A few months ago their catalogue thumped onto the door mat.
I thumbed through it in the usual way until I turned a page and my fingers froze. There was a Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in Moonstone Blue, with a guide price of £10,000-£14,000. Was this a car the market had missed?
I’ll explain. There are certain qualities a car must have before it is likely to become an appreciating asset, and the more of them it has, the more likely it is to appreciate. These include great beauty, being fantastic to drive, rarity and boasting competition intention in its original design. See how many boxes it ticks and you’ll no longer wonder why the most recent Ferrari 250 GTO to be sold went for £23 million.
So let’s spare the Cosworth’s blushes and skirt around the beauty issue. Is it rare? You bet. Forgetting the Sierra RS500, which is already out of sight, just over 6000 original two-wheel-drive Cosworth hatchbacks were built, of which just 1600 were sold in the UK.
Now consider how easy they were to crash, nick or simply ruin. Because you could get up to 400bhp from their engines, such classifieds as you can find often feature cars that have been wound up to within an inch of their lives.
Add to these those cars that have simply fallen apart over the past 26 years and it’s clear the number of clean, original Cosworth hatches left standing in this country must be a few hundred at most. And how many of those are actually on the road is another matter.
It is the last piece of the puzzle we’re here to find. Is it still good to drive? Just locating a clean example is difficult enough, but thankfully Ford retains a development car that’s standard in every way save the fitment of a roll cage.
What strikes you first is how small it is. Forget its true descendant, the Mondeo, and instead compare its size to that of a Focus ST from the class below. The Sierra is a fraction longer but 10cm narrower, over 6cm lower, 140kg lighter and 4cm shorter in wheelbase. Relative to expectations, it feels tiny.
The interior looks spartan and cheap by modern standards, but remember it cost just £15,950. For a genuine 150mph car, that was astonishing, even in 1986. Besides, all the important stuff is there; the huge Recaro seats are fabulously supportive and comfortable, the driving position is excellent, the dials are clear and the leather-bound steering wheel is ideal in size, location and shape.
The engines never sounded any good in these. It had a twin-cam, 16-valve head, but it was bolted to a Pinto block, known for its strength and little else. With a Garrett T3 turbo, it produced a genuine 201bhp for the road, but track versions of the RS500 would see outputs pass 500bhp.
In every area it is as good or better than you might expect. There’s less lag than I remember, and when the power arrives the Cossie still feels quick even by modern standards. It could still hit 60mph in 6.1sec, even on skinny 205-section tyres with a slow gearchange in the middle. That’s better than you’ll get from a Focus ST today.
But it is the way the car handles that really reveals its pedigree. Frankly, I was expecting a bit of a nightmare. Being old enough to have driven these things when they were new, I remember progress being characterised by poor ride quality punctuated by interludes of rather too entertaining snap oversteer. But that’s not how it feels today.
If I thought this car was a bargain when I met it, it’s nothing compared to what I thought when our time was up. Here is a rare, distinctive race and rally stage refugee that’s still genuinely quick and fun to drive yet comes with the bonus that you can get your entire family and all their luggage in the boot. You’ll drag attention off every street corner you pass – the rear wing alone will see to that – and it can sit in your garage (it’s probably still not a great idea to leave it on the street) until the world wakes up to what wonderful value they represent.