The life story of a Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth

Ford Sierra RS500

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Ford Sierra RS500

Bought with a parent’s Rolls as a trade-in, used as a daily hack by a racing driver, thrashed and now a cherished classic – this Cossie has led quite a life

1987 Glynn Moore swaps his father’s Rolls-Royce for the new RS500 Cosworth

‘Mum and Dad were industrial chemists and had gone to work in Abu Dhabi, so I moved into their house to look after their dogs,’ said the RS500’s first owner, Glynn Moore.

‘I was a big fan of performance cars in general back then – I read all the new-car magazines and ran a car accessories business, so I’d been following the RS500’s development story closely.

‘As a result I knew the local Ford dealership in Grimsby would be getting RS500s before they did – when I called up to place my order the dealership had no idea what I was talking about, so I said ‘trust me, you’ll be getting them’ and sure enough they did.

‘The problem was paying for it. I was driving around in a BMW 635CSi back then, which I could part-exchange for it,
but my Dad’s Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow had been sitting on the drive unused for the best part of a year.

‘I figured we had more cars than we could deal with anyway, so I swapped both the BMW and the Rolls-Royce for the Cosworth, transferred Dad’s private numberplate onto it, and had a long think about how I was going to break the news to my parents.

‘I figured I had plenty of time, but there was a knock on the door at 11 o’clock one night a few months later, and I opened it to find my parents on the doorstep just staring at the numberplate.

‘They’d come home much earlier than I’d expected, unannounced, and were absolutely furious with me. They got over it though. Eventually.

‘I mainly worked from home back then, so I didn’t put too many miles on it – it was a fun car rather than a daily driver. I ran it for three years, but it was the height of the collector-car speculator boom so I had several local traders chasing me for it.

‘I eventually sold it for the price I bought it for, so it was three years’ free motoring. My parents were a bit happier about that aspect of the whole thing.

‘It was a cracking car to drive, but there was one slight ongoing fault that kept sending it into reduced-power ‘limp home’ mode. The head mechanic at Grimsby Ford had it in the workshop for a week and failed to find a fault with it, but half an hour after I went to pick it up we sourced the problem – a faulty exhaust temperature sensor was sending the wrong information to the dashboard, tricking the ECU into thinking it was overheating.

‘It was unbelievable fun to drive, but I must admit, coming from a BMW, I didn’t like the Ford-ness of it – the plasticky dashboard and the way the doors clunked when I shut them.

‘In retrospect perhaps I should have overlooked these things, given how much they’re worth now.’

1990 Racing driver David Sears buys it for £19k

In 1989 and 1990 David Sears, son of two-times British Saloon Car Champion Jack Sears, raced the fearsome Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500s alongside Andy Rouse and Tim Harvey in the BTCC and selected European and Australian events.

‘After I’d seen 192mph on the Conrod Straight at Bathurst in the racing version, I knew I wanted to experience that kind of thrill on the road, and sought out the RS500 as its specification was closer to the racing cars with its bigger turbocharger and various homologation bits,’ Sears recalls.

‘Problem was, Ford weren’t making them any more, so I sought out a low-mileage, one-owner car, found this black one, and ran it as my daily driver for three years. It was great fun to drive, but I’m afraid I’m rather unsentimental about my cars, and passed it on to my son John after a few years as I felt it was getting old. I’d also stopped competing myself to concentrate on running my own race team.’

1993 John Sears inherits the car at a young age

Although John Sears acquired the car from his father, he didn’t drive it – mainly because he was ten years old at the time. ‘When David Sears had finished driving the RS500 it was taken off the road rather than sold,’ said current owner and RS Owners Club RS500 registrar Paul Linfoot. ‘According to Jim Clarke, who bought the car from John Sears, it was being sold to pay for his university fees, and had been sitting in storage for the previous ten years.’

After graduation John followed his ancestors into motor sport, and currently manages the Super Nova AutoGP and Trulli Formula E teams.

2004 RS club member Jim Clarke acquires the Sierra

‘I was always into sports motorbikes, but I did my back in at work, which forced me to seek out a fast car instead as biking had become painful,’ explains Jim Clarke. ‘I had a need for speed and wanted a Cosworth, so I joined the RS Owners Club, and pretty soon found this one for sale in Norfolk.’

It made for a memorable visit to the Sears’ GP2 team headquarters, Super Nova Racing, ‘I had an address, which I thought would just be someone’s house, but I arrived at what looked to all intents and purposes like a Formula One team, a big glassy building with workshops full of single-seater race cars being built,’ says Clarke. ‘I was led through the complex by the receptionist, and the Cosworth was in this white-painted room all on its own. It was all rather surreal. It didn’t look great to be honest, it was absolutely covered in dust, but my partner – who doesn’t know anything about cars – loved it, saying it reminded her of Darth Vader. I put a deposit down on it and picked it up the following week.

‘I’d never owned a classic car before, so my intention was to use it as a year-round daily driver. Early on in that first year of ownership I drove it all over the place, but when we got to winter I realised it wouldn’t be a good idea to subject it to the bad weather and gritted roads, so I bought an old Mondeo. I got into a cycle of putting
the Sierra on a Statutory Off-Road Notification in the winter, and renewing
the tax in the summer.’

2005 The Cosworth gets an unwelcome visitor

‘It was already a fast car, but as a former biker I needed it to be as fast as possible,’ said Clarke, ‘so I took it to Beverley Motorsport in Hull and had the ECU remapped to liberate 310bhp.

‘I didn’t regret it, but perhaps I should have thought it through more comprehensively because almost immediately afterwards the clutch went bang, so it went back to Beverley to have a new heavy-duty clutch and cylinder head gasket fitted as a precaution.

‘Not long after I went for a drive and it seemed strangely unresponsive, and seriously down on power. I took it to Beverley Motorsport and told them it had no go in it. They fitted a new distributor, but it didn’t make much difference. A bit of investigation revealed that a mouse must have got into the engine bay while it was laid up over the winter and chewed the wires to the fuel pump – this was causing it to cut out intermittently.’

2012 Cancer intervenes and Jim lays up the Sierra

‘I’d retired, suffering from cancer, and just didn’t have the money to spend on the Cosworth any more, so I just stuck it in the garage,’ says Clarke. ‘But I’d taken it to a few shows beforehand, where it’d caught RS Owners Club RS500 registrar Paul Linfoot’s eye. I knew he’d look after it and I wanted him to have it when I’d finished with it. He begged me to sell it for years and I finally capitulated in 2014.

‘If I’d still been working I would have kept it, but I was 77. That said, beating cancer gave me a different perspective on life, so wanting to live in the moment I swapped the old Mondeo for a new BMW 335i twin turbo, which is a lot like the Cosworth in some ways. Not quite as exciting though, but it’s certainly fast.’

2014 The RS500 joins Paul Linfoot’s Cosworth collection for £45,000

‘It didn’t look like this when I got it in March!’ says current owner Paul Linfoot of the latest addition to his gleaming collection of RS Fords. ‘It hadn’t been properly polished in 10 years, the alloy wheels were badly pitted, and it was generally just dull all over. I’ve brought the bodywork back up to showroom standard, and the alloys have only just been refinished – I’ve had to drive it around on aftermarket wheels until recently, but I’ve wanted this car ever since I saw it at a show nearly a decade ago.’

As RS500 registrar for the Ford RS Owners Club it’s Linfoot’s job to keep tabs on each of the 500-car homologation run. He has a keen eye for detail and can spot a fake RS500 after years of experience. ‘From a distance the dead giveaway is the extra cooling slot in the bumper beneath the radiator grille – I remember spotting that across the field at that show ten years ago,’ he recalls. ‘I immediately thought “there’s a new RS500 on the scene!”’ Linfoot has also been in regular contact with Stuart Turner, head of Ford Motorsport Europe in the Eighties and the man who conceived the Sierra Cosworth project, famously on a napkin during a Ploughman’s lunch after a tour of the Cosworth factory with Ford’s top-tier management. Turner has recently sourced previously unpublished photographs of the RS500s in their pre-production phase at the Aston Martin Tickford works where they were hastily built in 1987. Ford needed this done quick-sharp so that the Sierra could take the battle to BMW in Group A touring car racing.

Linfoot runs North Yorkshire RS Spares from his North Yorkshire home, and the various outbuildings are full of the fast Sierras from both road and track in various states of build for his enthusiastic clients. ‘I’ve owned 26 – they’ve all been personal cars but I’m always trying to improve my collection, selling the worst example I’ve got at any one time if a better one comes along. Most RS500 collectors want one in each colour – black, white, and Moonstone Blue. I had five at one point, but had to sell two of them to buy the ex-Manuel Reuter ETCC RS500, which I’m racing at the Silverstone Classic this year. This is my only road-specification RS500 now. I want to race in a genuine Group A Cosworth alongside Steve Soper, Tim Harvey et al. It’s the experience that matters and the fact that these guys are still racing just makes it for me – against a grid like that, I don’t care if I come last.

‘I’ve never been into Formula One – it’s always been Touring Cars that do it for me, and the RS500’s history is unique. I love the fact that it only exists because Ford suddenly realised it had to apply all of its race modifications to 500 road cars, so it genuinely is a racer for the road. In terms of percentage won of races entered, it’s the most successful car ever built, and it’s also the first Touring Car to be banned because of its success. It wiped the floor with BMW and Rover, made heroes of Andy Rouse and Steve Soper, and became my passion.’

This RS500 seems destined for a relatively gentle life now. ‘I’ll still drive it, but it’ll be mainly to and from shows,’ says Linfoot. ‘I’ll leave the fast stuff for the racetrack.’

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