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Want to know what your all-time favourite classic Q-cars for surprising the opposition are? Here are the top 10 factory Ford sleepers.

Sierra XR4x4

Power: 150 bhp
Produced between: 1985-1989
What is it: The subtle XR4x4 took the XR4i’s Cologne 2.8-litre V6 engine and Type-9 five-speed and mated them to a four-wheel-drive system that made it an exceptional (if pricey) road car at the time. Original, untouched and mint examples are now much in-demand, but buy wisely as some parts are thin on the ground.

Capri 2.8i

Power: 160 bhp
Produced between: 1981-1986
What is it: Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering group was entrusted with developing the Capri 2.8i that made its debut at the 1981 Geneva Motor Show. SVE decided to adopt the Cologne 2.8-litre V6 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, plus lowered suspension, thicker anti-roll bars. gas-filled shock absorbers, and wide-rim alloy wheels fitted with Goodyear’s 205/60VR NCT tyres. The specification also later included a five-speed gearbox, a limited-slip diff (1984 onwards) and ventilated disc brakes for the front wheels. All this translates into a car that rocketed from 0-60 mph to just 7.9 seconds.

Mk2 Cortina Savage

Power: 140 bhp
Produced between: 1966-1970
What is it: The Savage was the brainchild of Jeff Uren, a former Ford works driver and competition manager for the successful ‘60s racing team, Willment Racing. When the Mk2 Cortina was launched in 1966, Jeff saw the car’s potential as a fast long-distance cruiser and set about fitting a tuned version of the new Essex V6 into one. The motoring press raved about its relaxed muscle car-like performance and his Race-Proved outfit was soon converting brand-new 1600Es — at their peak in the late ’60s at a rate of 15-20 cars a week. The cars featured a revised cooling system, uprated suspension, Powr-Lok LSD, and an extra boot-mounted eight-gallon fuel tank mounted above the rear axle. While the majority of Cortinas converted were 1600Es, Lotus and GT-based versions were also produced (including estate cars), and Race-Proved went on to create similar conversions for the later Mk3-Mk5 Cortinas.

Capri Perana

Power: 281 bhp
Produced between: 1970-1972
What is it: The Perana was probably the most iconic cars in South African, Basil Green’s range of performance Fords. The only V8 Capri ever officially sanctioned by Ford, it was available from all South African Ford dealers with a full Ford warranty. Ford was closely involved and Capri Peranas were built as such at the Ford plant in Port Elizabeth and were shipped minus engines and gearboxes to Basil Green Motors where the manufacture was completed. The car was based on the Mk1 3000 XL model and it was powered by an uprated Mustang 5-litre V8 Windsor engine. Power was fed through a Mustang Top Loader gearbox to an Aussie Falcon rear axle. Bright Yellow or Peri Peri Red were officially the only colour options, but a handful of cars were produced in other colours including gold and mustard.

Escort Twin Cam

Power: 109 bhp
Produced between: 1968-1970
What is it: The Twin-Cam used the same 1558cc engine as the Lotus Cortina. This meant 109 bhp and a top speed of 115mph. Externally there was little difference between the Twink and its less-powerful versions. A reinforced bodyshell with slightly wider wheel arches and quarter bumpers hid the uprated suspension and slightly wider steel wheels. Nearly all road cars were finished in Ermine White with minimal badging and no side stripes, making it the ultimate factory Mk1 sleeper.

Mk2 Granada 2.8i Ghia X

Power: 160 bhp
Produced between: 1981-1985
What is it: From businessman’s luxury motor to police motorway patrol car, the 2.8i Ghia X Granadas could comfortably take on more expensive makes, particularly from Germany, where it enjoyed as strong a following as here in the UK. With a design very much of its time, the Mk2 didn’t stand out too much, despite the Ghia X’s TRX alloys, making them perfect sleeper fodder for cross-country blasts. And the best bit? The range-topping Ghia X (and rarer Ghia X Executive) came fully-loaded.

ford sleepers

Mk2 Lotus Cortina

Power: 109 bhp
Produced between: 1966-1970
What is it: Available in single colour options (the stripe was a dealer extra), the Mk2 was far more stealthy than its older, original brother. The 1558cc twin-cam engine was quoted as 109 bhp by Ford, and almost identical to that used in the Escort Twin Cam of 1968. The gearbox used the 2000E/Mk2 GT ratios, and the rear diff changed in ratio from the 3.9:1 used in Mk1s to 3.77:1. Sadly, it was the Escort Twin Cam that spelt the downturn in popularity of the Cortina, as although it was produced until 1970, interest waned as the Escort’s popularity grew — the Cortina was no longer used in headline motorsport events as the Escort took over. 

ford sleepers

Sapphire Cosworth

Power: 224 bhp
Produced between: 1988-1990
What is it: While the three-door Sierra Cosworth stuck out like a sore thumb thanks to its whaletail, the Sapphire version was far more understated with a smaller boot spoiler and three-box shape. The running gear was more-or-less the same as the original Cossie, however, with 224 bhp as standard from the turbocharged YB, with potential for much, much more. No graphics, fairly understated badging and subtle bumpers and bodykit would have made this an awesome executive sleeper when it was first introduced, and it’s still a great classic buy today.

ford sleepers

Scorpio 24-valve

Power: 195 bhp
Produced between: 1990-1998
What is it: The 2-litre Scorpio couldn’t cut it, but with a quad-cam, four valves per cylinder conversion of the 2.9-litre Cologne V6, Ford changed all that. Cosworth not only did the design job, but built all the road car’s engines too, in Wellingborough. Using an EEC IV engine management system, they had enormous trouble in keeping peak power down to 195 bhp, and it was quite a relief to be allowed to push out 210 bhp with later power units.  The combination of the engine, the automatic transmission, the power- assisted steering, the ABS brakes and the plush interior made for an awesome and understated executive express. As did the effortless high performance, especially as no-one else seemed to realise what was passing them. According to independent figures, a Scorpio 24-valve could reach 136 mph, and it felt like it.

ford sleepers

Mk5 Escort RS2000

Power: 150 bhp
Produced between: 1990-1993
What is it: The understated appearance of the reborn RS2000 was supposedly a deliberate ploy by Ford to try and reduce rocketing insurance premiums. Whether it worked or not, it did give us a supremely capable hot-hatch with sleeper status, that today is a relative bargain if you can find a rust-free one. Under that sleeper skin was an extensively modified I4 16-valve DOHC engine. It came with polished 6×15 alloy wheels and the distinguishing power bulge bonnet. Other features included power steering, anti-lock brakes, sunroof and a Grey Panache interior with a Recaro seats.

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