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Ford Sierra RS Cosworth: hero or zero?
This is where MSN Cars drives some of motoring's celebrated icons: heroes in their day, have they stood the test of time, or should they be consigned to the scrapheap of history?
Model: 1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
Engine: 204hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, petrol
How fast? 149.5mph, 0-62mph in 6.8sec
What's it worth? £10,000 plus
What is it?
The original Ford Sierra RS Cosworth - the first Ford to wear the Cosworth badge - was introduced at the 1985 Geneva Motor Show as a means of homologating the Sierra for Group A touring car racing.
Based on the three-door Sierra, it's powered by a Cosworth-designed 2.0-litre turbo engine of now legendary repute: the heart of a hugely successful racing car, and a sizzling 204hp for the road.
This particular RS belongs to the Ford Heritage Collection. First registered in 1986, it's covered just 35,000 miles, having started its life as a 'drive and survive' test vehicle.
So while the engine is as Ford and Cosworth intended, this does explain the not so standard roll cage and fire extinguisher system. And the mysterious, unlabelled switch beneath the dash...
Why does it matter?
Capable of 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds and a 150mph top speed, yet available for the reasonably affordable sum of £15,950, in 1986 the Sierra Cosworth was a new kind of performance car - a blue-collar hero able to humble true exotica.
Even given the extensive history of fast Fords, it was immediately obvious this was something special - incredible turbo power and rear-wheel drive handling plus a lairy 'whale tail' spoiler and aggressive bodykit all added up to big fun.
Compared with regular family cars of the period, the Sierra Cosworth wasn't just in a different league; it was like it was playing a different sport. And this was just the start, limited edition RS500s, Sapphire saloons and, of course, Escort Cosworths followed.
Eminently tuneable, race versions produced over 500hp, some specialist tuners offering this for road cars too. Super-fast in its day, on paper the Cosworth still sounds quick. But is it really that good? Or will it prove a terrible let down?
What's it like now?
We'll be brutally honest: the best way to describe the noise this Cosworth makes on start up is like a bag of bolts in a blender. But it's a working car, not a museum minter, and that would be a loose exhaust baffle rather than lack of proper care.
There's no escaping its sense of purpose, though - it's like having an industrial generator under your right foot. The engine never gets especially tuneful, but goodness gracious has it got some shove.
Be in no doubt: the Sierra Cosworth is still mightily fast now. The way the engine whips the needle round the speedo is almost surreal - that 150mph headline figure is clearly no joke and the Cossie could clearly still get you into an awful lot of trouble.
But it's also no mere dragster. The slender 1,240kg kerb weight helps with the pace and the handling. The power-assisted steering is chunky yet detailed, and the tiny RS-badged wheel renders a chassis that feels beautifully balanced.
The long-travel throttle pedal speaks of old-school traction control (it's down to the driver), but the more time you spend at the wheel the more confident you become in the power delivery - and the Sierra's ability to properly deploy it.
The boost swells rather than arriving suddenly, and although there is a definite peak it's not abrupt or unmanageable. The gearbox becomes positively snicky given familiarity, and the joy of dropping a cog and punching it simply never, ever fades.
The interior has aged well enough, too - the rocker switches and other Sierra quirks offering a certain retro 80s charm, if not cool, and the distinctive looks still command respect from road users in the know.
And since the ride is suitably authoritative, not uncompromisingly harsh, the RS makes for a comprehensive all-round package. A hooligan by appearance and repute, it turns out to be quite the civilised old charmer. If thumpingly fast.
Hero or zero?
No question - the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth is absolutely every bit the hero its legend suggests. A very quick car in modern traffic, it must have been like piloting a rocket compared to nearly everything else on the road back in 1986.
Gladly the brakes feel well up to dealing with the performance. And while the roll cage in this particular car adds extra structural stiffness and reassurance, we reckon a bog-standard example would still be a joy to live with.
These days it will cost you upwards of £10,000 to buy a vaguely acceptable example. Good, unmolested ones are hen's teeth rare and cost a lot more. Sapphire Cosworths are more numerous and cheaper as a result but a Cossie will never be a cheap option.
The insurance also remains steep - though if you're lucky you may find someone willing to entertain the idea of covering it on a classic policy. But whatever the cost, the Sierra Cosworth has firmly cemented its place in our dream garage.
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