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Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdownEveryone loves a fast Ford, but who makes the greatest performance cars to wear the Blue Oval badge? Over fourteen rounds, we’ve paired up rivals from both sides of the pond. Here, they go head-to-head here in a performance face-off spanning more than five decades.

Ford Performance line-upFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Today, Ford Performance is a global brand responsible for producing fast cars. Created from the previous teams developing cars for specific territories, Ford now wants all key markets to have access to the same performance vehicles. So, from the Fiesta ST to the latest Ford GT, there is no reason why the country you live in should deny you access to the good stuff. However, that hasn’t always been the case.

Round 1: 1960’s Road Racers – 1963 Lotus Cortina.

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Let’s start with arguably the first real fast Ford produced in Britain, in the shape of the Lotus Cortina. A twin-cam 1.6-litre engine with just 105hp might not sound much today, but light aluminium panels kept weight down to just 850kg. This translated into motorsport success, with the Lotus Cortina taking wins in numerous touring car classes. Jim Clark picked up the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship behind the wheel of a Lotus Cortina, while still competing in Formula 1.

Round 1: 1960’s Road Racers – 1964 Fairlane ThunderboltFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Much like the Lotus Cortina, the American Fairlane Thunderbolt was built with racing in mind. Just 100 examples were created to homologate the car for drag racing, with the same 426 cubic inch (7.0-litre) V8 engine used in NASCAR racers. Officially rated at 425hp, but estimated to be far more powerful, this engine – combined with fibreglass body panels and a stripped-out interior – made the Thunderbolt a devastating road car.

Round 2: Blue-Collar Coupes – 1965 Mk1 MustangFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Developed to appeal to both men and women, the original Mustang took 22,000 orders on the first day it was unveiled at the 1964 World’s Fair. It also created the ’pony car’ segment, which spawned new rivals from Dodge and Chevrolet. A 271hp 289 cubic inch (4.7-litre) V8 made for the fastest early Mustang, until more power was added in later years. Several generations later, the original Mustang still holds just as much appeal as it did then.

Round 2: Blue-Collar Coupes – 1969 Mk1 CapriFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Famously advertised as ‘the car you’ve always promised yourself’ the Capri brought the idea of ‘grand touring’ to the working man. Unashamedly intended as the European version of the Mustang, and even styled by the same person, this was the pony car in miniature. With rear-wheel drive and a range of engines from tepid 1.3-litre inline-four to potent 3.0-litre V6, there was a Capri for everyone. Later Capris were largely ignored by European markets, but it remained a part of British culture until 1986.

Round 3: Competitive Spirit – 1970 Mk1 Escort RS1600Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Starting a performance lineage that’s still going strong today, the first British Ford to wear the RS badge was the RS1600 Escort. Built to go rallying, the initial RS1600 models were little more than homologation specials, with a 1.6-litre Cosworth-BDA engine that revved to 6,500rpm. The later Mexico version, made in honour of Ford winning the 1970 London to Mexico Rally, was still desirable but better suited to street use. Today, any Mk1 Escort is likely to be worth big money, and the RS1600 and Mexico models have a legendary reputation.

Round 3: Competitive Spirit – 1970 Boss 302 MustangFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Across the Atlantic, Detroit was creating a version of the Mustang to go racing in the SCCA Trans-Am series. First introduced in 1969, the Boss 302 used – as you may have guessed – a 302 cubic inch (5.0-litre) V8 engine with 290hp, connected to a four-speed manual gearbox. In 1970, it took victory in the Trans-Am series, with the Boss 302 claiming six wins from 11 rounds, during an extremely competitive season.

Round 4: Wide and Wild – 1981 Zakspeed Capri TurboFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

This may look, vaguely, like a Mk3 Ford Capri, but the Zakspeed version was built to meet FIA Group 5 regulations. Only the doors, bonnet and roof had to be kept standard, resulting in the ultra-wide stance. Klaus Ludwig would drive the Zakspeed-entered car in the 1981 Deutsche Rennsport Meistershaft, taking titles for both himself and the team. Power came from a turbocharged 1.4-litre engine, producing around 500hp.

Round 4: Wide and Wild – 1981 Zakspeed Roush Mustang Turbo

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

No, you’re not seeing double. This isn’t the Capri again, we promise. This is the 1981 Mustang Turbo, also built by Zakspeed and entered in the GTX Class of the IMSA Camel GT Championship. Featuring a certain Klaus Ludwig as one of the drivers, the Zakspeed team was contracted to build a Group Five race car for Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations. However, the Mustang Turbo was unable to match the success of the Capri, and was replaced with a new GTP-class car in 1983.

Round 5: Homologation Heroes – 1984 RS200Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Group B was the pinnacle of rallying, with crazy horsepower and exotic materials used to create the ultimate competition cars. Four-wheel drive and a mid-mounted 1.8-litre turbo engine producing up to 450hp in rally trim helped make the RS200 competitive. Just 200 road cars were built to homologate the racer, but all this was ultimately in vain. A crash involving an RS200 on the 1986 Rally de Portugal would contribute to the outlawing of Group B cars for the following season.

Round 5: Homologation Heroes – 1969 Torino TalladegaFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Just as the RS200 pushed Group B regulations to the extreme, Ford had been doing the same decades earlier in NASCAR. Featuring a special aerodynamic front grille and sloping fastback roof, the Torino Talladega was made to hit high speeds on banked ovals. Although it might not have the same fearsome reputation as the RS200, it was successful in taking the 1969 manufacturers’ championship. Special ‘aero warriors’ like the Talladega were later removed from NASCAR due to changes in homologation requirements.

Round 6: Tin Top Legends – 1986 Sierra RS CosworthFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Ford is often single-minded when pursuing motorsport victory, and the Sierra RS Cosworth was the product of its quest for FIA Group A domination. Taking 15 major Touring Car championships cemented its on-track ability, while a reputation for being the ultimate prize for joy-riders ensured the road car was just as revered. More than 5,000 examples were built, combining rear-wheel drive with a 204hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. Oh, and there’s that iconic ‘whale tail’ spoiler, too.

Round 6: Tin Top Legends – 1985 Merkur XR4TiFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

North American buyers couldn’t buy the Sierra Cosworth, but they did get the XR4Ti. Sold under the short-lived Merkur brand, this was an XR4i Sierra, but with the European 2.8-litre V6 ditched in favour of a 175hp 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Around 42,000 examples were built between 1985 and 1989, but today the XR4Ti is often forgotten. Andy Rouse drove a Merkur XR4Ti to victory in the 1985 British Touring Car Championship, paving the way for the later Sierra RS Cosworth.

Round 7: Boosted Blue Ovals – 1984 Escort RS Turbo Series IFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

The third-generation Escort marked a huge change from the previous two. Ditching rear-wheel drive in favour of sending power to the front wheels was radical, as was the adoption of a hatchback body. Natural aspiration was out for the fastest Escort, with turbocharging the ‘must have’ of the 1980s. The RS Turbo was endowed with a 1.6-litre engine, making 135hp. Values today have skyrocketed, with prices of around £30,000 not uncommon for restored Series 1 cars.

Round 7: Boosted Blue Ovals – 1984 Mustang SVO Turbo

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Just as revolutionary as the Mk3 Escort was in Europe, the third-generation Mustang was also a shock to the system. A modern, aerodynamically-shaped body marked a new Ford design era (a switch to front-wheel drive was even considered). The ‘Fox body’ Mustangs remained rear-wheel drive, but did gain turbocharged engines, predating the current Ecoboost ’Stang by some three decades. The SVO Turbo version was the most potent, with up to 205hp from its 2.3-litre four-cylinder motor, a limited-slip differential and adjustable Koni suspension.

Round 8: Street Sleepers – 1996 Taurus SHOFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Standing for Super High Output, the SHO was the performance variant of the Taurus saloon. Perhaps to offset the shock caused by the styling of the third-generation Taurus, Ford upped things for the SHO by adding a V8 engine instead of the previous V6 unit. Developed by Yamaha, the 3.6-litre motor made 235hp and 230lb ft, with 32 valves and aluminium cylinder heads. The bodywork of the SHO was left largely untouched, masking the performance beneath.

Round 8: Street Sleepers – 1999 Mondeo ST200Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Things were going well for Mondeo Man as the 1990s drew to a close, and the limited edition ST200 version launched in 1999 was as good as it got. The 2.5-litre V6 engine was developed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team in America, and marked the move towards greater transatlantic cooperation. With 200hp, the result was quick – rather than devastating – performance, but the natural ability of the Mondeo meant it was fun to drive. Today it flies under the radar as a forgotten fast Ford, but it seems primed to become a modern classic.

Round 9: Millennium Coupes – 1999 Ford Racing PumaFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Despite proving popular with the British public, the Ford Puma often came in for criticism for being underpowered. This changed in 1999 with the introduction of the Ford Racing Puma. The existing Yamaha-developed 1.7-litre engine was enhanced to deliver 155hp at 7,000rpm, with 0-62mph taking a frantic 7.9 seconds. But the Racing Puma wasn’t just about straight-line performance. Bigger brakes, wider wheels and uprated suspension meant it stopped and handled well, too. With just 500 built, the FRP is a genuine rarity worth seeking out.

Round 9: Millennium Coupes – 1999 Mercury CougarFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

The original Mercury Cougar was an upmarket version of the first-generation Ford Mustang. This eighth-generation Cougar, launched in 1999, shared a platform with the Mondeo, and never quite managed to deliver the excitement promised by its bold ‘New Edge’ looks. Sold in Europe under the Ford badge, a 2.5-litre V6 with 170hp was as good as it got. Slow sales meant the Cougar was canned in 2002, less than four years after being introduced.

Round 10: Peak Performance – 2000 Mustang SVT Cobra R

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Ford was on a roll with performance products in both the US and UK at the turn of the millennium, but the pressure to do more was ever-present. Enter the ultimate version of the fourth-generation Mustang. Available for just one model-year, and with only 300 examples built, the Cobra R was ultra-fast and ultra-rare. A hand-built 385hp 5.4-litre V8 was fed by a 20-gallon racing fuel cell, and exhaled through a side-exit exhaust. All cars came in Performance Red and featured a gigantic rear wing and adjustable front splitter as standard. The interior was stripped of all luxuries, including the back seats.

Round 10: Peak Performance – 2002 Mk1 Focus RSFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

One of the most controversial cars to wear the Rallye Sport badge, the Mk1 Focus RS divided enthusiasts and journalists alike. Most loved the WRC-inspired looks and punchy 212hp 2.0-litre turbo engine. Some were unconvinced by the aftermarket-looking blue interior trim. Yet most divisive was the Quaife torque-biasing differential, used partly due to a lack of 4WD. It made the Focus RS hugely effective on road and track, but also aggressive and physical to drive. A true old-school hot hatch, but one that’s already increasing in value.

Round 11: Transatlantic Special – 2002 Focus ST170

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

While the RS is most revered first-generation Focus, it wasn’t the only performance version offered. The ST170, also launched in 2002, featured a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine developed by Cosworth. With 17-inch multispoke alloy wheels, uprated brakes and Recaro leather seats, it ticked off a number of hot hatch requirements. An estate version was also offered, preceding the current performance wagon craze by over a decade.

Round 11: Transatlantic Special – 2002 Focus SVT

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Look familiar? Minor cosmetic changes aside, the 2002 Focus SVT was the same machine as the European-market ST170. A demonstration of Ford’s desire to build ‘world cars’ even when it came to performance variants, the SVT was the result of cooperation between Special Vehicle divisions on both sides of the Atlantic. American buyers even got the option of wild colours like Screaming Yellow and Competition Orange, although they were denied the estate version.

Round 12: Ultimate Utility – 2007 Transit Sport VanFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

The backbone of Britain. Not just a van, but the van. Driven by everyone from bakers to breakdown services if the adverts from the 1990s were correct. The Transit is a defining commercial vehicle yet, despite its popularity, we’ve never been treated to a performance version. Yes, Ford produced a number of Supervans – laying a Transit body on the chassis of a race car – but they weren’t sold to the public. Instead, in 2007, we got the Sport Van. With a standard 129hp 2.2-litre diesel engine there was no more power, and even the twin exhaust pipes were fake. There were at least bonnet stripes and 18-inch wheels, though.

Round 12: Ultimate Utility – 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Cross the Atlantic and the F-150 pick-up truck has been the best-selling vehicle in the USA since 1981. Like the Transit in the UK, the F-150 is the mainstay of American life, and the Blue Oval saw fit to create a true performance version in 2010 with the SVT Raptor. With a 6.2-litre V8 producing 411hp and 434lb ft of torque, this was a serious utility vehicle. Despite the potential to terrify people off-road at speed, the Raptor can still tow 3,600kg and carry up to 800kg. Sorry Transit, the Raptor takes this round.

Round 13: Modern Masters – 2016 Mk3 Focus RSFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

Bringing the North American Ford Special Vehicles Team and European Team RS together in one global Ford Performance brand meant both sides of the Atlantic were involved in the creation of the latest Focus RS. It also meant UK and US buyers got the same 350hp 2.3-litre engine and, finally, a Focus RS with four-wheel drive. With the ability to hit 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds, and run to 165mph, the benefits of global thinking seem pretty clear. There’s also the small matter of that infamous ‘drift mode’…

Round 13: Modern Masters – 2017 Shelby Mustang GT350R

Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

The latest Mustang ticked off a lot of firsts. It’s the first Mustang to have independent rear suspension across the range, the first to be sold globally and, most importantly, the first to be made in right-hand drive. It meant UK buyers have the ability to own and drive a 5.0-litre V8 (or 2.3-litre turbo) muscle car without the need to sit on the ‘wrong’ side. But it’s not all good news. UK customers are denied the chance to buy the Shelby GT350R, with its 526hp flat-plane-crank 5.2-litre V8 engine, carbon fibre wheels, bespoke bodykit and stripped-out interior. Globalisation can’t give you everything, it seems.

Round 14: Definitive Icons – 1994 Escort RS CosworthFast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

We’ve saved the best until last, picking out the absolute top examples of what Ford can do. Designed and engineered in the UK but built in Germany, the Escort RS Cosworth borrowed a shortened chassis from the Sierra RS, along with the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine – now making 227hp. The four-wheel-drive system was new, but most obvious was the huge double rear wing that produced substantial amounts of downforce. That this was all wrapped in a body that resembled the regular Escort hatchback, but could hit 60mph in less than six seconds. Jeremy Clarkson bought one from new, and later regretted selling it.

Round 14: Definitive Icons – 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500Fast Fords: UK versus USA showdown

The GT350 may have been the first Shelby Mustang when launched in 1965, but there’s something special about the 1967 GT500 and its big-block 428 cubic inch (7.0-litre) ‘Police Interceptor’ V8 engine. Fitted with twin four-barrel carburettors, it produced 360hp, and had the option of four-speed manual or three-speed automatic gearboxes. Debate rages amongst Mustang enthusiasts as to which is better to drive, GT350 or GT500, but the starring role of the latter in the Gone in 60 Seconds movie cements it as the defining fast American Ford for us.

Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500

Could this be the most expensive Ford Sierra Cosworth in the world?

Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500

What do we reckon? £125,000? £150,000? The truth is, when an original Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500 goes under the hammer, anything is possible.

A precedent was set in July when an 11,000-mile example sold for £114,750. But this “nearly perfect” RS500 is arguably even more special. Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at the world’s most expensive Sierra Cosworth. Probably.

To fast Ford fans, the Sierra Cosworth RS500 needs no introduction. It’s a fully paid-up member of RS royalty: the whale-tailed ruler of all it surveys. Little wonder, then, that nostalgic folk are prepared to spend six-figure sums on the homologation special.

A larger turbocharger and intercooler, along with modifications to the fuel injection and cooling systems, combined to deliver 224hp – 20hp more than the already-well-endowed RS Cosworth.

Visually, the RS500 was set apart from the standard ‘Cossie’ courtesy of a revised front end and an additional tailgate spoiler, designed to generate even more downforce and cornering power.

Faced with time and logistical issues, Ford sent 500 cars to Aston Martin subsidiary Tickford to carry out the homologation work. The company – which had previously worked on the Tickford Capri – completed the job in just seven months, in time for the Sierra’s entry in the World Touring Car series.

Car number 56 – which is going under the hammer at Silverstone Auctions’ NEC Classic Motor Show Sale in November – was discovered in 2007 by Joe Macari, who later sold it to a Ford collector.

The ‘most original and best available’ RS500

Having sat in climate-controlled storage, the RS500 is presented with just 6,000 miles on the clock and is described by RS500 registrar, Paul Linfoot, as one of “the most original and best available RS500s in the world today.”

Nick Whale, managing director of Silverstone Auctions, adds: “Very few of us have ever come across one of these in such a well-preserved state with such low mileage.

“The Sierra Cosworth RS500 is truly the car of the moment among collectors, and this is the best example I’ve ever seen.”

‘Car of the moment’ it might be but is the pre-auction estimate of £100,000 to £115,000 a sign that the classic car world has gone mad or does it reflect the iconic status of this fast Ford?

Answers on a postcard to the usual address. In the meantime, you can place a bid on the RS500 at the NEC Classic Motor Show, 11-12 November 2017.

NEXT> Ford Sierra RS Cosworth: Retro Road Test

Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

Star quality: Mercedes-Benz’s incredible car collection

Mercedes-Benz World at BrooklandsMercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Porsche, BMW… most of the German brands have huge car collections housed in extravagant museums – usually free-of-charge to visit. However, Mercedes is the only marque to have opened such a showcase in the UK. Welcome to Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands, Surrey.

Mercedes-Benz 190 SLMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

Taking centre-stage in the foyer of Mercedes-Benz World is this 1960 190 SL, owned by British model, David Gandy. Previous celebrity 190 SL owners include Alfred Hitchcock and The King himself: Elvis Presley.

Powered by a 122hp 1.9-litre in-line four, the 190 SL had a top speed of 120mph. It cost £2,600 when launched in 1955 – the equivalent of more than £100,000 today.

Mercedes-Benz 190 E Brabus 3.6SMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

Coolest car at Mercedes-Benz World? We think so. Owned by Brabus PR manager, Sven Gramm, this red hot 190 E is actually a replica of a 1988 Brabus 3.6S demo car that never made production.

With no rear seats or air-con, the 268hp 3.6S could hit 62mph in 6.3 seconds and a VMAX of 162mph. That makes it faster than the factory 2.5-16 Evo II – “effectively a 190 E Clubsport”, says Mercedes.

Mercedes-Benz 280 SLMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

The W113 SL earned the nickname ‘Pagoda’ because of its curvaceous hard-top roof and is still one of the most beautiful cars ever made. This particular SL was driven by Jodie Kidd in the opening sequence to The Classic Car Show.

The Pagoda began life in 1963 as the 2.3-litre 230 SL. The 2.8-litre 280 SL seen here didn’t arrive until 1967, boasting 170hp and 0-62mph in 9.0 seconds. Power steering and servo assisted brakes make it an easy car to drive – even by modern standards.

Mercedes-AMG G 63Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

The Mercedes G-Class is a classic of sorts, having remained in production since 1979. The testosterone-pumped AMG versions have become the car of choice for wealthy urbanites – albeit usually in black, rather than the ‘Solar Beam’ yellow seen here.

This V8-engined G 63 makes 571hp and blasts to 62mph in 5.4 seconds. With a modest £4,750-worth of options, it would set you back £152,377. We’ll spend the cash on a Pagoda SL and an old G-Wagen for winter, thanks.

The very first carMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

Lest we forget, the very first car was a Mercedes-Benz. This is a faithful replica of the Benz Patent Motor Car, complete with a 954cc single-cylinder engine, solid wheels, leather brakes and a tiller for steering.

In 1888, Bertha Benz and her sons drove 121 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back in the ‘Motorwagen’. They bought fuel from chemists and used Bertha’s hatpin to clear a carburettor blockage. It was the first long journey ever undertaken in a car.

Smart CrossbladeMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

The first owner of this Smart Crossblade was chirpy British pop star, Robbie Williams. Supposedly, Robbie remarked: “Wow, I just love this car. It’s innovative and unconventional, the two qualities I look for in new projects”. Hmm.

The Crossblade was a special edition of the Smart City Cabriolet without a windscreen, roof or conventional doors. Its Brabus-tuned engine developed 71hp for a (very windy) top speed of 83mph.

Mercedes-AMG GT SMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

You can buy a car at Mercedes-Benz World – indeed, a large part of the complex is taken up by Mercedes’ Brooklands dealership. This used AMG GT S caught our eye, although it’s slightly beyond our budget…

There’s a near-identical GT S displayed inside, too. Vital stats for this 911 Turbo-rival are 510hp and 0-62mph in just 3.8 seconds. Oh, and that Solar Beam paint option? A mere £10,695.

Mercedes-Benz F200 Imagination conceptMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

This radical concept car was based on a 1996 Mercedes S-Class. Active suspension uses sensors operating hydraulic cylinders for each wheel, keeping the car level – even when cornering.

However, the F200’s interior is where things really get radical. Two ‘fly by wire’ joysticks take the place of a steering wheel. The driver pushes forwards to accelerate, pulls back to brake and moves the sticks left or right to steer. Sounds mildly terrifying.

Mercedes-Benz 190 E 2.5-16 CosworthMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

If your budget won’t stretch to that one-of-a-kind Brabus, this 190 E 2.5-16 is the next best thing. A homologation special built for the German Touring Car Championship (DTM), the 190’s 2.5-litre 16v engine was tuned by British engineering specialists, Cosworth.

If this car looks a little tattier than the MB-World norm, that’s because it was owned by the late Mike Hall, chief designer at Cosworth. Hall designed both 2.3-16 and 2.5-16 engines for the 190 E in 1984.

Mercedes-Benz 280 SE CabrioletMercedes-Benz World at Brooklands

We finish with this glorious 280 SE Cabriolet: predecessor to the modern S-Class. A 160hp 2.8-litre straight-six wafts it to 112mph, although the later 300 SEL 6.3 is the one we really want.

In fact, the 300 SEL 6.3 was the car that made AMG’s name. In 1971, the tuning company bored-out the big Merc’s engine to 6.8 litres and took victory in the Spa 24-Hour race. AMG would eventually become part of Mercedes, and the S-Class the definitive luxury car.

Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Ford Sierra RS Cosworth: Retro Road Test

Ford Sierra RS CosworthPhwoar. Thirty years after it was launched, the Sierra RS Cosworth still looks mega. A jutting front bumper peppered with air intakes, wide wheelarches and, of course, that Boeing-spec rear wing: it’s enough to make men of a certain age need a lie-down.

Ford built 5,545 examples of the original three-door Cosworth, but many were modified, stolen or crashed – possibly all three. Today, this turbocharged hot hatch is a bona fide classic car, with mint examples of the limited-edition RS500 nudging £100,000.

The Cossie won’t ever appeal to blazer-and-red-trousers set, though: this is a working-class hero. And you know what they say about meeting your heroes…

What are its rivals?BMW M3

A family hatchback with near-supercar performance (in its day), the Cosworth broke new ground. This was the 1980s, remember, when the dividing line between ‘mainstream’ and ‘premium’ was less blurred than it is now.

Its closest rival was perhaps the original ‘E30’ BMW M3: another homologation special born for the racetrack then tamed for the road. However, the M3 was markedly more expensive, and a very different – if equally exciting – driving machine. Ironically, values for the two cars aren’t that different today, and both command a cult following.

What engine does it use?Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

Open the Sierra’s louvred bonnet and… phwoar! Few things get us more excited than a bright red cam cover embossed with: ‘DOHC 16-V TURBO COSWORTH’. The 2.0-litre engine uses a Garrett T3 turbocharger to boost output to 204hp, or 224hp in the RS500. Racing versions boasted up to 600hp.

The standard Cosworth we’re driving is from Ford UK’s heritage fleet and was used as a development car at Dunton (hence the rollcage). Get past the inevitable turbo lag and it blasts to 60mph in 6.5 seconds. V-Max is 149mph.

Interestingly, the ‘Cossie’ was claimed to be the first road car to generate downforce at speed. That whale-tail wing isn’t just for car-park posing, you know…

What’s it like to drive?Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

Two hundred and four horses was an enviable stable in 1986, but even a Fiesta ST200 tops that today. The Sierra’s closest descendent, the new Focus RS, has 350hp.

Even so, floor the right pedal and the winged warrior still feels quick, its raucous four-pot rasping as the rear tyres break traction on damp Dagenham roads. The gearshift is a little rubbery, the steering slightly slow-witted, but there’s no shortage of feedback.

Find a quiet B-road (or an empty McDonalds car park) and the Sierra is more than happy to go sideways. Yet it’s less intimidating than I expected, despite the total lack of electronic traction aids. Don’t expect the scalpel-sharp precision of an E30 M3, but the Cosworth isn’t the blunt instrument its Essex-boy image might suggest.

Reliability and running costsFord Sierra RS Cosworth

The Sierra’s ‘YB’ Cosworth engine is reliable in standard tune; problems usually arise when over-enthusiastic owners crank up the boost. It also found a home in later Sierra Sapphire and Escort Cosworths, so spare parts are easy to come by. However, cosmetic items, such as spoilers or interior trim, could be much harder to source.

With any luck, whatever money you spend on fuelling, insuring and maintaining your Cossie will be more than covered by its appreciation in value. Owning a classic Ford is better than money in the bank – and certainly more fun.

Could I drive it every day?Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

There’s a certain irony in the ‘people’s performance car’ being tucked away and saved for special occasions. But few, if any, Sierra RS Cosworths are daily-drivers today; skyrocketing values have seen to that.

Rust is the sworn enemy of most classics, so we suggest storing the car over the winter months, then enjoying it to the full come summer. A Cosworth should definitely be kept garaged all year round, though; thieves prey on fast Fords, and Cossies are notoriously nickable.

How much should I pay?Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

‘A lot more than a few years ago’ is the easy answer. At the time of writing, there were just four three-door Sierra Cosworths for sale on Pistonheads, with the cheapest at £45,000. That’s nearly three times the £15,950 the car cost when new. RS500s are pricier still, despite being an inferior car to drive on the road, according to contemporary reviews.

Depressingly, the four-door Sierra Sapphire Cosworth is heading in the same direction. You’ll struggle to find a standard example for less than £20,000.

What should I look out for?Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

Firstly, steer well clear of any Cosworths that have been tuned. Turning up the turbo boost destroys driveability as surely as it decimates the car’s value.

Don’t buy without a comprehensive service history – there are plenty of obsessive owners out there – and check the VIN number on the chassis matches the logbook (V5C). The Sierra’s bodykit is fairly adept at hiding corrosion, too, so get your knees dirty and poke around underneath the wheelarches and rear suspension.

If you’re considering an RS500, check with Ford that the car is genuine: fakes aren’t unheard of. Above all, we’d advise getting a professional inspection from a specialist before you buy. On an investment-grade car like the Cosworth, it’s money well-spent.

Should I buy one?Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Like shoulder pads and Shakin’ Stevens, the Sierra Cosworth is a product of its time. Drive one today and it’s fun, but ever-so-slightly underwhelming: a little bit baggy and not outrageously fast.

Does that matter? Probably not. The Cossie remains one of the coolest cars ever made. If, like us, you grew up reading Max Power and lusting after hot hatchbacks, it’s still the daddy.

If you’re looking for an investment, a three-door Cosworth is up there with the best fast Fords. But do us a favour and take it for a blast occasionally. Wherever you go, you’re likely to receive a hero’s welcome.

Pub fact10_sierra_RRT

The Escort Cosworth replaced the Sierra in 1992, and was actually based on the Sierra Sapphire Cosworth 4×4 chassis – rather than the Mk5 Escort it resembled. Power from the YB engine was increased to 220hp and the whale-tail made a comeback – albeit as an option.

Jeremy Clarkson famously bought a Escort Cosworth in the 1990s. He said: “Late at night, when all I wanted to do was to get home, it would be sitting there, angry and spoiling for a fight.”

New Morgan ARP4 boasts Cosworth power

New Morgan ARP4 boasts Cosworth power

New Morgan ARP4 boasts Cosworth powerThe iconic Morgan Plus 4 is 65 years old this year. To celebrate, Morgan’s AR Motorsport division has revealed the limited-edition ARP4 – a 228hp Cosworth-powered Plus 4.

Just 50 examples of the ARP4 will be built, each costing £54,995. In addition to a powerful 2.0-litre Cosworth engine, the car features a host of chassis and interior upgrades. The result, says Morgan, is a car that ‘pushes the boundaries of the traditional classic’.

The British sports car maker hasn’t quoted figures yet, but promises ‘significantly more performance than a standard Morgan’. Each car will be set up by an AR Motorsport race technician, with adjustable shock absorbers, upgraded brakes and a different axle ratio to the regular Plus 4.

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The ARP4 is still built on a traditional ash-wood frame, but its aluminium panels are left untrimmed for lightness and a suitably sporty look. However, this isn’t a stripped-out track-day special. Morgan has beefed up soundproofing in the hood and throughout the body to reduce road and wind noise.

Other improvements on the ARP4 include a redesigned dashboard (fear not, purists – the retro toggle switches are still present and correct) and super-bright LED lights front and rear – which also give the car a more distinctive face.

The Morgan ARP4 is launched at the Silverstone Classic show on Saturday 25 July.