The Ford Sierra RS500 is 25 years old. Autocar takes a look back at one of the most dominant models in touring car racing.
23 June 2012

This year marks 25 years since the introduction of the Ford Sierra RS500. The model marked the pinnacle of Ford’s range in the mid-1980s, and was virtually unbeatable in Group A touring car competitions.

The RS500 was launched two years after the Sierra RS Cosworth at the 1985 Geneva motor show and was conceived as an even more potent choice for touring car racing. In Group A, it proved devastating, taking 40 outright wins in succession.

In race trim, the rear-wheel drive Sierra could reliably produce 500bhp, but road car versions, of which Ford needed to sell 500, were sensibly pegged to 224bhp. 

Revisions to the standard Cosworth YB engine were extensive, even if an increase of 20bhp over standard sounds small. A Garrett T31 turbo was installed with a larger intercooler and induction system. Twin fuel injectors in each cylinder, pressurised oil-cooled pistons and larger oil and water pumps helped the reliability and pace of the race car.

Performance was impressive, even by today’s standards. It would reach 62mph in 6.2sec and achieve a 153mph, compared to the 6.8sec and 149.5mph of the common-or-garden Cosworth.

External changes were subtle, with a front splitter, additional cooling vents and a second tailgate spoiler added. A gurney flap was fitted to the iconic ‘whale tail’ rear wing and RS500 decals were fitted as standard.

Tickford was chosen to build the RS500 at the rate of 15 per day. The majority were supplied in black, but white and Moonstone Blue paint finishes were available as an option.

The potential wasn’t lost on the buying public. Despite a £19,950 price tag, compared to the £15,950 price of the standard ‘Cossie’, all 500 units sold.

After hitting a sub-£10,000 low in the 1990s, original, low-mileage RS500s have become among the most collectable of all fast Fords. The very best can sell for more than £50,000, and even one in average condition will fetch £20,000. That’s the same as you’ll pay for an excellent example of a standard RS Cosworth, such is the 500’s lasting appeal.

Click on the image above to see our RS500 gallery.

Sierra Cosworth RS500

Price: £19,950 (1987); 0-62mph: 6.2sec; Top speed: 153mph; Economy: 25.2mpg; CO2: na; Kerb weight: 1240kg; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1994cc, turbo, petrol; Power: 224bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 207lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual

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Comments
16

23 June 2012

I wouldn't say virtually unbeatable, the R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R crushed it, before the Skyline was banned.

23 June 2012

Every car has it's day or decade in some cases, the Cossie was the real different car, nothing like it on the road, table top rear wing, amazing performance at the time,along came the GT-R,swallowed it whole, but we all still remember the 500, an iconic car?......i think so.

Peter Cavellini.

23 June 2012

I always wanted one of these. The performance is amazing today, but 25 years ago, this was something else. I never got one of course, but in the '90s, I did briefly own a Sierra XR4x4. A great car, but not quite the same.

23 June 2012

I used to like this car, the engine appears to be very good.

23 June 2012

Some great pictures but I'm sure the standard Sierra's dials like on my Dad's old 1.8LX didn't go to 170mph as the picture states!

23 June 2012
Evo_ermine wrote:

Some great pictures but I'm sure the standard Sierra's dials like on my Dad's old 1.8LX didn't go to 170mph as the picture states!

Ford's speedometers are very optimistic, Evo. I had a couple of second generation Transits that both displayed up to 150mph.

24 June 2012

Fidji5 wrote:
Evo_ermine wrote:

Some great pictures but I'm sure the standard Sierra's dials like on my Dad's old 1.8LX didn't go to 170mph as the picture states!

Ford's speedometers are very optimistic, Evo. I had a couple of second generation Transits that both displayed up to 150mph.

Very true, my 1981 Capri 2.8 Injection had a 140 mph speedo and it would reach the end, but the gearing and the rev limiter meant it actually could only reach a real 130mph; still a great car.

I later had a 1991 Sierra 2.0GLSi with a 150 mph speedo (presumably to allow for the Cosworth) but that was one of the worst cars I have owned - have not considered a Ford since and probably never will.

I never considered a Cosworth in the late 80's/early 90's because you just could not insure them unless on a fleet or motor trader's policy, and to be honest after that my experience of them seemed to suggest that although they could be quick when working (but lethargic off-boost) they regularly blew head gaskets.

Anyway I then discovered 190E Cosworths, M3's, etc. and any sort of MaxPower Ford looked so second-rate after that - even now, why would anyone buy a Focus RS when there is a 135i?  

24 June 2012

toptidy wrote:

I later had a 1991 Sierra 2.0GLSi with a 150 mph speedo (presumably to allow for the Cosworth) but that was one of the worst cars I have owned - have not considered a Ford since and probably never will.

Anyway I then discovered 190E Cosworths, M3's, etc. and any sort of MaxPower Ford looked so second-rate after that - even now, why would anyone buy a Focus RS when there is a 135i?  

 

Comments like that make you look more of a badge guy than car guy, you do realise that Fords have moved on slightly from the early 90's, they realised that the Seirra and Escort just couldnt cut it anymore and produced the Mondeo and Focus, 2 cars thart forced every mainstream manufacturer and a couple of so called "premium" marques back to the drawing board.

Its because of Ford that there are so many good cars in the family sector.  I would also suggest that the success of Fast Fords is the reason cars such as 190E and M cars exist at all, they realised they had to make something to challenge RS or Cosworth fettled Fords, after all the Mercedes had to use Cosworth as well for the 190E 2.3 16v and the 2.5 16v.

Also to be truthfully honest, every Mercedes produced from the mid 90's to the early 00's where pretty poor, unreliable, overpriced, badly built and a bit nasty to drive. BMW have a range of ugly overpriced cars, and a few pointless ones, that are not really the ultimate driving machine, and again the build quality and relability leave a little bit to be desired, but hey as long as your happy..  

 

24 June 2012

Citytiger wrote:

toptidy wrote:

I later had a 1991 Sierra 2.0GLSi with a 150 mph speedo (presumably to allow for the Cosworth) but that was one of the worst cars I have owned - have not considered a Ford since and probably never will.

Anyway I then discovered 190E Cosworths, M3's, etc. and any sort of MaxPower Ford looked so second-rate after that - even now, why would anyone buy a Focus RS when there is a 135i?  

 

Comments like that make you look more of a badge guy than car guy, you do realise that Fords have moved on slightly from the early 90's, they realised that the Seirra and Escort just couldnt cut it anymore and produced the Mondeo and Focus, 2 cars thart forced every mainstream manufacturer and a couple of so called "premium" marques back to the drawing board.

Its because of Ford that there are so many good cars in the family sector.  I would also suggest that the success of Fast Fords is the reason cars such as 190E and M cars exist at all, they realised they had to make something to challenge RS or Cosworth fettled Fords, after all the Mercedes had to use Cosworth as well for the 190E 2.3 16v and the 2.5 16v.

Also to be truthfully honest, every Mercedes produced from the mid 90's to the early 00's where pretty poor, unreliable, overpriced, badly built and a bit nasty to drive. BMW have a range of ugly overpriced cars, and a few pointless ones, that are not really the ultimate driving machine, and again the build quality and relability leave a little bit to be desired, but hey as long as your happy..  

 

Well said CityTiger. There was no doubt that Fords through the 80s and early 90s were poor, exemplified by the 1990 Escort, and not helped by the fact that many models were on sale well past their sell by date and couldn't compete against many rivals. It was the Mondeo in 1993 that changed Ford around and indeed saw a sea change in the way cars from the 'mainstream' manufacturer were conceived, where they can now easily match the prestige brands. Almost every Ford since the first Mondeo has been excellent with many models top their class regularly.

I currently drive an E90 3-Series, but I've had 3 Focus' before the BMW and apart from interior quality (for the Mk 1s), the Fords were as every bit as good, especially the Mk 2 model I had where interior quality was top notch against rivals of the time, including the 1-Series and Golf Mk 5. And all the Fords I've owned have been more reliable than the BMW which persists inhaving little build quality niggles to the point where my next car may not be a BMW.

Too may people still think Fords are crap based purely on their perceptions of the dross they turned out in the 1980 and early 90s, while others just think that the Ford badge is naff and they wouldn't be seen dead in Ford and is the main reason they say Fords are rubbish.

25 June 2012

toptidy]</p><p>[quote=Fidji5][quote=Evo_ermine wrote:

why would anyone buy a Focus RS when there is a 135i?  

I have to admit I kinda' know what you mean...  where early RS Escorts (and possibly the Sierra) looked brilliant in comparison with the rest of the range, the latest Focus RS looks a bit... well...  naff. (IMHO).   You'd just feel a bit awkward sitting in that thing in traffic in the morning - just like it's trying a bit tooo hard somehow.  Somehow, it doesn't look quite so 'Max Power' in White, though...

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