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UK’s rarest cars: 1984 Ford Sierra 1.6L three-door, an almost forgotten symbol of the Eighties

Some versions of well-known cars are seldom glimpsed outside of sales material – the Renault 5L, the standard-specification Jaguar 2.4 Mk1 and the three-door Sierra 1600L are all such rarities. Ford offered the last-named in the UK for two years, but…

Some versions of well-known cars are seldom glimpsed outside of sales material - the Renault 5L, the standard-specification Jaguar 2.4 Mk1 and the three-door Sierra 1600L are all such rarities. Ford offered the last-named in the UK for two years, but it did not prove a success. Today, Richard Bleach's 1984 example pictured here is one of the rarest cars of its era, as well as one of the few not to be converted into a sub-par replica of a rip-snorting RS500 Cosworth. 

Project Toni to replace the Cortina commenced in 1978, with the Sierra debuting on 25 September 1982. The choice of engines may have been familiar, but the hatchback body with a 0.34 drag co-efficient certainly was not. Many Cortina Mk5 drivers regarded its heir with considerable suspicion, despite Ford's claims of "Man and Machine in Perfect Harmony".

The October 1982 edition of Car bore the headline "SIERRA SHOCK! It really is a good car", and Motor Sport regarded the 1.6L as "a very fine family-bus" that would "repay Ford's GBP660 million investment in it". A promotional film hosted by William Woollard illustrates how different the Sierra looked compared with many of its rivals, such as the staid Morris Ital.

However, Autocar wondered if the Sierra's main challenge was not scoring against its competitors but proving a worthy successor to the Cortina. This proved to be the case with comments from Dagenham traditionalists along the lines of "jelly mould". Nor were sales enhanced by substantial price reductions of the older model. 

UK's rarest cars feature at The Classic at Silverstone this summer

Keith Adams points out in www.aronline.co.uk that "a discount of up to 30% could be obtained, meaning that you could have a Cortina Ghia on your drive for the price of a base Sierra".

By 1983 Ford introduced several new three-door Sierra variants to improve the model's market share. The sporty XR4i was for the provincial Yuppie, while the 1300/1600 "Base" and L targeted Escort Mk3 drivers who required more space. The brochure proclaimed: "Many have fallen into the trap of buying a sleek, seductive coupe - then realising its interior is much too cramped to be practical." Plus, "three-door bodywork offers the ultimate in security".

The three-door Sierra was withdrawn in 1985.

Unusually for the sector at that time, it retained rear-wheel drive

Ford of Europe hoped the latest Sierra would account for 8% of total production. However, while the three-door may have found favour with German drivers, they enjoyed limited popularity in this country. The market now demanded four side doors on medium-sized cars, and British sales ended in 1985. 

Many subsequently underwent the indignity of customisation by various Paul Calf-like characters, making Bleach's 1.6L especially notable for its originality. It became part of his Sierra collection in 2015; the other fleet members include a 1982 2.0-litre Ghia and a 1986 Ghia 4x4 Estate.  

As with the exterior, the inside represented a huge leap forward for traditionally conservative Ford

Bleach said: "At that time, the three-door had been sat on the driveway of a widowed lady in Slough for 20 for more years - to make it look like someone was home. It was built in Germany in November 1983 and registered on 1 August 1984 at D Rowe & Co Ltd of Chichester.

The original price was GBP5,057.33."  The Sierra's present appearance reflects many months of effort. Bleach observed that "the most challenging aspect of the restoration was cutting and polishing of the original paint as well as renewing all the bright chrome inserts".

He has only just completed work on the 1.6L and so is yet to take the wheel, although "I have driven an identical one before, which felt smooth and sure-footed as well as satisfying my love of driving a rear-wheel-drive car".

Attention to teh paintwork and chrome trim was pretty much all that was required by way of restoration

The reaction to one of the few surviving "au naturel" Sierras, especially in three-door form, tends to be amazement, both for its bodywork and its condition. Bleach added that many people express "a general disbelief that such an original car has stood the test of time and is with us to this day".  It is also a reminder that it is a car that heralded a brave new world of seats upholstered in 'Sandford' and 'Bristol' fabric and colour-matched fuel caps and grilles.

In other words: "The 1980s start here."

Onlookers are amazed that such an original car has survived since 1984100 best cars story embed

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