Happy Birthday: Ford Sierra Sapphire turns 30

Mike Humble:

Now this genuinely does seem like a car that was launched seemingly only yesterday. The Ford Sierra Sapphire, the thinking mans Cortina, was launched thirty years ago. A simple car that was dirt cheap to buy and run, loved by thieves and fleet managers alike. It wasn’t especially brilliant but it was a huge hit owing to Fords marketing miracle workers and I’ve even owned them myself too…


The Sierra Sapphire – 30 years old!


Ahh… the wonderful four door saloon. You forget market trends with their SUV’s MPV’s and other nonsensical abbreviations, give me an old rear wheel drive and roomy saloon. My very first car (illegal I must admit) was indeed a three box saloon, and even though it wasn’t a Ford (Morris Marina actually) throughout the whole of my own motoring lifetime I have owned a hell of a lot of cars – most of them have been saloons. But I will be truly and deeply honest when I say that once… I didn’t like the Ford Sierra.

Even though I have owned two hatchback Sierras, I never really bonded with the styling if the truth be told, but the Sapphire? well… that’s another story. Yes playmates the Ford Sierra Sapphire has just turned thirty this year… crickey! where does the time fly? It took a little while for the public to take the Sierra into their hearts (and garages) but once the might of Fords can-do-no-wrong publicity department got into full swing, the family car choice in the UK was just a two horse race between Ford and Vauxhalls Cavalier.


Ford Sierra Cosworth 1992
Go on… admit… you want don’t you?


On a personal level, compared to the hatch, I found the Sapphire to be that cut above in terms of class. It drove that little bit smoother and seemed to handle that little bit sharper. I wasn’t bothered about hatchback practicality to be honest, the fact it was a saloon made the overall refinement notably better than the hatchback. As part of the 1987 Sierra facelift introduction the Sapphire almost mirrored the 5dr in terms of trim level and drivetrain options. Oddly enough, against most of the competition, Ford stayed loyal to rear wheel drive.

But of course the Sapphire didn’t escape the Midas Touch of the Rallye Sport treatment either. The following year after the car was launched came the fire breathing Sapphire RS Cosworth. Even now I foam at the mouth or go weak at the knees at the sight of an unmolested factory fresh Flint grey or Magenta red Sapphire Cosworth. Sadly, the nearest I came to one was a very tidy 2.0 GLSi twin cam with its discreet body coloured boot spoiler. From 100 yrds, in the fog, with glaucoma… it still looked like a Cossie to me anyway.


BTCC Silverstone 1991 – Mr Robb Gravett


Putting names like Robb Gravett, Tim Harvey and the hugely talented Andy Rouse into the saloon racing book of legends, the payoff with huge motorsport success and product placement in the hit BBC TV drama Spender kept the sales flowing. Whatever your own opinions are about Ford in general may be, they certainly did, and still do, have a very firm grip on the handle when it comes to marketing. The last ones were produced in 1993 and rust was the biggest enemy to the Sierra, but my own experience found them reliable and dependable and totally idiot proof to repair.

But in fairness, the Sierra & Sapphire were only just average cars for all of their lives. It was Fords unbeatable marketing that stopped the wheels falling off. It only seems like five minutes ago they were being auctioned and sold for less than the price of a wet weekend. Check them out now… if you find one in pristine condition that hasn’t been p*ssed about by someone from Piston Heads you’ll be re-mortgaging your house to buy it I kid you not!

Ford Sierra Sapphire Fast Facts:

  • Built from 1987 to 1993
  • Successor – Ford Mondeo
  • 1.6 / 1.8 / 2.0  / 2.9 & 2.0 turbo petrol / 2.3 or 1.8 turbo diesel
  • Rear wheel or four wheel drive


CLICK HERE for epic yet amazingly corny early `90s Ford TV advert

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