First unveiled on 22 September 1982 and with sales beginning on 15 October 1982, it replaced the Ford Cortina. Its aerodynamic styling was ahead of its time and as such, many conservative buyers (including company car drivers) did not take fondly to the Ford Cortina's replacement.
Possibly for this reason (and the fact that the smaller Escort was enjoying an increase in sales during the early 1980s), and the early lack of a saloon variant, it was mainly manufactured in Germany, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, although Sierras were also assembled in Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa and New Zealand. The Sierra was the 1983 Semperit Irish Car of the Year in Ireland.
The first Ford vehicle to have the bold new "aero" look styling was the 1981 Ford Probe III concept car. The good reception this received encouraged Ford's management to go ahead with a production car with styling almost as challenging. This "aero" look influenced Fords worldwide: the 1983 Ford Thunderbird in North America introduced similar rounded, flowing lines, and some other new Fords of the time adopted the look.
By September of 1981, it had been confirmed that the Cortina's replacement - still a year away - would be marketed as the Sierra.
The aerodynamic features of the Sierra were developed from those first seen in the Escort Mark III—the "Aeroback" bootlid stump was proved to reduce the drag coefficient of the bodyshell significantly, which was a class leading Cd0.34 at its launch, though not as good as the Cd0.22 of the visually similar Ford Probe III concept car of the previous year, and also behind the contemporary third generation Audi 100 that was unveiled the same year - the first production car to get below the Cd0.30 barrier with an impressive figure of Cd0.28. The aerodynamic styling of the Sierra would later be seen in North America's Ford Taurus. At first, many found the design blob-like and difficult to accept after being used to the sharp-edged, straight-line styling of the Cortina, and it picked up nicknames such as "Jellymould" and "The Salesman's Spaceship" (the latter thanks to its status as a popular fleet car in the United Kingdom). Sales were slow at first. It was later in the Sierra's life that the styling began to pay off; ten years after its introduction, the Sierra's styling was not nearly as outdated as its contemporaries, even though all major competitors were newer designs, although the Sierra had been tweaked on several occasions. The most notable changes came at the start of 1987, with a major facelift and the addition of a Sapphire saloon. As other manufacturers adopted similar aerodynamic styling, the Sierra looked more normal.
Early versions suffered from crosswind stability problems, which were addressed in 1985 with the addition of "strakes" (small spoilers), on the rear edge of the rubber seals of the rear most side windows. These shortcomings saw a lot of press attention, and contributed to early slow sales. Other rumours that the car hid major crash damage (in part true, as the new bumper design sprung back after minor impact and couldn't be "read" to interpret major damage) also harmed the car's reputation. This reached near-hysterical heights at one point with UK press making a report that Ford would reintroduce the previous Cortina model out of desperation or import the American Ford Taurus to Europe. However, these reports were swiftly denied by Ford.
At its launch some of the Sierra's external styling differed depending on the specification. In place of the model's regular 2-bar grille, which was unpainted on the lowest specification model, the Ghia featured a narrower blanked-off grille between wider, but still inset, headlights while the front bumper was also restyled and featured combined indicator/foglight units compared to the lower specification model's slimmer but wider indicator units. The XR4i had an identical front end to the Ghia, bar the bumper which was slightly different. The rear lights of the Ghia were the same shape and layout as other models, but featured tiny horiziontals strakes on the lenses to give the impression that they were smoked. A couple of years later all the lower spec models adopting the Ghia and XR4i's front grille and headlight treatment.
In another departure from tradition, the Sierra was initially unavailable as a saloon. At its launch it was available as a 5-door hatchback and a 5-door estate, and from 1983 as a 3-door hatchback. Until the launch of the Orion in 1983, the larger and more expensive Granada was the only saloon-bodied car available in the European Ford range.
During the life of the car, two different styles of 3-door body were used; one with two pillars rear of the door, looking very much like a modified 5-door frame, as used on the high-performance XR4i; and a one-pillar design used on standard-performance 3-door hatchbacks and also at the other end of the scale as the basis for the very high-performance RS Cosworth. At the time of the car's launch, both styles were already envisaged, and a demonstration model with one style on either side was displayed at a Sierra design exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
The Ford Cortina had been manufactured in saloon and estate bodystyles but after the switch to the Sierra, combined with the redesign of the Escort to Mark III level in 1980 and the introduction of the Granada Mark III in 1985, Ford had changed its saloon-based line-up into a hatchback-based one.
The company launched the Ford Orion in 1983 to fill the gap in the saloon range between the late Cortina and the new Sierra. Ford found that customers were more attached to the idea of a saloon than they had expected, and this was further addressed in 1987 by the production of a saloon version of the Sierra. In the UK, this model was called the Ford Sierra Sapphire. This differed from the other Sierra models in having a traditional black grille, which only appeared in right hand drive markets. The 3-door Sierra was dropped in the UK in 1985, although the Cosworth version continued. Production of the 3-door Sierra continued in Europe, including after the Sierra range was given a facelift in 1987. The remodelled 3-door was never offered in the UK, having been withdrawn in 1984.
|Ford of Britain vehicles|
|Classic production cars||1900s||Model T|
|1930s-1940s||Model B • Model Y • Model 48 • Model 91 • Model C Ten • Model 7W • Model 7Y • Prefect • Anglia • Pilot|
|1950s||Consul • Popular • Squire • Zephyr|
|1960s||Capri • Corsair • Classic • Cortina • Escort • GT40|
|1980s||Orion • RS200 • Sierra • Sierra RS Cosworth|
| Classic commercial vehicles
||A-Series • Model AA • Model BB • Model TT • Cargo • D-Series • E83W • R-Series • Thames 300E • Thames 307E • Thames 400E • Thames 7V • Thames ET • Transcontinental • Transit • Trader|