Form revolution 40 years ago: Ford Sierra - ironed by the wind

Progress through shapes that set aerodynamic standards: 40 years ago, the Ford Sierra changed the middle class, which had been conservative until then, especially in connection with all-wheel drive.

Form revolution 40 years ago: Ford Sierra - ironed by the wind

Progress through shapes that set aerodynamic standards: 40 years ago, the Ford Sierra changed the middle class, which had been conservative until then, especially in connection with all-wheel drive. Ford better than BMW? The Sierra XR4i shows how this is done, even if the streamline irritates regular customers at first.

Boldly sculpted research cars give a face to the future, but sometimes people just can't believe how fast this is progressing to the new normal. That's how it is with e-mobility today and that's how it was at the 1981 Frankfurt Motor Show when the streamlined Ford Probe III study showed that the future of design was in the air. After the energy crises of the 1970s, good aerodynamics for the best possible efficiency became the most important issue in automotive engineering, and with the Probe III, Ford paved the way to the Sierra series model, which revolutionized the middle class just one year later.

Initially, not even the experts believed Ford to be so courageous, after all the Sierra, drawn in futuristic lines, also had to win over the buyers of the Taunus, which had now been replaced and sold millions of times. Instead of conservative edges and stiff notchbacks, the new Sierra relied on a streamlined style that, with drag coefficients of 0.32 to 0.34, even beat the streamline of avant-garde icons such as the Citroen CX.

Worlds separated the old Ford types Taunus and the British sister model Cortina from the new Sierra in aero design. The reactions of long-time Ford drivers to the Sierra were correspondingly divided, which, by the way, surprised under the forward-looking sheet metal dress with conservative rear-wheel drive, albeit in combination with a modern semi-trailing arm rear axle. In the end, this did not block the Sierra's bestseller career, the Ford designed by designer Uwe Bahnsen was considered a milestone of fresh forms that influenced the entire industry.

"Sierra-Shock" was the title of the British motoring press at the start of the plump fastback, because the British initially missed the familiar contours of the discontinued Ford Cortina, which was the number one national people's car for many years. The start-up of the right-hand drive Sierra was correspondingly bumpy, only the introduction of the hot-blooded Capri heirs Sierra XR4i (from 1983) and Cosworth (from 1986) and the Sierra with notchback (from 1987) made the Ford middle class a favorite on the island middle class entitled to company cars.

Despite this, the Sierra no longer drove on pole, but it still secured second place in the sales charts of its largest sales market - and it suddenly made young, angular competitors such as the Vauxhall Cavalier/Opel Ascona, VW Passat B2 or Audi 80 B2 look old. In fact, in the course of the 1980s, almost all manufacturers followed the trend towards rounded shapes and optimized drag coefficients, as demonstrated by the newly launched Opel Vectra A, Passat B3 and Audi 80 B3 models.

In Germany, however, the Sierra had an easy time right from the start, in the middle class to new and productive shores. The popularity of the elderly and very conservative Taunus had long since dropped dramatically and the visionary designed Sierra was able to stop the decline of the Cologne Ford branch immediately.

Like the streamlined Taunus 17 M from 1960, which fans call the bathtub, the aerodynamic specialist Sierra and the streamlined Granada successor Scorpio, which followed in 1985, established the Ford brand as a design authority. So much avant-garde even prompted regular customers from premium manufacturers such as BMW and Audi to switch. In the end, Ford Cologne was satisfied that every third Sierra buyer came from other brands.

Indeed, in all body styles, the Sierra was a hit on the streets of the early 1980s. No matter whether as a five-door hatchback, three-door coupe, sporty XR4i with double rear wing and distinctive three-window line, five-door station wagon "tournament", the Sierra provided a topic for discussion.

This was matched by provocative advertising slogans on billboards such as "New views are part of our regular program", "Great form" or simply "Ford Sierra is touring car world champion", but also superior appearances by the Ford in comparative tests by the specialist media. There, the Sierra XR4i with 2.8-liter V6 beat the favorite of sports drivers and yuppies, the BMW 323i, and the Ford also stood up to the Mercedes 190, not least thanks to its low prices. Furious Vmax values ​​and high-tech drives were the order of the day, and so the Ford engineers in the Cologne-Merkenich development center worked on ever new expansion stages of the Sierra.

At the same time as the first 4x4 version, the 150 kW/204 hp Sierra Cosworth with four-valve technology and turbo with charge air cooling made its debut in 1985, followed two years later by the even more powerful Sierra RS500 with 162 kW/220 hp and finally in 1989 a 2.9 liter -V6. Lots of delicacies for the middle class, which also polished its image through motorsport successes.

This is how the RS500 Cosworth developed into the world's most successful touring car from 1987 to 1990 with world and European championship titles, 40 victories in the BTCC (British Touring Car Championship), triumphs at the notorious Bathurst 1000, DTM championship titles and a start-finish -Victory in the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. "Ford "Cossies" drive the competition to the ground, this commitment has an invigorating effect on sales of the family models," confirmed German trade magazines of Ford's strategy.

And this even at a ripe old age, because it was only in the seventh year of production that Sierra output reached an all-time high of 330,000 units, which incidentally surpassed the record for the Taunus/Cortina by almost 50,000 vehicles. Performance has also been a factor in the Sierra's success in markets outside of Europe, particularly in South Africa where the Sierra XR8 impressed with Mustang's 5.0-litre V8 power.

For North American customers, the Osnabrück coachbuilder Karmann transformed the Ford into the Merkur XR4, which was sold through the Lincoln Mercury dealer network as the successor to the legendary Capri sports coupe. But the Sierra was also assembled in Venezuela, Argentina and New Zealand. However, the Sierra could not build on the careers of classic world cars such as the Taunus/Cortina or the J-Cars from General Motors, because it was too much a designer piece for that. Nevertheless, Uwe Bahnsen's Aeroform was also available as a Sierra P 100 pickup, as a hearse, emergency vehicle or government agency model.

Two facelifts (1987 and 1990) were enough to keep the Ford avant-garde up to date. After twelve years, it was still time for a new beginning, especially since the Sierra technically relied on the old-fashioned rear-wheel drive. Mondeo was the name of the successor launched in 1993 with sober lines and modern drive technology, which has established itself over three generations and almost 30 years as a constant among company car drivers and families.

Until Ford said goodbye to the traditional middle class this spring in order to follow the fresh zeitgeist with fashionable crossover models such as the Kuga and Mustang Mach-E. However, the forms of the Sierra alone were ahead of the curve, and so it remains the last Cologne design milestone for 2.7 million buyers.

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