When the Ford Sierra was launched in 1982 Ford rather shot themselves in the foot. The Cortina has been sensible, fashionable, but fundamentally a ‘safe’ design. The Sierra was the opposite – new, smooth, aerodynamic, and not at all the car Mr Rep wanted. The Sapphire, launched in 1987, was an attempt to woo back the Cortina fans who had deserted Ford for pastures new in the early 80s – with a sensible grille and a boot proud of the passenger compartment it was just what the sales team needed. By the time it was launched, however, the Sierra had become acceptable.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Being a 1980s Ford, it will rot. Rustproofing and steel quality weren’t great at Ford during the 1980s, and early Sapphires can rot before your eyes if you let them. Later examples tend to be better, but even the newest are 20 years old now.
Post 1989 cars had plastic wheelarch liners to try and alleviate the rust issue, whilst these were successful in avoiding A-post and front wing rot they didn’t work entirely as intended at the back – rear arches still go. The front crossmember and front and rear bumper mounts can rust – beware of rot on the bonnet slam panel, for these issues will almost certainly be present too. Doors can rot, and when replacing beware that there are 2 types of lock mechanism which are non interchangeable. Choose your doors carefully!
Early cars were all Pinto – the 1.6 and 2.0 from the Cortina days and a new 1.8 litre unit. The 1.8 was replaced mid-term with a 1.8 CVH unit, and the 2.0 with a new 2.0 I4 design in 1989. The head gaskets on this unit have been known to fail – primarily because Ford’s original specification for the antifreeze corroded the fibre gaskets used! Later engines used a laminated steel gasket – make sure it’s been changed, and that the chains and guides were replaced at the same time. Tappets can be noisy, and they all like clean oil – change it every 5000 miles. Diesels were a 2.3 Peugeot unit, and later a 1.8 Turbo unit developed by Ford.
Two gearboxes in normal Sierras, all Pinto and CVH cars got the Type 9 and the I4 engined cars got the MT75. Both boxes are tough and should show no faults in service. MacPherson struts with a trailing anti roll bar at the front and independent swing arms at the back are tried and tested, and reliable in service. Some late cars also got rear anti roll bars, but it wasn’t standard fit – don’t be surprised to find it missing. Some later 2.0s have rear disc brakes – if this is the case and the handbrake hasn’t been used in some time it can become inactive on one side – the only solution is a replacement caliper. Barring this and the obvious risk of discs warping, there’s little to worry about here.
Being essentially an 80s family car and rep hack, it’s not exactly long lived. MK1 dashboards can crack, though MK2 ones seem hardy. Replacement trim can be an issue, unless it’s a 2000E or one of the rare Ghia with leather – however, parts for lesser models can occasionally be obtained from people breaking Sierras as kit-car donors. Front seats are shared with Sierra, rear ones are a different design and won’t fit.
The soundest advice is to buy a common spec with a common interior colour – if you choose something rare with a strangely coloured interior parts will not be hard to find, they’ll be impossible.
Why Should I Buy One?
Do you need a sensible family car but lust after something from days gone by? Are you a reformed rep? Do you just want a cheap classic? Do you need to use it daily? If the answer to any of these is yes then the Sapphire is an ideal classic. The only snag is that with its 5th door the Sierra is more practical – but then it’s also more common. With the Sapphire, you stand out.
What Should I Pay
Project - £300
Usable - £600
Nice - £1350
Concours - £1750
Engine – 1993cc, 4-cyl, OHC
Power - 115bhp@5500rpm
Torque - 118lb/ft@4000rpm
Top Speed – 116mph
0-60mph – 9.2 seconds
Economy – 25mpg
Gearbox – 5 speed manual