensive because the sheet metal changes were extensive. One main driver was to make the windows bigger which was a long-standing Sierra criticism. This was achieved by reducing the corner radii, which presumably increased the stress on the metal, being the opposite to what de Havilland did to their fatigued Comet’s window frames.

    It is interesting that Ford didn’t go the extra mile and eliminate the drip rails from the hatchback. Knowing how carefully Ford cost things, it must have been a bridge too far and I guess ultimately there was simply no need because no-one was complaining about the existing solution.

    Talking of the bean counters, it’s amazing how much differentiation there was on those early Sierras. Far more than you get nowadays I think. The poverty-spec “Sierra saloon” had a load of unique interior plastic bits (mainly blanking plates!) as well as the infamous grey polycarbonate grill. The original Ghia had its own nose, bumpers, three slat aerodynamic wheel trims and rear lights with stripes across them. I never knew if the intention for the latter was for them to be self-cleaning like a Mercedes or if it was just a styling gimmick, but I liked it.

    The last of the line Sierras may have been better cars, but to my eyes they were nowhere near as attractive as the original series, being far too cluttered. The purity and integrity of the original design was tainted after a few years when the “Kinnock ears” (sadly not my term) were fitted, essential though they were. Ford did a nicer job making those look integrated on the 1985 series 3 Granada. One has to imagine that checking that cross-wind stability is acceptable has been deeply ingrained in the collective psyche of a whole generation of Ford aerodynamicists following the Sierra debacle.

    1. Are you referring to the 1998-2004 Astra? That’s the closest in A-pillar treatment I can find.

      Some aspects of car design are akin to tailoring in that there only a few principle solutions to a cut, edge or join. The rest is style, nuance and inflection. I’d agree with you that the Astra G and H have a similar way of splitting the panels: the A-pillar is partly covered by the door’s window frame. There are only two other main solutions: the door window frame covers the A-pillar entirely (1993 Fiat Punto) or it sits recessed or flush (Astra J 2009-2015). Both the Astra G and Sierra go the middle way. So does the 1995 Renault Megane. A casual search indicates the middle way is less common as I believe it forces an unwelcome three-way split at the base of the A-pillar or a slightly costly extra extension of the wing pressing.
      Ford sold a lot of Sierras. And they were less embarassed at selling models that looked stripped-out than today. You don’t see many obvious “base model” cars now. They look similar but there a marked differences in the gadget count, I expect. In 1982 Ford had to rely more on having visually distinguished trim and addenda.

  22. Richard: Yes, that’s the Astra generation I’m referring to. It’s currently pictured at the top of the Wikipedia entry for the same.

    1. Thanks – an underrated bit of styling, as I like to remind people. The a-pillar isn’t the best bit though. Having the window frame recessed (as in the Astra J and many others) seems the optimum solution. I don’t see what the split concept really does. The Punto solution makes a nasty T-junction with the outline of the front screen – see the Peugeot 406.
      I like discussing this stuff; a lot of design is at this level. Audi must be full of detail obsessives as they seldom fluff these matters.

  23. Until I discovered this website a few days ago I thought it was only me who noticed some of these details! The highest compliment I can pay this site is that I feel like I’ve come home 🙂

    I used to love Audi design (in so many ways the Apple of the automotive industry), but now it just bores me. I never got on with that gormless full height grill they insist on putting on all their cars now.

    1. Audi have gone off the boil in recent years. The A3 saloon is still in line with their old standard. Much of the rest lacks the purity that characterised their output for decades.

      We’re glad you are enjoying our distinctive but not very influential content. Have you discovered our theme on shutlines? We spent a month on that.

  24. A counterfactual entered my head today. Perhaps in retrospect Ford ought to have followed Peugeot practice and staggered the Sierra’s introduction; maintaining Cortina production (it could have remained at Cork’s Marina plant serving whatever markets wanted it) with a cap on engine size – say 1.6 and 2.0 litres only and nothing above L or special edition spec. This would have satisfied both fleets and the more conservative end of customer spectrum, allowing the Sierra to gain market traction above.

    By contrast, the Sierra could then have been widely perceived as a more upmarket offering (which had been the intention anyway) and with larger capacity engines only. It’s quite likely that Cortina demand would have fizzled out within a relatively short time, allowing Ford to then offer entry level Sierras, by which time, the market would undoubtedly have been ready and willing.

    Would it have worked? It certainly worked for Peugeot over many years and overlapping product lines. It certainly couldn’t have cost the blue oval as much as the fumbled introduction of Sierra.

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