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Know your Ghia from your GL with our complete guide to the Mk1 Sierra.

Base

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1294cc, 1593cc or 2304cc (derv)
YEARS PRODUCED: 1982 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £4783 (1300 Saloon)
Known simply as Sierra Saloon, Ford was keen to tell your neighbours you’d been tight. There were no wheel trims (tiny 4.5×13 inch steels on early cars), no rubbing strips and no passenger door mirror; worse still, the slatted nose was rough grey plastic (until September 1983). The cabin lacked headrests, intermittent wipers and radio but at least the seats were cloth. Five-door and estates offered from launch, with 1.3 (59 bhp; hatch only), 1.6 (73 bhp) Pinto engines (and four-speed gearbox) or woeful 66 bhp 2.3-litre Peugeot diesel with five cogs. Three-door hatchbacks (1.3 or 1.6) ran from September 1983 to ’84.

L

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1294cc , 1593cc, 1597cc, 1796cc, 1993cc or 2304cc (derv)
YEARS PRODUCED: 1982 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £5234 (1300L)
Sales rep-spec Sierra added aerodynamic wheel trims, colour-coded grille and passenger door mirror, plus headrests, radio, clock, cigarette lighter and split/folding rear seat. Huge range of body and engine choices, including 1.3 and 1.6 three-doors (September 1983 to September 1984), the 1.6 E-Max (higher compression ratio and five-speed gearbox), 1.8 (89 bhp) from October ’84, 103b bhp 2-litre Pinto (August 1985-on and 1983 Business estate) and the sluggish 2.3 diesel. A three-speed automatic was offered on 1.6; four-speed auto on 1.8. The slatted grille was gone by autumn 1984 in favour of flush Ghia-type front.

Laser

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1593cc, 1597cc, 1796cc or 1993cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1984 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £6321
Special-edition L-based Laser appeared in June 1984 with 1.6-litre E-Max engine (74 bhp) and five-speed manual gearbox, in five-door hatchback or estate bodystyles. Orion Ghia 13in wheel trims, colour-coded mirrors, coachlines, Laser decals, tinted windows and tilting/sliding glass sunroof identified the outside, with Truro fabric and height-adjustable driver’s seat within. Laser II arrived in October 1985, repeating the extras but now with Truro II cloth and choice of powerplants: lean-burn 1.6 (74 bhp), 89 bhp 1.8 (for the same price as the 1.6) or 2.0 (103 bhp), all in hatchback or estate form.

LX

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1597cc or 1796cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £7554
Not, strictly speaking, a limited edition, the LX was a typical Ford update to an ageing design. Introduced in March 1986, the LX sexed up its L basis, boasting 14 inch steel wheels with Granada Ghia covers, gas-filled shock absorbers, dark grey paint below broad bodyside mouldings, body-coloured side window surrounds, tilting/sliding glass sunroof, remote-control door mirrors, rev counter and Truro II cloth trim. Engine choices were the 1.6 (74 bhp) or 1.8 (89 bhp) Pinto (with four-speed gearbox standard or five-speed optional) or 2.0 (103 bhp) with five-speed. Unusually, the LX had no estate version available.

GL

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1593cc, 1597cc, 1796cc, 1993cc, 2294cc or 2304cc (derv)
YEARS PRODUCED: 1982 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £6180 (1600GL)
Middle-of-the-road, middle-of-the-range GL was a substantial upgrade over base models, offering bigger engines – including the 112 bhp 2.3 V6 with autobox until 1984 – and optional five-speed transmission (standard after September 1984), in hatch or wagon form. Trim was upped to include body-toned bumpers, halogen headlamps, remote control door mirror, driver’s seat lumbar adjustment, cut-pile carpets and plush Chelsea fabric. September 1983 brought tinted glass and electric/heated mirrors, electric boot release and passenger lumber adjustment; rev counter and smooth nose appeared in September 1984, and sunroof added as standard in January 1986.

Ghia

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1593cc, 1597cc, 1796cc, 1993cc or 2294cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1982 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £7365 (1600 Ghia)
Seriously luxurious Sierra packed bags of kit as standard: electric front windows, tinted glass, electric mirrors, central locking, glass sunroof, velour seats, adjustable lumbar support and fancy dashboard information display. Smooth nose with wider headlights (including driving lamps) identified the exterior. Hatchback or estate was offered, with choice of petrol engines; 112 bhp 2.3 V6 with automatic gearbox (three-speed, then four from September 1984) was top of the line until dropped in 1984. Ghia 1.8 (89 bhp) replaced 1.6 in October 1984, 14 inch alloy wheels were standard from Feb ’85, and February 1986 saw fuel injection added to the 2-litre Pinto, now 113 bhp.

2.0i S/ 2.0i GLS

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1993cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1985 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £8574
Short-lived sporty Sierra 2.0i S appeared in February 1985 with fuel-injected 2-litre Pinto, packing 113 bhp. Ghia nose/headlamps mixed with dark grey paint below wide body mouldings, rubber rear spoiler and 14 inch steel wheels with pepperpot-style trims. The cabin came with body-hugging Rainbow cloth seats and three-spoke steering wheel, while a sunroof was standard. Gas dampers aided the handling, there was a rear anti-roll bar and a thicker bar up front. Five-door only for the UK, but Europe had three-door option. Mechanically-identical 2.0i GLS added in June 1986, combining GL cabin and brightwork with S wheels and rear spoiler.

XR4i

ENGINE CAPACITY: 2792cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1983 to 1985
PRICE WHEN NEW: £9656
Almost, but not quite… Ford’s first attempt at a fast Sierra so nearly hit the mark but was hampered by funky styling, with bi-plane rear spoiler, awkward split side windows and plastic cladding along the lower half. Spec included 14in alloys, sports seats and two-spoke steering wheel. Capri 2.8i-sourced 2.8-litre Cologne V6 offered 148 bhp and smooth grunt, with refined handling. September 1984 added electric windows, tinted glass, sunroof, central locking; bumper inserts became darker red, and red stripes removed from the dashboard. Still a low-budget way into sporty three-door Sierra ownership, albeit not cheap for much longer.

XR4x4

mk1 sierra

ENGINE CAPACITY: 2792cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1985 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £11,914
Four-wheel-drive replacement for the XR4i, carrying over the 148 bhp 2.8-litre V6 but now combined with FF 4×4 transmission and 34/66 per cent front/rear split (later carried forward to the Cosworth 4×4), disc brakes at each corner (with optional ABS) and power steering. Subtle five-door bodywork (some three-doors overseas) had colour-coded bumpers and tailgate spoiler, the wheels were 14in seven-spokes, and the cabin had high-level trim with sports seats and electric front windows. Undervalued today but wait for the prices to soar – the XR4x4 had a proper motorsport pedigree with Ford’s works rally team.

Estate

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1593cc, 1597cc, 1796cc, 1993cc, 2294cc or 2304cc (derv)
YEARS PRODUCED: 1982 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £5548 (1600 estate)
Bulbous-backed wagon accentuated the jellymould design, offered from December 1982 alongside the regular hatch, boasting enormous 69 cu.ft loadspace. Almost all normal Sierra trims and engines were offered – base, L, Laser, GL and Ghia – equipped with heavy-duty twin-tube rear suspension. Some specials were available too: a five-door panel van version (with extended metal floor rather than rear seats) was sold in Europe, there was an L Business Pack (2.0 Pinto with uprated front suspension, vented discs and 175 tyres), and January 1986 saw a UK 1800L limited edition, wearing Ghia roof rails, tinted glass and luggage pack.

Ghia 4×4 estate

mk1 sierra

ENGINE CAPACITY: 2792cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £13,643
Finest of all mainstream Sierras, the little-known Ghia 4×4 estate was at the front of the queue when Uncle Henry handed out spec, offering trim not available on any hatchback. A mix of Ghia wagon and XR4x4 mechanicals meant 148bhp 2.8-litre V6 grunt, all-round disc brakes, seven-spoke 14 inch RS alloy wheels, self-levelling rear suspension, power steering, electric rear windows, overhead map lights and crushed velour upholstery. ABS and air conditioning were optional. Very limited run from February 1986 until the year end, it was the only Ford-built 4×4 and/or 2.8-litre Mk1 wagon. Survivors today need to be saved.

RS Cosworth

mk1 sierra

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1993cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1985 to 1986
PRICE WHEN NEW: £15,950
The king of fast Fords, the original three-door RS Cosworth was launched in 1985 for motorsport eligibility (5000 had to be built; Ford made 5542). The rear-wheel drive Cossie punched hard, with a 16-valve 204 bhp YBB engine, Garrett T3 turbo, T5 five-speed gearbox, limited-slip differential, ABS and seriously uprated suspension. Top speed was 149 mph; 0-60 mph took 6.2 seconds. Punters and public loved the wild bodykit – comprising spoilers, wide wheelarches and functional rear wing – along with 15 inch alloy wheels and grey Recaro seats; all UK-market cars had Ghia spec, with sunroof and electric windows. An absolute legend.

RS500 Cosworth

mk1 sierra

ENGINE CAPACITY: 1993cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1987
PRICE WHEN NEW: £19,995
Ultimate Sierra homologation special, RS500 was batch of 500 November 1986-built three-door Cosworths (392 black; 56 Diamond White, 52 Moonstone Blue) converted to evolution spec by Tickford between December 1986 and July 1987. All 500 were right-hand drive with glass sunroof, YBD engine (special thick-wall 205 cylinder block), T4 turbo, eight fuel injectors, massive intercooler and bigger pipework, U-shaped brackets welded to the rear axle, new front bumper and splitter, bigger rear wing (with Gurney flap), rubber lower spoiler and special silver RS500 stickers. Everything else was regular Cossie three-door. Top speed? 154mph. 0-60? 6.1 seconds. Special? Very.

XR6/XR8

mk1 sierra

ENGINE CAPACITY: 2994cc or 4942cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1984 to 1988
PRICE WHEN NEW: R27 500 (XR8)
South Africa isn’t known as a petrolhead paradise for nothing: alongside run-of-the-mill Sierras, the South African factory produced the Essex 3-litre-engined 3.0 GLX and sporty XR6, which was pretty much a 2.0i S with 138bhp V6 instead of the Pinto. Better still was the XR8, the same car stuffed with a 216 bhp five-litre Mustang motor, T5 gearbox, AP Racing four-pot callipers and reworked suspension; it pulled 144 mph, and 0-62 mph in 6.95 seconds. A homologation build of 250 cars for Group A racing, all were five-door hatchbacks with unique slatted grille and XR4i bi-plane rear spoiler.

Merkur XR4Ti

mk1 sierra

ENGINE CAPACITY: 2293cc
YEARS PRODUCED: 1985 to 1988
PRICE WHEN NEW: $16,503 US
Hit-and-miss German-built (at Karmann) USA-market Merkur XR4Ti deserved to be more successful but Yanks never took to the concept. Essentially a Sierra XR4i but with bigger bumpers and 2.3-litre Lima (Mustang-sourced Pinto-type engine) running turbocharger and intercooler to give 175 bhp (or 30 bhp less with autobox in place of the usual T9 five-speed). Gained a Mk2 tailgate and ditched the two-tone cladding in 1987, and swapped to single-level rear wing in ’88. In total, 42,464 were built. Not special enough? Well, it won the 1985 British Touring Car Championship in the hands of Andy Rouse…

Words Dan Williamson

This spotter’s guide to the Mk1 Sierra first appeared in the July 2017 / 1980s special issue, available here.

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