For SentiMETAL Episode 14 we head back to the Freestate for another fast, locally-developed Ford, the XR-8.
There are few words that get us petrolheads as excited as a homologation special. We often forget how many of these cars were actually produced locally, some of which have already been covered on our SentiMETAL YouTube playlist while a few are coming in the near future. To be able to enter its Sierra XR-8 into Group One racing in the 80s, Ford had to build 200 of these V8-engined beasts.
You could have your XR-8 in any colour, so long it was white...
Earlier, the company had actually planned to increase that number to 250. Appropriately, the initial local launch of this car was held on the Aldo Scribante race track in the capital of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province, Port Elizabeth. Following this event, selected press gained access to the car a few months later. One can only imagine how exceptional and important this car must have been for Ford and the industry in the mid-80s.
There is no mistaking the XR-8 for any other Sierra as it offers a big-bore exhaust, bi-plane rear wing and the car’s designation just below it. Open the bonnet and nestled in the front is a 4,9-litre, V8 engine taken at the time from Ford’s Mustang sports GT. It goes without saying that at the time this was the fastest factory Sierra in the world, developed right here in South Africa. During a road test conducted by CAR magazine, the XR-8 achieved a top speed of 231 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 6,95 seconds – impressive figures for 1984, especially since Ford conservatively claimed an acceleration time of "under 8 seconds"!
Massive bi-plane rear wing appears to give downforce even when the car is standing still.
Another interesting figure is the average consumption the car achieved – over 18 litres per 100 km! The engine produces 161 kW at 4 750 rpm and 374 N.m at 3 250 rpm and was imported from the USA, together with a light alloy Mustang gearbox with an overdrive fifth gear. The engine is fed through a four-barrel Holley carburettor. Local might be lekker, but the development of this car included more than 90 specialist components, so it wasn't easy...
These were parts such as a new front cross member, an extended grille, uprated propshaft and axles and, as expected, also a stronger differential. The engine is 33 kg heavier than the V6 engine of the XR-8’s volume-selling sibling. The suspension was modified with uprated coil springs, said to be 50% stiffer in the front and 40% at the rear. Ventilated disc brakes were fitted on all four corners while the fronts offered four-pot calipers. Developed in Germany, the Ronal alloy wheels were specifically manufactured for the XR-8. All of these performance sedans were painted white with Ford Motorsport-inspired blue stripes while the lower rocker panels were finished in grey-blue moulded PVC.
It's not the prettiest... but it's pretty special.
Both Fanie du Preez and his dad have an intense love and interest in cars. As their business is focused around trucks and transport, it doesn’t come as a surprise that their hands are always ready to work or maintain their car collection. These include even full restorations of certain cars in this collection. One would have thought that only being 28 years of age, Fanie would not appreciate or understand the importance of this car, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
One article confirmed that when the news hit Europe that a V8-engined Sierra was being built in South Africa, there was an immediate level of interest followed by some envy – which is totally understandable. CAR magazine’s article ended by stating that “…the XR-8s could become much sought after…”. It might have taken a while, but 25 years later and this has indeed become the case.
Car: Ford Sierra XR-8 (1985)
Engine: 4 942cc, V8, Holley carburettor
Power: 161kW @ 4 750rpm
Torque: 374Nm @ 3 250rpm
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Weight: 1 269kg
Top speed: 231kph (tested)
0-62mph (100kph): 6.95 sec (tested)