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Ford Sierra XR-8. The eight cylinder version only made in South Africa

In addition to being a widely sold saloon in the European market, many remember the Ford Sierra for sports versions as rabid as the RS500 Cosworth. However, there is a somewhat less powerful version than this one, although much more unknown. We are talking about the XR-8. Produced solely for the South African market with Group 1 racing as a target.

In the mid-eighties the sports saloon had its moment of splendor. A type of car that confirms that appearances can be deceiving. And it is that, Real sports cars with outstanding performance were hidden under their stately-looking three-volume bodies.. Proof of this are such iconic models as the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 EVO II or the Alfa Romeo 155 V6 Ti DTM. Both extremely efficient vehicles on the tracks of the German Touring Car Championship until the early XNUMXs.

In addition, the sports sedan fever sparked surprising collaborations between distant brands a priori. Something that is perfectly seen in the Omeg lotusto. A fetish transport for the gangs of British bank robbers, which outwitted the police thanks to its 380CV engine with two Garrett turbos. A criminal story in which the Ford Sierra XR-8 participates. Not so much for serving on the run as for being one of the most common protagonists in the illegal races outside of Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Collateral result of its purpose, because in truth this model only manufactured in South Africa was thinking to dominate in the local races of Group 1. The one in which the modified touring car competitions were grouped, in which The Ford Sierra XR-8 made its appearance in 1984 with a discreet look under which hides a 8HP V5.0 208 HO engine direct to the rear axle. Undoubtedly one of the rarer versions of this saloon, due to the fact that only 250 units were assembled for the local South African market in the midst of restrictions on its international trade.

ford sierra xr8

FORD SIERRA XR-8. THE ORIGINALITY OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN MARKET

During the eighties, international awareness regarding the racial segregation regime in South Africa was not only growing, but also being implemented in concrete measures. Thus, even the former allies of the Pretoria government took the route of sanctions and the economic blockade to isolate institutionalized racism. In this context, automotive companies operating in the country had an increasingly complex import scenario. Situation in which versions assembled in South Africa flourished with different layouts than the usual models.

In this sense, the best known example of these South African variants is the Bmw 333i e30. Assembled in the country to be sold as a local product but with a design fine-tuned in Germany by Alpina, which mounted a 3-liter inline six cylinder borrowed from the 3i on the chassis of an M2. Nevertheless, the other most representative sample of this phenomenon is the Ford Sierra XR-8. A true racing car disguised under the guise of a civilized saloon. Character highlighted by the fact that it hardly has elements that give it a somewhat more aggressive appearance than the basic version.

However, it distances itself from this in many matters, since the Ford XR-8 was made with the idea of ​​being able to homologate it in local Group 1 races. For this, two hundred units were needed, although due to the demand it had both in South Africa and later by english collectors the required figure was exceeded by fifty. All this with the Ford 5.0 HO engine as the protagonist. A derivative of the mythical V8 "Small Block" presented in 1982 mounted on cars as diverse as the Mustang, Capri, Lincoln Mark VII or even the Mercury Mountaineer SUV.

THOUGHT BY AND FOR RACING

When it comes to the sports saloon concept, big horsepower and generous performance come to mind. However, this type of car is also associated with a pleasant drive where appropriate. Fact that in models like the R21 Turbo Quadra it was made easier thanks to the all-wheel drive. A placidity that the Ford Sierra XR-8 never wanted to show off. Given that being designed by and for racing it soon gained a reputation as a car only suitable for expert hands. Even more so if we take into account the rear propulsion and the fact that there is no excess in terms of tires. Despite riding fifteen-inch wheels instead of fourteen.

In addition, the suspensions were reinforced up to 50% in the case of the front axle. Which received the weight of this huge engine that also needed to change the original grill to facilitate the installation of a new radiator and the air flow to the four body carburetor. Regarding the transmission, perhaps there is the Ford Sierra XR-8 its weakest point. Plagued by the lack of precision typical of many North American models, its Warner T5 taken from the Mustang does not give the nerve that one should suppose to such a model.

However, the truth is that thanks to its eight cylinders this Ford Sierra XR-8 almost reached the performance of the Sierra RS500 with a two-liter Cosworth engine. Certainly more agile and edgy, but lacking in the originality of this South African version. And that's not to mention his gruff sound so typical of American V8s. Quite a surprise when you see the image of a simple saloon giving off the sound of a sports car with a voracious appetite for gasoline that, surprisingly, here only reaches a consumption of 11 liters / 100 km going at around 120 km / h on average. Another fact that reminds us again that appearances can be deceiving.

Photographs: Ford South Africa / Classic Car Auctions

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Written by Miguel Sánchez

Through the news from La Escudería, we will travel the winding roads of Maranello listening to the roar of the Italian V12; We will travel Route66 in search of the power of the great American engines; we will get lost in the narrow English lanes tracking the elegance of their sports cars; We will speed up the braking in the curves of the Monte Carlo Rally and we will even get dusty in a garage while rescuing lost jewels.

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