Photography by Gary Hawkins
The Ford Sierra is a car we really didn’t like to begin with. Yes, we look back on it now and see it as being a hugely popular machine, but when it was launched in the early 1980s, we really weren’t too sure. It was too futuristic, too bold, too… curvy. Before it we had the Cortina, and the Cortina was a chiselled, solid-looking car that many a sales rep, father or both aspired to own. The Sierra didn’t invoke those feelings as first, instead it made us think of a jelly mould.
Luckily for Ford, we soon came around to the Sierra. It still had all the important ingredients. It was comfy, it was rear-wheel drive, it drove well, and it was available in a range of specifications. And this was important, because it was those specifications that separated the boys from the men, and the men from the management. If you had an L, you were at the bottom of the pecking order. If you had a LX, you were middle management. If you had a Ghia, you could regularly be found at the head of the boardroom table.
This was some seriously clever marketing on Ford’s part. It got to create lots of rivalry and aspirational goals for buyers, but all for one model. Ford didn’t have to worry about the Vauxhall Cavalier – there was already a scrap going on for the Sierra alone. And that was just for the main model range. For the king of the Sierras, namely the RS Cosworth, people were willing to sell their children. It was the poster child of ‘80s performance. It was coveted just as much as a Porsche or a Ferrari of the time. We wanted… no, we needed the Sierra RS Cosworth.
So how does that little history lesson bring us around to Shane Waller and the Sierra Ghia estate you see here? Well, for starters there’s the fact that Shane’s Sierra is possibly one of, if not the finest surviving Sierra estates in the country. What you’re looking at here isn’t a restored car, it is an honest to God survivor. It’s got no rust, it’s never seen the hot end of a welder, it’s never been bumped, crashed or scraped. It is a remarkable thing.
Shane likes a Sierra, having owned plenty. The one before the estate was a stunning V6-engined Sapphire RS Cosworth replica. It was Shane’s pride and joy, but at the same time, it was something that he had ‘done’, and by that, we mean he had taken the build of it as far as he wanted to. As such, he needed a new project, so he sold it, bought a sensible Mondeo for daily duties and then set about finding another car he could make his own.
That next car is the one you see here. It was in Bristol and was brought to Shane’s attention by friend and fellow car enthusiast, Kev Warn. Initially it was Kev who wanted to buy it, but when Shane heard of how potentially solid it was, he made Kev a bid on it of just £1,000.
Once back home, it was apparent that the car was very solid, but it was also very, um, fragrant. And dirty. It was very dirty in fact. But remarkably for an old Ford, that was it. No rust, no damage, no neglect. Shane set to giving it the bath of a lifetime and what came out was car that honestly looked nearly new. Remarkable.
That’s the car you’re looking at here. Shane has made some improvements and changes, but those changes are under the skin stuff, along with a smattering of period-perfect touches like the tow bar, dog guard and genuine Ford car-phone! Oh, and a set of Cosworth alloys, which suit it down to the ground.
The underside has been cleaned up too, and treated to new GAZ suspension, a full complement of polyurethane bushes, various suspension parts have been powder-coated and what hasn’t been has been painted instead. It’s all very fresh and clean. Further adding to the charm of this old Ghia.
Oh yeah, and there’s the small matter of the 350bhp Cosworth YB engine that lives under the bonnet.
When Shane bought the car, it was still a fuel-injected 2.0, but the measly 115bhp left Shane wanting. And this takes us back to what we were talking about earlier; the diversity of the Sierra range. In the beginning you could get a 1.3 Sierra, or a 2.3, or a 2.9 V6, or a 2.0, and they all went in the same car without fuss. And that was very much the case for the turbocharged 2.0 found in the RS Cosworth model.
In the hunt for more power, Shane (with the enabling tenacity of Kev) opted to buy a complete Cosworth. It was rotten, and as such was only really usable as a donor. Plus, the fact the engine was in a car meant Shane could drive it and verify it was behaving, and it was, until it was put in the Ghia. Once in, it started emitting steam, which in the end turned out to be the fault of a cracked cylinder head. This is what we refer to in the motor industry as… well, rubbish.
The engine came out and was again sent to Heart Power who had done some work to it prior to its first jump into the Ghia. It was Joe at Heart who built the engine up with Mahle pistons, BD14 inlet, big-wing sump, T34 turbo with T48 housing, a set of grey injectors and an RS500 intercooler from Airtec. However, after the steamy cylinder head issue, he also added a a ported and polished, non-steamy cylinder head, a WRC-specification head gasket and ARP head bolts. All told, that’s the ticket to get to 350bhp.
What Shane has now is a car that will giddily laugh in the face of modern, so say ‘performance’ cars, but unlike those cars, Shane could well be on his way to the tip or to B&Q, given the estate nature of the car. It’s a hilarious machine, but one so beautifully executed you can’t help but fall in love with it. Bonnet shut, engine off, it’s a perfect example of a car that was once more ubiquitous than the air we breathe. Crank it into life, and it’s a machine that satisfies the driver with more power and speed than anyone could ever need. It is the perfect modified classic, and we’re glad that it exists. The world needs more people with Shane’s approach.