He’s the UK’s old­est com­pet­ing drifter, but Gary Hughes shows the young ’uns how to skid in his 400bhp five-door Sierra

Fast Ford - - Drift Sierra - Words Dan Wil­liamson Pho­tos Ade Bran­nan

Thun­der and sun. Choco­late and soup. Foot­ball and in­tel­lec­tual con­ver­sa­tion. Ford and Nis­san. Hang on: Ford and Nis­san? Surely that’s highly ir­reg­u­lar? In­deed it is. But this SR20DET pow­ered Sierra is cer­tainly not odd. This 400bhp five- door has been built to drift with the big boys, and its skid­ding abil­ity far ex­ceeds the Ford’s rep­u­ta­tion.

Owner Gary Hughes – the UK’s old­est com­pet­ing drifter – reck­ons the Sierra’s tal­ents are se­verely un­der­es­ti­mated. “There are lots of fal­la­cies about Sier­ras,” he groans. “They say you can’t get lock. You can. They say you can’t get grip with the trail­ing arm setup. You can.

“If you run coilovers and stan­dard ride height, you will re­move neg­a­tive cam­ber, re­duce squat and keep the full-size foot­print. It will deliver all the trac­tion you want.”

And Gary should know. He’s been slid­ing rear-wheel drive Fords since a string of Corti­nas in his early days of mo­tor­ing. A suc­ces­sion of three-litre Capris and 2.8is led to a cou­ple of Sap­phire Cos­worths, in­clud­ing a tasty 440bhp, Moon­stone Blue monster.

“Be­fore drift­ing ex­isted, it was just called en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing, and I was known as Gary the Nut­ter,” he laughs.

So when Bri­tish drift­ing took hold around 2005, Gary was keen to try his hand. He took his Moon­stone Sap­phire to an or­gan­ised ses­sion, joined in – and blew it up. Then, while its en­gine was be­ing re­built, Gary bought a rear-wheel- drive-con­verted Sky­line GT-R pack­ing 500bhp. It wasn’t long be­fore he be­came wrapped up in the Ja­panese scene and com­pet­i­tive drift­ing.

But Gary stepped away from cham­pi­onships last

year. He’s still a Learn 2 Drift in­struc­tor (“It’s the best £70 you’ll ever spend,” urges Gary) and drives sum­mer shows as The Stig’s Fat Cousin (“I’m no stranger to the odd pint of Stella, and I’ve had years of prac­tice.”), yet it was only when he heard of a cer­tain par­tially com­pleted Sierra for sale that he de­cided to re­turn to the game.

Break­ing the mould

Gary says, “Most of it was built by Gareth Mould. It was 70 per-cent there, and what he’d done was very good. The the­ory was right, but it needed fin­ish­ing.”

For Gary, the chal­lenge was too tempt­ing to re­sist. He bought what ap­peared to be a plain, white Sierra 1.8GLX with black wheels. Yet un­der the bon­net – slot­ted in very neatly – was a twolitre tur­bocharged mo­tor nor­mally found be­tween the in­ner wings of a Nis­san 200SX, known as an SR20.

Gary com­ments, “It’s ef­fec­tively a Ja­panese YB, only it’s an al­loy bot­tom end rather than some­thing from a Cortina!

“The SR20 is a com­mon con­ver­sion into Es­corts. You can buy an en­gine for £800 and make 240bhp – or 280 at a push. This one’s been built by Gareth’s dad, and I re­ally feel lucky; if it was a Cossie it would eas­ily be a £30,000 en­gine.”

The Nis­san-to-Sierra swap is rel­a­tively straight­for­ward, re­quir­ing mod­i­fied mounts, along with swap­ping around the sump and pickup to clear the steer­ing rack. Up­rated wa­ter and oil pumps will cope with the heat gen­er­ated dur­ing drift­ing; rocker stop­pers were in­cluded to limit the SR20’s ten­dency to break when revved hard; the forged bot­tom end means it will han­dle 400bhp with ease.

Gary switched the stock turbo for a T2871R, upped the in­jec­tors to 800cc items, and had the whole lot mapped by FC Tun­ing; at 1.3Bar boost it’s pro­duc­ing 375bhp, but once run-in there’ll be up to 1.8Bar.

“It will run over 400bhp and I can abuse it for the next cou­ple of years,” grins Gary. “The more power you have, the eas­ier it is to ini­ti­ate a drift. At just 1100kg it’s shock­ingly fast.

“With a GT35 I could run 550bhp all day, but I al­ways stick with a smaller turbo for in­stant re­sponse. Go­ing off the line against a 1,000bhp Supra, you need to be some­where near.”

To take that kind of ag­gro, Gary’s added a car­bon clutch. A pity, then, that the Nis­san trans­mis­sion is al­ready on its knees – al­though Gary’s plan to fit a rear-wheel drive Sky­line gear­box sounds like a sub­stan­tial so­lu­tion.

An­chor man

Sur­pris­ingly, the Sierra’s brak­ing sys­tem is ba­si­cally a stock rear­wheel drive Cos­worth setup, al­beit with the ad­di­tion of a hy­draulic hand­brake. Gary says, “You don’t use the foot­brake very much at all. Mas­sive brakes, in my hum­ble opin­ion, are to­tally un­nec­es­sary.

“The fac­tory Sierra hand­brake is poor, but I use

ARB’s been re­moved and steer­ing arms ex­tended for more lock

All of the bat­tle scars have

been prop­erly earned!

Sierra has been set up with

full drift-spec ge­om­e­try

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