47thetAD Sierra RS Cosworth
Sierra RS Cosworth

Slinky Sierra too round for Cortina squares

Forgot about the Ford Sierra’s 40th anniversary?

Not to worry. Most of us did. 

As a reminder, this replacement for the much-admired Cortina/Taunus was released in September, 1992.

Ford had spent over one billion dollars to get it from design to driveway.

Work on Project Toni, as it was code-named, began in late 1977.

It was championed by the legendary Bob Lutz who was vice president of Ford Europe.

The styling was directed by Uwe Bahnsen.

The design team wanted a very aerodynamic shape.

Inside of Ford the shape polarised opinion.

Henry Ford II was very vocally opposed to its jelly mould appearance.

However, Lutz was a seasoned corporate campaigner and had the data and well-placed supporters on his side.

Also championing the car was Don Kopka, Ford’s global director of design, and Jack Telnack, Ford’s North America design boss.

Both had a passion for aerodynamics and its ability to significantly lower fuel consumption without having to resort to expensive engine technology.

Telnack’s 1979 Mustang was the first Ford with a backward slanting grille, and set a template for other models.

He also had a new aero Thunderbird in the pipeline, due for release in late 1982.

In wind tunnel testing the aero T-Bird revealed it had a drag coefficient of 0.35 compared to 0.50 of its square and upright predecessors.

The Sierra’s number was 0.34.

This low drag number saved Ford having to invest immediately in more efficient engines to meet increasingly tough European fuel consumption regulations.

Basically, the Sierra was a rear-wheel drive Cortina/Taunus underneath, except for the new independent rear suspension.

Significant money was saved.

It was those financials that helped the project overcome any hurdles inside of Ford.

But it is the car buyer who has the final say.

And the Sierra was just too aero-dynamic, too radical, for many Cortina owners looking to update.

On release there was no traditional four-door sedan model, which also diminished its appeal.

The Sierra never reached the sales levels expected of it and was outsold by the front-wheel drive Vauxhall Cavalier, a version of GM’s global J-car.

There are some who consider the Sierra a classic, mainly for it being a pioneer of aero styling

Last time I checked, there were only 40 still registered on the road in the United Kingdom.

For me, the styling of the Sierra is not attractive. 

Lined up against the aero T-Bird it just seems to lack finesse.

As I’ve said before, styling does matter.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos

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