OLD SCHOOL SAPH
Packed full of pioneering tech and a then-unheard-of mammoth 640bhp, this 90s icon has now burst back onto the scene!
Legendary '90s Sapphire Cosworth is back on the scene!
What was it that got you hooked on fast Fords? For many, it’s that their mates, their big brother, or maybe their dad that had a passion for all things Blue Oval, and that enthusiasm was unavoidably inherited. For me, it was one of my dad’s mates, who had an awesome collection of Cosworth Fords including a Sapphire, Escort, and holy grail Sierra RS500. All in Diamond White. All modified and tuned to produce over 400bhp (which, in those days, was a lot!). I remember, as a young teenage lad, sitting in the RS500 and promising myself that one day I would own a Cossie! That was kind a of turning point in my life, it sparked my interest and enthusiasm for the mighty Blue Oval (and Cossies in particular), and ultimately forged my career which led to me ending up writing about these very cars for a living, and eventually to becoming editor of this very magazine. Yes, the fact that I’m sat here now typing this can be directly linked to that fateful moment I sat in that RS500 twenty years ago.
The man that owned that very car is the man you see here driving this rather special Saph; his name is Pete Wooltorton. And while I was busy worshipping his cars, Pete was having his own aspirations of bigger and better things. “The car we all aspired to own back then was a heavily-modified Sapphire called Snow Storm – one of the iconic bigpower builds to come from Turbosystems – it was pretty famous and I still own one of its mag features from 1999,” reminisces Pete, “I used to see it all the time. It’d pop along to a meet, outrun all of us, and then bugger off again. I wanted that car so badly…”
The fact that a man who had the keys to three highly tuned Cossies of his own still coveted thy neighbour speaks volumes, and should give you some kind of idea just how special Snow Storm was. It was a truly pioneering car, with plenty of quirky, oneoff, and custom upgrades.
Let’s start with the engine. 590bhp is a lot by today’s standards, but over 20 years ago it was unheard of. But if that wasn’t enough, Snow Storm also had a 50bhp shot of nitrous to boost that figure to 640bhp!
The basis for this colossal power was pretty much an RS500 Touring Car engine with bits the BTCC wouldn’t allow then added to give even greater power. The capacity remains at 1993cc, but the block itself was stress-relieved and wire-rung to cope with the greater boost pressures. The pistons reduced the compression ratio to 7.2:1, while the ported head with lairy cams was clamped down tightly thanks to a long head stud conversion. It all sounds quite common and even a tad outdated these days, but back in the ’90s this was all cutting-edge stuff.
Another quirky one-off was the intercooler system. Yes, it boasts a genuine RS500 intercooler, but the cooled air exiting the core is then blown through an additional chargecooler system before it enters the inlet. This extra cooling ensured that the ACTs remained cool and stable during full-bore track sessions, while the bespoke oil breather system that looks like a complicated web of braided hoses and Aeroquip fittings kept the YB fully lubed up at all times. The result of all this was plenty of power, but perhaps even more impressive was the staggering 549lb.ft @ 7500rpm! And the YB screamed all the way round to 8500rpm!
To keep all this fury in check, Turbosystems sufficiently beefed up the transmission, suspension, and brakes too. Hooked up to the YB is a Richmond six-speed NASCAR-spec gearbox that was designed to run alongside big American V8s. “It’s a bit agricultural,” Pete smirks, “but it gets the job done. Besides, it was the only thing around that could take the power and torque back then.”
Under the rear end is equally intriguing. The stock Cossie set-up is long gone, in its place is a Quaife limited-slip diff. “Some people say they think it might be a diff unit from a Metro 6R4 rally car,” Pete explains, “but I can’t find out for definite what the exact spec of it is. All I know is it’s huge and fitted with its own cooling system.”
“The car we all aspired to own back then was a heavily-modified Sapphire called Snow Storm – one of the iconic big-power builds to come from Turbosystems...”
See, I told you this car had some ‘oddities’. Not least of all those brakes. If you peer through the oh-so-‘90s three-spokes you’ll spot some rather sizeable 330mm AP Racing discs and four-pot calipers at all four corners. But look closely at the fronts and you’ll see there are actually two calipers per wheel! Don’t forget 8-pots and huge brake upgrades simply weren’t available off-theshelf back then, so everything had to
be custom-made. It’s exactly this kind of ‘thinking outside of the box’ that made Snow Storm such an icon of its era.
Which brings us back to Pete’s story, and explains why he longed for the car to be his. “I tried to the buy the car a few times over the years. It was local, I knew the original owner – Ellis Gee – and I’d always kept tabs on where it was and what it was doing,” remembers Pete, “it was parked up for a few years while Ellis took on a new business project.”
Back in 2004, Pete tried to buy the car for the first time. A deal was nearly done, but it kind of faded out and nothing ever happened, so this once famous Ford was sat in the same spot it had been for years, grass growing up to the door handles and covered in dirt and dust.
The car then moved around for a bit and Pete lost touch with Ellis, so when it finally came time to sell Ellis couldn’t get in touch with Pete. “I was gutted,” he exclaims, “I’d thought I’d missed the chance to own it.” But in a quirk of fate, Pete also knew the new owner too, so once again kept tabs on the car and its progress.
That meant when it popped up for sale again in 2016, our man was ready to pounce. “I got the phonecall from a mate telling me it was up for sale just as I was about to step on a plane for my mate’s stag-do,” cries Pete, “so I told him to stall the seller and I’ll be back in a week.” Seven days later, Snow Storm was Pete’s.
Considering the car had been off the road for 15 years, surprisingly little work was needed to get it back into service. “I just cleaned up and freed-off the brakes, changed the oil and filters in everything and I had it on the road,” Pete smiles, “although I should have realised that would be too good to be true…”
Indeed, the highly-tuned YB ran sweetly, boosted well, and pulled strong. But after a few miles it became apparent that all was not well. “The injectors had gummed
up and it would only start on the second bank. And then it melted the coolant temp sensor in the head and started massively overfuelling. At that point I decided the only answer was to pull the engine and give it a thorough once over.”
The recommissioning process ensured the original spec of the build remains, but the YB now runs healthy with new rings, shells, oil pump, and a fresh set of gaskets to button it all up. “I then dropped it off with Harvey and Jim Gibbs at SCS for them to check everything over,” explains Pete, “the turbo had seen better days, so Harvey ordered a replacement T4 to the same spec from Vince and Mark at Turbo Performance.”
Harvey also tried to work out what the weird twin-ECU set-up on the car is, with the most likely candidate being an old Superchips add-on from back in the early days. Coupled to it is an integrated Racelogic traction control system, which allows for full- throttle gear shifts and launch control too!
With the car running sweet once again, Pete took the car to Ford Fest at Santa Pod last year for this famous car’s first outing in nearly 20 years! As you can imagine, the response was a mixed bag of love from those old enough to remember this car from its heyday, and confusion from the younger generations who didn’t quite understand why period details like the three-spokes need to stay.
In fact, nothing on this car’s going to change. “This car is a legend in its own right, and to change anything would just be an insult to the car’s history,” explains Pete, “and that includes the way it’s driven. It wasn’t built to be a concours trailer-queen. It was meant to have oily bits and designed to be thrashed at full throttle, and I intend to uphold that tradition!”
In doing so, Pete and Snow Storm are attracting a new generation of Ford lovers to scene, and so the cycle continues…
Old faithful T4 turbo has been recently refreshed in anticipation of plenty of abuse!
The tiger stripe livery has always been a Ford favourite, but they are synonymous with Turbosystems cars
The car is packed full of 90s technology
One of Snow Storm’s famous features are the twin-caliper front brakes
Blue harnesses match the custom-made blue seatbelts
Rear diff boasts a comprehensive cooling package
Hydraulic handbrake has its own slave cylinder mounted in the centre console