Hy­brid The­ory

Colin Hunter’s Sap­phire 4x4 has in­her­ited fea­tures from ev­ery edi­tion of the Sierra RS Cos­worth – in­clud­ing a con­ver­sion to RWD!

Fast Ford - - Saph Cossie - Words Dan Furr Pho­tos Ade Bran­nan

Ev­ery Sierra Cos­worth is spe­cial, yet Ford fans far and wide will state their case as to why one in­car­na­tion of the bril­liant Blue Oval trumps all oth­ers. There will be die-hards ar­gu­ing in favour of the clas­sic three- door, of­ten cit­ing World Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship suc­cess and dra­matic styling as proof that the leg­endary RS reigns supreme. Oth­ers will cite the sub­tle lines and four-wheel drive ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the later gen­er­a­tion car as con­fir­ma­tion of its in­dis­putable aes­thetic ap­peal and tech­no­log­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity. But there are also those who don’t have a favourite – the en­thu­si­asts that love all Ral­lye Sport Sier­ras, ir­re­spec­tive of the num­ber of doors and colour op­tions.

Long time Cossie nut, Colin Hunter, is one of a rare breed that has been able to weigh up the pros and cons

of own­ing ev­ery edi­tion of the sen­sa­tional Sierra. In fact, his cre­den­tials as a fast Ford en­thu­si­ast are bol­stered by the ap­pear­ance of at least two twin-tur­bocharged XR4x4s and a Se­ries 1 Es­cort RS Turbo on a list of re­cent rides, that in­cludes, no fewer than six Sap­phire Cos­worths and a tuned three- door. “I spent a for­tune at­tempt­ing to trans­form the early Sierra into the car that I thought I’d al­ways wanted,” he re­calls. “I de­cided to sell up af­ter six years of hard toil and a rapidly de­clin­ing bank bal­ance. All the same, it wasn’t long un­til I bought an­other Sap­phire RS!” he laughs.

Solid state

The car that re­placed the pun­ish­ing project was a Di­a­mond White 4x4 with just 75k on the clock. It had been tuned to Stage 3 by its pre­vi­ous owner and of­fered an en­gine with forged in­ter­nals, al­though it was the solid state of the chas­sis and body­work that proved to be the fetch­ing Ford’s big­gest sell­ing point. “I didn’t re­ally care about the mod­i­fi­ca­tions or the fact that the car was a four-wheel drive model,” continues Colin. “My pri­mary ob­jec­tive was to ob­tain a Sap­phire Cos­worth that was free of cor­ro­sion. For­tu­nately, this car was in per­fect con­di­tion and hasn’t seen a welder since leav­ing the fac­tory,” he smiles.

The three- door had de­liv­ered a lot of fun in a straight line dur­ing timed sprints at Brunt­ingth­orpe prov­ing ground, but its han­dling abil­i­ties left a lot to be de­sired ( par­tic­u­larly when cor­ner­ing at speed). In con­trast, plans for the Sap­phire in­volved a sus­pen­sion over­haul that would see the blis­ter­ing pace of its pre­de­ces­sor matched to a vastly im­proved ride. Al­most as soon as the keys were in Colin’s hand, how­ever, the Hunters had the op­por­tu­nity to buy a new home, which took pri­or­ity over other pur­suits, and the Sap­phire was packed off to a stor­age unit where it lay dor­mant be­neath a dust sheet for the fol­low­ing three years.

“I was keen to get be­hind the wheel of the Cossie, but time ran away with it­self as I en­gaged in the moun­tain of es­sen­tial main­te­nance work pre­scribed by the house. Be­fore I knew it, years had passed and I was still with­out my beloved Sierra!” chuck­les the car’s proud owner.

For­tu­nately, the Blue Oval’s state of sus­pended an­i­ma­tion was about to come to an abrupt end fol­low­ing the de­ci­sion to build a garage ad­ja­cent to the Hunter fam­ily’s Scot­tish res­i­dence. Work on the car be­gan as soon as the white won­der was parked up in its new home, and the stock­pile of parts that Colin had built up over a long and fruit­ful his­tory of Sierra own­er­ship was plun­dered in an ef­fort to re­fresh and re­fine the over­all per­for­mance of his hi­ber­nat­ing Ford.

Of all of the items ready to make their way onto the car, an Adren­a­line Stage 2

“This car was in per­fect con­di­tion and hadn’t seen a welder”

ad­justable rear beam and an anti-roll bar do­nated by a Knock­hill-sea­soned Es­Cos gen­er­ated the most ex­cite­ment. Colin jumped at the chance to equip his Sap­phire with the kit fol­low­ing re­ports from fel­low own­ers who had raved about the pos­i­tive in­flu­ence that the changes had in­tro­duced to the trac­tion and han­dling char­ac­ter­is­tics of their cars.

steer from the rear

Drop­ping the Cossie’s rear end trig­gered a se­ries of con­sid­er­a­tions re­gard­ing other as­pects of its run­ning gear. “I loved the way that my three- door pushed from the rear,” re­calls Colin. “While I ac­knowl­edge the ben­e­fits of hav­ing power sent to all four cor­ners, I can’t help but feel that the additional weight and the ap­par­ent drag that comes with the late Sap­phire’s trans­mis­sion setup has a detri­men­tal ef­fect on off-the­line ac­cel­er­a­tion and top end per­for­mance. I thought long and hard about it be­fore de­cid­ing that the fourby’s stronger en­gine cou­pled to a rear-wheel drive con­fig­u­ra­tion would give me the best of both worlds.”

The car’s prop­shaft and MT75 gear­box were re­moved fol­low­ing the evic­tion of the fac­tory beam. A num­ber of trans­mis­sion com­po­nents were im­ported from a rear-wheel drive Sap­phire Cos­worth ( in­clud­ing a T5 gear­box and mount, a stan­dard prop­shaft, and a 7.5in dif­fer­en­tial), while a light­ened fly­wheel and an Al­con six-pad­dle clutch have been added for good mea­sure.

Fit­ting the T5 proved to be less than straight­for­ward thanks to the po­si­tion of the re­quired speedo ca­ble. “Af­ter much head scratch­ing, the so­lu­tion pre­sented it­self in the form of a stan­dard au­to­matic gear­box cra­dle,” ex­plains Colin. “Ford sup­plied a brand new part, but I had to drill it in or­der to al­low the ca­ble to sit com­fort­ably. I’ve also had to use the T5’s link­age, gear­stick, and a two-wheel drive Sap­phire starter mo­tor” he adds, hop­ing that his find­ings

might help oth­ers to avoid dis­as­ter when un­der­tak­ing the same con­ver­sion. The heav­ily mod­i­fied YBG had trav­elled less than 25k miles since its ear­lier rebuild. This didn’t stop Colin from ap­ply­ing fur­ther up­dates to the forged pow­er­plant, and he lists his con­tri­bu­tions to the en­gine bay as a Turbo Tech­nics T34 tur­bocharger, a Pro Al­loy RS500 in­ter­cooler, a GGR breather kit, Siemens in­jec­tors and a Level 8 ECU with a daugh­ter board mapped by MSD. There’s a cam cover with a unique paint job too, and the re­vi­sions join a Pace ra­di­a­tor, Bosch fuel pump, Es­Cos air­box, K& N panel fil­ter and a Mon­goose en­larged ex­haust in help­ing the lump to pro­duce over 365bhp.

Re­duc­ing the num­ber of ac­tively pow­ered wheels on the car soon gave rise to the con­tro­ver­sial idea of re­plac­ing much of its model spe­cific trim. As a re­sult a set of am­ber in­di­ca­tors and match­ing side re­peaters now dec­o­rate the Sap­phire’s minty fresh ex­te­rior, al­though we’ll wa­ger that those gold Com­po­mo­tive six-spokes have been the first items to catch your eye! The huge 18-inch­ers are wrapped around huge AP Rac­ing stop­pers and sit in­side wheel arches that are lower to the ground thanks to gen­uine Ahmed Bayoo

“It’s a real men­ace on the roads”

fast road springs and Koni ad­justable dampers. The sus­pen­sion also in­cor­po­rates Pow­er­flex poly­bushes, a GGR rear diff mount, MSD solid rear beam mounts and a front strut brace.

sit­ting pretty

A two-wheel drive, three-spoke steer­ing wheel wear­ing an RS cen­tre piece joins a Collins Per­for­mance Pro en­gine mon­i­tor and a stack of Ford Rac­ing gauges in the other­wise stan­dard 4x4 in­te­rior. It’s a nice place to be, and it’s easy to see why so many Raven Re­caros are left in-situ when the fac­tory up­hol­stery is this good ( other man­u­fac­tur­ers could learn a thing or two from Ford’s en­dur­ing suc­cess in the seat depart­ment!).

Laser wheel align­ment, cam­ber cor­rec­tion, gen­uine Ford mud­flaps and an im­i­ta­tion RS500 split­ter were added to the stun­ning Sap­phire be­fore its re­cent re­turn to the road. Colin con­firms that it now boasts the power of a tuned 4x4, but ben­e­fits from the han­dling and launch ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the ear­lier two-wheel drive Sierra. “Al­ter­ing the trans­mis­sion and adding the rear beam have im­proved the car be­yond ex­pec­ta­tion. It’s a real men­ace on the roads, and I would rec­om­mend the switchover to any four-wheel drive Ral­lye Sport pi­lot ques­tion­ing the per­for­mance of their mo­tor,” he smiles, be­fore we ask him to draw upon his am­ple ex­pe­ri­ence of Cossie own­er­ship to con­firm which edi­tion of the fruity Ford is his favourite. He ad­mits that it’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer, suf­fice to say that his rad­i­cal ride is the prod­uct of an at­tempt to take el­e­ments from each model and com­bine them into a sin­gle car. We think he’s nailed it, and look for­ward to see­ing fur­ther ex­am­ples of Blue Oval hy­brid hoonery!

Nicely tweaked YB is reck­oned to put out around 365bhp

Gold Compo MO6s with APs are a win­ning combo!

Turbo Tech­nics T34 pro­vides am­ple boost for this RWD Saph

With RWD, round­abouts are

now much more fun!

Gauges and Collins en­gine mon­i­tor are the only ad­di­tions in­side

The Saph look­ing re­splen­dent

in front of the Forth Bridge

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