Today DTW features a car that was given a new lease of life with an extensive and highly effective makeover.
Ford regularly plays fast and loose with its mark numbers, often applying them to even quite modest facelifts of the outgoing model. However, in the case of the Sierra, the Mk2 designation was well deserved.
Ford launched the original Sierra in 1982 as a replacement for the conventional and conservative Cortina Mk5. The new model was a rear-wheel-drive car like its predecessor, but the aero body (believed to have originally been the work of Gert Hohenester working under the supervision of Design Director, Uwe Bahnsen at Merkenich) was dramatically different, with a hatchback instead of a conventional boot.
Ford had tried to manage market expectations with its 1981 Probe III Concept, but the production car was still a great shock to many. The higher-specification models with the fully faired-in front end and large dual rectangular light units looked rather futuristic, but the low-line models with smaller headlamps and a three-slat grille looked very plain, especially the base model where the grille was unpainted grey textured plastic.
The Sierra quickly acquired the unflattering jellymould nickname and faced significant resistance from potential buyers, many of whom were attracted instead to the smart new Opel Ascona C and its Vauxhall Cavalier equivalent. The GM model had been launched a year earlier in 1981 and, beneath its neat, if conservative styling, it was front wheel drive, a layout which was no longer regarded with suspicion by fleet managers.
Moreover, the Ascona/ Cavalier was available in both four-door saloon and five-door hatchback variants, making it attractive to a wider range of buyers than the hatchback (and estate) only Sierra. Worse for Ford, there were a large number of Cortina models unsold at dealerships which drew potential buyers away, attracted by the generous discounts available.
Ford realised that it had made a significant miss-step with the Sierra and it needed a more conventional looking three-volume saloon quickly. The most expedient way to do this was to re-engineer the Escort Mk3 hatchback and, in September 1983, it launched the Orion. This was a quite pleasant looking car, if perceived to be smaller and rather staid in comparison with the Ascona/ Cavalier. It sold steadily, mainly to older, more conservative buyers.
There remained the problem of what to do with the Sierra. A major redesign was ordered, together with the development of a three-box booted version. This came to fruition in September 1987 with the launch of the Sierra Mk2. The revised car was now also available as a saloon, called the Sierra Sapphire in the UK. The front end of all models was revised to have wider headlamps with outboard indicators that wrapped around into the front wings. This eliminated the slightly awkward visible panel gap that had surrounded the fairing panel/grille on the outgoing model. At the rear, wider but slimmer rear light clusters were used.
The biggest and most expensive change was quite subtle, but highly effective. The radii of all the corners in the door windows was reduced to make them look sharper. This had the effect of making the glass area look larger and the frames slimmer. A slightly larger quarter light in the C/D-pillar completed the overhaul and transformed the appearance of the car.
In hindsight, it is a moot point as to whether the facelift was as transformational as I would argue, or whether the public had simply become more accustomed to the aero design. It was probably a combination of both factors but, in any event, the facelifted car was a great success and remained on the market for a further six years before being replaced by the first Mondeo in 1993.