They Don’t Make Them Like That Any More and They Probably Don’t Exist Either

If the headline had been a bit shorter this would almost count as a micropost.

1989 Ford Sierra GLS 4x4: Autocar
1989 Ford Sierra GLS 4×4: Autocar

Not only did Ford make a 4×4 Sierra in XR trim, they also sold it in a calmer and cheaper GLS format. This is a 2.9 litre V6 four-wheel drive family car. I didn’t find any for sale so those few Ford sold are now all rust or converted to XR fakes. Off the top of my head, the combination of six-cylinder power and four-wheel drive didn’t appear on many other contemporary saloons apart from the Scorpio and the ’86-’93 BMW 325iX. The Vectra had a 2.0 turbo.  That’s it then, for competitors, as far as I can see.

And Ford produced an interesting proposition. I imagine the Sierra could keep up with Land Rovers with little effort, so long as the LR didn’t drive onto a mountain, that is.

The late 80s witnessed a slew of 4×4 saloons (we have discussed the Mitsubishi Galant here). This is the first time we’ve mentioned the Ford interpretation of the genre. Are there any around? Not as such. I did find a Sierra Ghia 4×4 as a project car. The text which I will reproduce is very Myles Gorfe: “Hi I am selling my project Ford Sierra sapphire 4×4 Ghia 2l dohc 1991. Selling as I no longer have the cash to finish it due to change of plans. I brought the car from a bloke who had it in his drive way for 7 years, said the head gasket had gone but when I took the head off and put it back together I realised the engine was seized. So after a lot of digging I found a engine that was low miles 92k, and this is now in the car. I have also put a new clutch kit and timing chain, given it a Service and a semi rebuild. I have also replaced lots of new parts including, clutch cable, starter motor, prop shaft, battery, plugs and leads. The car starts stops and drives.

It’s in need of someone with the know-how and the patience to bring it back to its prime, needs tidying up. The underneath is solid no rot or rust. Body work is OK considering its age. It has new boot lid as you can see in pictures is a different colour. Also have Cosworth door rubbers. They’re in a box not on the car. Inside need good clean this car does need work it’s no show car and needs to be trailered away as hasn’t been on the road in 7 years, no MOT. There are lots of spare parts in the boot. These are getting very very rare now and I done checks on them and the Internet says there’s only 17 left on the road.”

1989 Ford Sierra 4x4 ad text

The part of the text in the advert I like is the honest line: “The new Sierra GLS 4×4 brings the advantages of the system further down the price range”. I wonder what advertising for the Ghia claimed. “The new Sierra Ghia 4×4 keeps the high price of the XR but replaces the wild styling with beige velour and real wood door-cappings” perhaps.

I feel I might want to track down a period review of this car or a variant and see what the press thought. Pretty much the entire concept behind the Sierra GLS 4×4 is obsolete: Ford don’t major in family saloons like they did; the trim hierarchy has been bulldozed; the 4×4 mania has moved to CUVs and downsizing has killed the mainstream six cylinder engine.

Wait! If you like the 4×4 V6 format you can still get a Jaguar X-type. That’s more Ghia than GLS too.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “They Don’t Make Them Like That Any More and They Probably Don’t Exist Either”

  1. I suppose the closest we have nowadays is the superb V6 in 4*4 format. Not sure if Myles will be getting misty eyed about it in twenty years time though.

  2. Interesting. Can anyone explain awd’s popularity in the US? I live in an area that gets little snow or ice during winter but a substantial fraction of the BMWs and Mercedes here have AWD. And then there are all those lifted station wagons with AWD. I’ve never seen the point of it.

    One day in November ’89 I drove west on the New York Thruway (that’s how it is spelled) during a small blizzard of nothing at all. I was in my humble Civic 1500S hatchback, had no trouble with the snow. Many were the 4wd/awd vehicles off the road in snowbanks. I don’t see why 4wd/awd is worth having.

    On some of my field trips in the tropics I’ve rented 4wd vehicles. Land Rovers (a long long time ago), Nissans, even a Kia Sportage Turbo Diesel (slow). I’ve had to put them in 4 a handful of times and really needed it only once and that was on a paved road in Panama. The road was being repaved by putting down a layer of tar, covering it with gravel and letting traffic compact the stuff. We had to stop on fresh tar — no gravel yet — on a steep grade, couldn’t start up the hill in 2. 4 did it.

    1. Fred, I agree, a small fwd front engined car is perfect for slippy conditions. The 4wd/awd does help though on heavy fresh snow. The front wheels can get wedged and (especially with torque vectoring) the rear wheels have a track already cleared by the front wheels. Did many get stuck on that road in Panama!?

  3. Mick, we were the only car there at the time. The road was temporarily blocked — road crew working — and when they let us go all we got in 2wd was wheelspin. I put the vehicle in 4 and off we went. The alternative would have been rolling back to clean surface and getting a little speed up before hitting the tar.

  4. My own time with 4WD, in my old Audi S6, showed its advantages and its shortcomings. In snow, I would rather have been driving a FWD with winter tyres than the quattro with its good quality ‘sports’ tyres. At first there was a bit of amusement to be had from powering it out of a wet roundabout but, in the end, that just risked me losing the finesse that you develop by driving 2WD machinery and, sooner or later, you’ll catch yourself out if you believe that 4WD can’t be caught out. If my choice had been restricted to old Audis alone, I would rather have a 4WD one than a dead steering, nose happy FWD A6. But, generally, my 2WD V6 Mondeo of the same era was the better car by far.

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