Into the Vortex – Part Three

The vortex claims its sacrifice.

Double-sided full-size Toni styling model – 1979. Image: (c) Steve Saxty

Despite what Uwe Bahnsen later stated publicly, both he and his design team were placed squarely in the firing line as Sierra’s disappointing early sales figures were thrown in their faces, as Patrick le Quément recalls: “Design was the centre of acrimony, we had designed a car that started slowly in the UK, the cash-cow land of Ford in Europe. We entered very difficult times”.

Having taken something of a leap of faith with Sierra rather than their usual practice of exhaustive market research, Dearborn’s executives wanted someone’s head. Bahnsen would be a convenient choice and at a Star Chamber interrogation at Merkenich, chaired by Detroit Ford executive, Harold A. (Red) Poling[1], and witnessed by a horrified le Quément, they got their man. “The end of Uwe Bahnsen’s career was a tragedy and they almost managed to break him, but he left, dignified and became head of Art Center Europe in Switzerland”.

Ironically, Sierra’s slow early sales performance recovered, and by mid-decade the car was selling as strongly in the UK, as elsewhere. Nevertheless, le Quément was understandably ambivalent about overseeing its mid-cycle facelift, especially given the ill-feeling which now permeated. The challenge as he put it was “to retain the forward-thinking design statement of the original Sierra and yet give it a more taut and precise personality”.

Early design rendering for Sierra saloon. Image: (c) Steve Saxty

The revised car was also notable for the debut of a three-volume saloon version, which in one aspect at least tipped its hat to the products of Sindelfingen. “For sure, I do recall that when we designed the 4-door Sierra sedan, we were somewhat inspired by the chamfered planes that featured on the rear deck-lid of the Mercedes 190, but that’s about it.” Homage or not, the resultant design (called the Sierra Sapphire in the UK) was very well received and continued the model’s upward sales trajectory, soon outselling the hatchback in Britain.

But for the Frenchman, too much damage had been done. “The atmosphere was so awful, I began to think about jumping ship.” Ford management’s intention had been to groom him to succeed Bahnsen, but le Quément realised he had reached a watershed. “I could not face two years living in the Ford American Design Centre, knowing that a crisis was going on in Europe and that Uwe Bahnsen was being treated in the most dreadful manner.” During 1985, the front cover of Automotive News Europe would subsequently announce le Quément’s departure to VW Audi[2] and the fact that 16 Ford designers also left in rapid succession. Ford’s loss would be the wider industry’s gain, since many of these individuals would go on to significant design careers elsewhere.

The experience left an indelible mark on le Quément. “It totally shaped my future behaviour/strategy as a designer. I went on to pursue the goal that I shared with Uwe of positioning the Design Department into a more strategic role, knowing that this was not possible within Ford for a long time to come.” Andy Jacobson, le Quément’s former deputy, would be elevated to succeed Bahnsen in the wake of both men’s departure, and with Ford’s Market Research[3] function firmly back in the driving seat, design took a palpable step backwards. Dearborn’s ham-fisted pogroms would come back to bite them.

Small wonder therefore that by 1995, Ford’s design centre would languish in a lowly 15th place in a global list of desirable auto studio environments. The leading place? Renault, at the time headed by le Quément. Such irony.

The Sierra was to prove a landmark design, for although others embraced softer forms and aerodynamic shapes, Ford were amongst the first truly mainstream carmakers to do so overtly. The Sierra, it could be argued then, carried out a lot of the heavy lifting to habituate the wider market to more radical design. Its broader significance in the pantheon therefore cannot be underestimated.

But automotive design is a collaborative process[4]. As such, both successes and failures must be faced collectively. The fact that senior management ran away from collective responsibility for the Sierra’s early weaknesses, blamed the design team and hid behind the persecution of “an honourable man” speaks very poorly, not only of the individuals concerned, but of Ford, both as a business culture and an employer.

Uwe Bahnsen and his nemesis. Image:

The impact of the Sierra, despite its early controversies lent the blue oval a significant and palpable image boost across Europe, catapulting them (for a brief time at least) into a design leadership position. We should not forget either that it was ultimately a commercial success. But for Uwe Bahnsen, not to mention Patrick le Quément, this would come at too high a price.

You enter the vortex at your peril.


Uwe Bahnsen remained at Merkenich until he took up his appointment in Art Centre in Switzerland during 1986. He will be profiled more fully on DTW in a separate article.

Patrick le Quément was appointed Chief Designer (second in command to Bahnsen) in early 1981. At the time that the campaign against Uwe Bahnsen was at its height, he received an offer from Volkswagen-Audi which he accepted in July 1985. He subsequently became Senior Vice President of Design at Renault in 1987 until his retirement in 2009. He is now a naval architect of considerable renown and a valued contributor to design theory and the historical record.

Despite what Jack Telnack might say, Ray Everts was the key design lead and principal lynchpin behind the 1986 Taurus/ Sable, but has since been airbrushed out of history by those whose behaviour can best be characterised by what le Quément refers to as, “Les dents qui rayent le parquet”. Following Everts’ stint at Dearborn, he became a successful consultant, working for a number of carmakers in Europe and the Far East.

Klaus Kapitza subsequently departed Merkenich for BMW, where working under the direction of Claus Luthe, he was responsible for amongst other designs, the exterior of the E31 8-Series.

Gert Hohnester remained at Merkenich but was scapegoated for the poor reception of the 1994 Ford Scorpio design. “An attempt was made to fire Gert, or rather to offer him an early retirement package which he refused. He took a lawyer and attacked Ford and they lost, and so he was reinstated. He remained there in a ‘non job’ until his retirement. A fate worse than death”. History repeats itself.

Bob Lutz surely requires no introduction.


[1] Red Poling was latterly described by Lutz as “the bean counter’s bean counter” He would later become Ford Motor Company CEO.

[2] Patrick le Quément: “Dr Hahn of the Volkswagen Audi-Group proposed that I should join Volkswagen in a group role as head of Advanced, lasting for a 2 year period, before becoming the first overall head of Group Design, which at the time was made up of Volkswagen-Audi and Seat”.

[3] Patrick le Quément: “Over many years I have quoted David Ogilvy’s famous remark on market research (or clinics to some), which I discovered pinned on a board when I taught at The RCA : « Most companies use market research like a drunkard uses a lamp-post, more for support rather than illumination ».”

[4] As Uwe Bahnsen later pointed out in interview, the decision to proceed with Sierra was taken jointly by the product committee.

Driven to Write extends its grateful thanks to Patrick le Quément for his assistance, insight and candour throughout the research and creation of this series.

My thanks also to Christopher Butt, for his generous assistance.

Thanks to author, Steve Saxty for his help with image sourcing. Steve Saxty’s books detail the design and product planning of Ford cars, like the Sierra. Readers can get 10% discount – plus free UK shipping – at


©Driven to Write. All rights reserved.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

42 thoughts on “Into the Vortex – Part Three”

  1. Great series, Eóin. Thanks a lot. “The World´s least influential motoring site”? Not for me!
    As always, when a design doesn´t work commercially, the passing the buck game starts and the executive committee that gave the go ahead (and is handsomely paid for that) blames the designer and saves its arse.

  2. Image 2 (the water-colouresque one) is very lovely. It leaves something to the imagination yet could also give a clay modeller a lot to work with. Digital drawings do not have this quality. Is it to do with the saturation?

  3. The treatment of Uwe Bahnsen (and Gert Hohnester) by Ford was truly shameful. They delivered exactly what the company wanted, a forward looking-design that was very handsome, in higher specification versions at least. If a mistake was made, it was probably that not enough attention was given to how the lower line versions, which really looked rather cheap and frumpy. Whether that was the fault of the desigers or Ford’s bean-counters is a moot point.

    Still, at least karma intervened with the departure of Patrick le Quément and his colleagues to hopefully more collegiate environments, losing Ford some of its most talented designers. I guess this explains the generic and nondescript styling of the 1990 Escort Mk5 and 1992 Mondeo (and their wacky facelifts with those awful oval grilles).

    Chapeau, Eóin for a great piece of writing and thanks to Patrick le Quément for sharing his recollections with DTW.

    1. So glad somebody else thinks the Mondeo facelift was “wacky” – I remember Russell Bulgin pondering what the Ford designers might be smoking….

  4. Say what you will about the Sierra – it was never my cup of tea – but it can’t have been a really bad design, because 10 years later almost all mid-range cars looked like Sierra in some way.
    One thing I don’t understand.
    Surely appropriate research was done (car clinic etc) in advance of the development and determination of the design.
    I can’t imagine that a company like Ford would do without this.
    There must have been positive feedback on the design, otherwise this path would not have been followed to the end.
    So if someone had to be blamed for the (initial) sales failure, it had to be the person who issued the invitations, because obviously the wrong people were consulted.

    A few days ago we were at a classic car show. There were actually only three interesting vehicles: a Matra 530 (I haven’t seen one in the wild for a very long time), a vehicle from the 1920s from a brand that is completely unknown to me – and a 5-door Sierra in white.
    Surely this series on DTW was the decisive reason for me to take a closer look. It was worth it.

    1. Focus groups seem not to be reliable. Perhaps it is a matter of the methodology. The questions can be poorly framed, the data badly analysed and the results misrepresented. There is a lot that can go wrong in the social science of people´s aesthetic and purchasing preferences. See: Signum, Opel.

    2. Richard, you are absolutely right. So the question remains, why are these companies spending (have spent) a fortune on this?
      And inevitably that leads to the question of why we got what we got and what we didn’t get, that we could have got.

    3. Re: focus groups. Stephen Bayley wrote that when the Sierra was ‘cliniced’, respondents believed it was a more expensive car. He noted that nobody asked them if they would actually go out and buy it.

    4. Thank you Eóin for the explanation. I can’t believe that in this situation people don’t ask the questions to get the answers they need.

      Respectfully. fred


  5. Thanks for the great articles, not least because this is a car that I have reasonably strong feelings about that run contrary to the overall narrative. Nothing better than to have your prejudices challenged and have to think again, is there?

    I can fully understand the desire to leave Ford by le Quément and others but I can’t help seeing the whole Sierra saga from the point of view of Ford management.

    They were presented with a design they didn’t like and were very unsure about but which their design team really pushed. By the sounds of it they didn’t do enough market research or, as later issues would prove, enough real world testing.

    The car is released to great fanfare and is a flop. I should say is a relative flop given Ford’s market position at the time.

    The car is facelifted and the initial design, which we should remember was disliked, rowed back on and a four door saloon introduced. Sales pick up.

    This just reads like the management were right. The design just wasn’t good enough and without a four door option it shut off a whole section of the market. It wasn’t that the design was too forward thinking for a conservative market, it just wasn’t executed well enough. If you release a car that is mocked for being like a jelly mould and sales tank it is, by definition, not good enough.

    For Ford this was a cash cow, a market leader in it’s segment, this was a big mistake and someone would have to go. Given how the design team pushed this design it was always going to be the team leader.

    For a perspective on how successful the Sierra was I would look at the place of its predecessors and successors in the market. I don’t have the numbers but the Cortina was a segment leader and the Mondeo so ubiquitous that it gave rise to Mondeo Man. The Sierra was comfortably seen off by the superior Cavalier.

    1. It would be interesting to compare the Sierra sales figures in Britain with those from the rest of Europe. Perhaps the old Cortina, while still selling strongly in the UK, was dead in the continent, where fleet sales weren´t so important and private buyers wanted something less conservative.

      Also, I understand that in the mid ´80s the market changed and Ford sales position was never to be the same again. Vauxhall had a formidable rival, the Montego was a very decent car, and some new and surprisingly successful competition appeared: BX, R21, 405, Bluebird, Passat, and even the lower BMWs and Audis.

    2. CE: I’m always welcome to a counter argument, and as I’m fond of repeating, other views are available.

      I’d would like however, to return to a couple of your points.

      Bob Lutz and Ford’s German-based design team didn’t hold a loaded revolver to Dearborn management’s heads. While the Detroit contingent certainly had reservations about the design being proposed and required a good deal of convincing, the decision to proceed was theirs. If their misgivings were so grave, they could have commissioned further market research. It was within their purview to have done so. They could also have said no.

      Even after design freeze, the proposed vehicle is scrutinised in minute detail by the marketing and product strategy functions, who carry out cross-model comparisons against rival models, determine specification levels and model stratifications. They would also have been consulted about the car prior to design freeze. If they had reservations about the lack of a three-volume saloon, for instance, why didn’t they raise it? Even after the design was frozen, it would have been possible to have toned down the visuals, had the will or imperative been there. Ford’s marketers and product strategists were renowned as the best in the business, so how were these matters missed?

      The Cavalier was cheaper to run. This made it the darling of the fleets. However, it suffered a lot of teething troubles as well. The Sierra was by comparison, more expensive over 2 years, ergo less attractive to the fleet managers. Styling had little bearing on this. Ford lost their market dominance to GM all by itself.

      I’ll return to these subjects of cause and effect in a forthcoming (final) piece, but basically, there was a lot of blame to go around.

      A question: Had management gone with the ‘safe’ design proposal and it had tanked outside of the UK, what do you imagine the reaction would have been? A rueful shrug of the shoulders, or would someone’s head have been required?

      My feeling is that the various functions got enthusiastically behind the car, a form of ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ took over and when the proverbial hit the fan, they all scuttled back to their silos, leaving the design team to face the music. But even if we could agree that it was necessary for Uwe Bahnsen to fall on his sword (and I don’t incidentally), there was no justification for the manner in which he was treated. But it’s worth bearing in mind that Ford have form in treating their employees badly.

      Another point worth making is that Ford’s Dearborn lords and masters learned nothing from any lack of due diligence on Sierra. Similar mistakes were repeatedly made with product (in Europe and the US) and in even more lurid fashion, in mergers and acquisitions. For example, Ford bought Jaguar in 1989 for $2.5 billion. Its market value was $500m at best. After the takeover was completed, John Egan was summoned to Dearborn to answer for this. CEO, Red Poling asked Egan how he could justify this expenditure to his shareholders? Egan allegedly replied, “you purchased $500m worth of sausage and $2bn worth of sizzle”. Poling’s response was simply, “well I’ll be damned”. In their mad dash to claim the prize, they simply lost their heads.

      Ford is in the business to make money, and the motor business is a high-stakes enterprise. No question about that. People end up as collateral damage. All of this is true, but I won’t defend it.

  6. Thanks Eóin.

    For what it’s worth when there is a percieved failure in a large business and they treat their employees in the manner Ford did to Bahnsen it does usually speaks to a collective failing in search of a scape goat. I wasn’t really trying to say such scape goating was deserved, rather that it could be expected since this is generally how large corporations react. If it hadn’t been him they would have dumped it on someone else.

    There must, for example, have been a collective or individual decision to not have a three box saloon to start off with, something that must have been decided upon at various stages by various people, one of those could have gone. Or whoever failed to keep early service costs low enough, they could have gone.

    For my money le Quèment had the right idea, jump ship. If these guys don’t have your back then find someone who does

  7. I am also interested in the service costs being a bit high. My experience of Ford is that they were excellent at keeping them down, though this was many years later.

    They actively sought to put serice parts into garages on a pay-as-you-use basis and were able to do so at a lower price than the non-OEM suppliers. This seemed to be based on using the same parts on almost everything, something that made life significantly easier.

    Years later I blew through a piston in my Saab 96 and after a lot of searching around managed to find another engine, since pistons were no longer available. This turned out to be unnecessary. Pistons from one of the Focus engines are a direct fit, though you would obviously need to change all four because of the change in composition. Efficiency in design and manufacturing or luck? I assumed the former.

    1. CE: Regarding service costs. I once worked in client services for a car leasing business. Part of that role was to handle the service/repair invoices for contract hire vehicles, query them where necessary and approve for payment. I also was tasked with shepherding returned lease vehicles through the workshop for rectification prior to them being released to the sales team. What I can recall (and this is over 30 years ago) is that the routine Sierra service costs were broadly on a par with the equivalent Ascona (we held an Opel franchise, amongst other makes), but if the Sierra was neglected or hammered, its costs rose dramatically. The Ascona by comparison could take a lot more abuse. Sierras tended to require more rectification after the lease expired – things like dampers in particular stood out. The Ford Pinto units did not take high mileages all that well either, getting smoky and noisy.

      Now, we also had a car rental arm and a large quantity of these ended up on the back of a flatbed, courtesy of foreign visitors having ran out of road/talent. The body repair shop was in the same building as the workshop and I do recall seeing a disproportionate number of Sierras on body jigs. Speaking to people in the Insurance industry, they supported the view that the car was more prone to serious accident damage than the norm.

      None of these factors endeared the car to fleet operators. Most were alleviated or eradicated as the car was developed, but it shouldn’t have come to market with these issues in the first place.

      In Irish rural markets, the Cortina had been a popular choice. It was rugged, easy to repair and it looked the part. These customers wouldn’t touch a Sierra. By then, the likes of Toyota and Datsun/Nissan had already made serious inroads and rural customers migrated en-masse to Carinas and Bluebirds. Ireland was small fry in volume terms, but it could (in retrospect) have held the key in keeping the fleet market alive for Ford until Sierra was established.

      In Germany, I believe the Sierra outsold the Taunus by a highly significant margin.

  8. I should also answer your direct question!

    If they had gone with the achingly dull but safe option and it tanked elsewhere they would probably still sacked someone is a despicable manner. Maybe more than one.

    The fact that the safe option was being smilled upon by god would have saved nobody.

    Did the sales performance in Europe counterbalance that in the UK?

    1. I believe the new Sierra outsold the old Taunus in Europe by a ratio of three to one, which presumably still wasn’t enough to offset the greatly diminished fleet sales cash cow in Britain.

      Can anyone recall how the equally bold DE-1 hatchback Scorpio/Granada (conceived by the same group of designers) did upon its launch in 1985? Was it also a sales flop in Britain?

    2. At least in Germany Ford never had the strong position in the market it had in the UK.
      Sierra sales numbers were fine, particularly when taking into account that Ford and Opel got under severe pressure from VAG with 2 million Passat B1 and 1.1 million Audi 80 B1. There was also increasing pressure from BMW which changed from a niche player to mass producer selling 2.3 million E30s and there were 1.9 million W201 in a new market segment for Mercedes.
      Against this 2.7 million Sierras doesn’t look too bad.

  9. A fascinating article and discussion, as ever.

    A few things occur to me. Firstly, it was probably inadvisable for Mr Ford to make it known that he preferred a version of the saloon, as this information is likely to have been stored by various ‘career-minded’ people for later use and may have biased subsequent attitudes and actions.

    Secondly, the issue of market research. It would have been conducted very professionally, and on a large, quantitative, international scale. What companies do with the information is another matter, though; they aren’t obliged to follow the findings and often don’t.

    Finally, I wonder what parallels there are between the Sierra’s case and the Edsel, 30 years earlier. I’ll need to think about that one, as it’s a long time since I read about the Edsel.

  10. Maybe you should provide a link to your article on the Scorpio Mk2, a car I was not familiar with but with apparently infamous styling so searched and viola, you wrote about it a couple of years ago. Or maybe update it, curious to know the internal machinations of why Ford went ahead given all the negative clinic feedback the article notes they had.

  11. A very grateful thank you to all involved for this series. Ford surely wasn’t (and isn’t) the only toxic work environment around. That said, their scapegoating was shameful, especially in the case of Uwe Bahnsen. Only at the time of the Focus mk1 did Ford achieve this kind of design quality again. Still, Ford’s loss was other manufacturers’ gain.

    The saloon rendering highlights something that I never noticed on the Sierra until reading this series: on the 3 door, the A, B and C pillars are all of constant width top to bottom, while on the 5 door and the saloon, the B and C pillars taper slightly. The 5 door’s D pillar is the 3 door’s C pillar and is constant width again. On the rendering it looks like the saloon’s C pillar was originally meant to be constant width as well with the tapering provided by the (in the rendering curiously body coloured) black inserts.

    3 door and a 5 door picture to illustrate what I mean:

    I find that quite remarkable and telling of the design quality, frankly. Such disciplined details on such a round-looking car tell of great thoughtfulness – typical of the output of many of Toni’s design team, especially Mr. Le Quément.

    1. That five-door Sierra, even in the low-line specification above with no brightwork, is a handsome thing in side profile, because you cannot see the clumsy grille. I wonder how the faired front end might have looked if combined with the smaller headlamps? Time to get out my crayons…

      The three-door needs a slightly wider C-pillar, as suggested by you and illustrated by Tom V in Part One of this series:

      That’s much better.

    2. Here’s a low-line Sierra with the smaller headlamps, but a faired-in front end rather than the grille. original first for comparison:

      I think the faired-in suits the styling better.

    3. Nice going, Daniel. Funny how that Sierra looks like it’s counter steering already at low speed 🙂. It’s a minor detail (and please excuse the nitpicking, I’m not trying to steal your thunder), but I would have gone with the fully closed off version, analogous to the higher end nose, but with smaller headlamps (original for comparison).

      Those extra shutlines still look weird to me, though. As does the bulkhead, which is a bit too high for me.

    4. Hi Tom. I tried the fully faired in version, but thought it looked rather too deep, so decided to leave the bottom slot in place. Ultimately, I think the correct solution was the one adopted by Ford, to use the wider headlamp version on all cars, even if it robbed the high-line versions of some distinctiveness.

    5. The obvious solution (to me) was always to have simply had a single frontal treatment across the entire range. The Ghia headlamp/front panel was clearly the original design intent; the alternate treatment most likely being a sop to marketing. However, it backfired badly. Firstly, it ensured that buyers of the lower-spec models felt short-changed, and since the low-spec models were the most frequently seen on the roads, embedded a less than optimal visual impression in the eyes of an already sceptical wider public. That Ford elected to reverse this illustrates that they recognised the error.

      It’s worth recalling that the Cortina/ Taunus employed a single frontal style across all models, but the upper-spec models were clearly delineated. As somebody once observed to me, ‘you can smell a Ghia’. You could back then. During this period – (Erika was the first instance of it as I recall), Ford’s upscale models became harder to identify, with less ‘jewellery’ to differentiate them from lowlier models. I suspect this had something to do with Bob Lutz’s move to Europeanise Ford’s product offer, but it meant that there wasn’t a great deal externally to show for having shelled out for the top of the line. Certainly, it needed to be dialled back – the ’70s Ghia models were a little on the chintz-fest side, but I think they took it a little too far.

      The top-line Sierra was not a big seller, so would have been a comparatively rare sight on the roads. Hence, from a purely visual perspective, Sierra went into battle with something of a limp. The Ghia needed a bit more to distinguish it anyway. A decent set of suitably aero-looking alloys on wider aspect ratio, lower profile tyres would have gone a long way. I’m sure the styling team would have been happy to oblige, but Ford were pinching the pennies.

    6. Hi Eóin. The Cortina Mk4 and Taunus TC2 had a single frontal treatment with rectangular headlamps, but the previous generation Cortina had a hierarchy of single 7″ round, single rectangular and dual 5 3/4″ round headlamps. (The rectangular headlamp mid-line version was added after a facelift, IIRC.) Thevrsunus TC had either single 7″ round or rectangular headlamps, but no twin-headlamp version. I liked those different treatments: great spotting fodder for a young boy!

    7. The roundness: this car is definitely rounded yet it has a very strong and clear identity. Soon we´ll have a more recent rounded car to consider, one that is devoid of any visual interest at all. Keep tuned!

    8. Here’s “your” Sierra with a lower bulkhead and windscreen. I’m not sure about it. The original is a thoroughly thought out piece of design – with all its compromises – so tampering with it on a tuesday night doesn’t really do it justice.

    9. I think you will find it´s very hard to alter these shapes without knock-on consequences elsewhere. These cars are considered in 3D at full size over weeks if not months and adjusted visually according to quite-hard-to-articulate eye-feelings. Nice tries though!

    10. Tom V, that’s got Studebaker parentage if you ask me.

    11. Daniel O’Callaghan

      The faired-in front kind of works, could some elements from the Ford EXP’s grille have helped improve things?

      What perplexes me would be that if the Sierra and Scorpio shared a related platform and were both conceived by the same group of designers, then surely it would have been plausible for the Sierra’s styling at the front to feature cues from the later Scorpio instead of appearing to look like they were developed in complete isolation from each other (unless the design team’s original plans for the Scorpio was a variation of the jellymould theme).

    12. That five-door L is beautiful. Doesn’t it look clean and devoid of gargoyles compared to any modern car? Almost like something the Bauhaus would have designed in the 1930s.

      It’s worth remembering that two years before the Sierra’s big 1987 facelift Ford dropped the controversial grille and gave all models the Ghia’s quad headlamp smooth nose.

      I think the story of the Sierra is the story of Ford learning how to make a modern car and perhaps stretching a little further than they could reach. In aerodynamics, with the cross-wind stability problem and in Finite Element Analysis, where the quest for lightness made the early cars crumple in expensive places during a crash.

      The Cavalier/Ascona may well have been the superior car in some respects, but out of the pair it was the Sierra that defined the path towards the modern car.

    13. The posher versions of Taunsu TC1 had a combination of rectangulat headlights and additional round high beam lamps

    14. The Ghia needed a bit more to distinguish it anyway.

      There was actually quite a lot of tinsel that was unique to the original Sierra Ghia, but some of it was rather subtle.

      As well as the previously discussed smooth front with quad headlamps, from launch it got a unique front bumper with overriders and integrated fog lights. The rear bumper was also unique with a raised lip below the rear lights. These units were also peculiar to the Ghia, having horizontal black stripes.

      Both bumpers got chrome inserts and the side windows also had brightwork surrounds. The door mirrors were body coloured.

      The original three vent aerodynamic wheel trim design were Ghia-only, later replaced with the pepper-pot alloys.

      The Ghia got an electrically operated radio aerial, but in 1982 rear wash-wipe was an optional extra.

  12. This blame game never say right with me, considering Dearborn had gone all Aero at the time. During the Sierra gestation, they had the Tempo/Topaz in the pipeline, beginning wind tunnel testing as early as 1978. The Aero Thunderbird was out for model year 1983, the Lincoln Mark VII in 1984. Both was rather fast tracked in response to the ’80 and very forgettable Thunderbird but was nevertheless built on the same Fox-derived platform. The Taurus and Stable was out for 1986 but had a longer development process starting in 1980. I consider all of these cars on par with the Sierra considering controversial or not styling but all of these were a sales success in its home market. So if it wasn’t really the styling after all, then what?

    1. And don’t forget, that on the Asia/Pacific/Australian/New Zealand markets that didn’t go with the Sierra, the Telstar, based on the Mazda 626 had the Ford corporate ‘no grille’ on all versions as well as having a four door version from the start, to accompany the five door. Even now it is unclear if choosing the Telstar over the Sierra had more to do with minimising currency exchange fluctuations and lower freight costs across the Pacific than any controversial styling. I suspect the ‘styling controversy’ in Britain was secondary to the lack of a four door booted version, a mistake Ford didn’t make with the Telstar, the mistake with the Telstar was a lack of a wagon version. The Sierra wagon, the only Sierra sold in NZ, was a huge seller breaking into the top ten car sellers as a model all on it’s own. And that on top of the highly successful Telstar sales as well.

  13. On the matter of the Sierra’s poor crash performance mentioned by Eóin, some rallying people of my mid-’80s acquaintance claimed that a Sierra bodyshell weighed less than that of an Escort mark 2. This may just be myth – they constantly traded stories of the sort which would now take legs on the internet.

    The matter of Sierra shells going out of alignment with a small impact was definitely in the public domain not long after its launch. Ford people would claim that bonus-chasing Vauxhall dealers invented the story, but it does seem to have had some factual basis. Rumour was a powerful weapon on the showroom floor, and Ford dealers must have blessed the day GM’s Family II’s cylinder head problems came to light.

    Perhaps the Sierra’s big problem was that Ford were far too complacent about the 1975-on Vauxhall Cavalier’s massive success. The Cortina 80 was too little, too late. An evolutionary circa-1978 Cortina / Taunus replacement benchmarked against the Ascona, Passat, Fiat 131, BMW 3-Series and Alpine could have avoided the need for the Sierra’s visual “otherness”.

  14. There is a serious blind spot here and it’s huge, the size of Britain, in fact. I know who convinced me to rent a Fiesta to tour Britain in 1984, I shunned the Metro and Nova options. Surely it was the collective work of PLQ, and Bahnsen, and Parry-Jones, though I don’t think at the time I knew any of their names (I had heard of Telnack though, but only in the context of the 1979 Mustang).

    But there was also this fellow, a truly exemplary human being, and nearly everyone knew who he was:

    Ads like this continued through the 1990s in the US. Nobody would argue that this marketing campaign wasn’t a success.

    All over the world, in fact… And going further back in time as well as forward.

    Yet I can’t find any of Stewart’s adverts for the Sierra, curious, that. Understanding how Ford inexplicably flubbed their product planning with regard to Erika, Toni, and then Scorpio, (by the time the Sierra was introduced, Orion was no secret to anyone). So how did they compound that by -also- failing to capitalize on a surefire way to market the Sierra, and on Stewart’s home turf, no less?

    1. Hello gooddog, I found one. He also promoted the Scorpio and Mondeo. Jackie Stewart strikes me as a straight-talking man, so if he promoted something, it must have had some merit.

  15. Thanks Charles. Still that is a much more specialized and limited marketing effort than they could have mounted four years earlier, instead they chose a hi-tech theme which was arguably a strategic mistake.

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