American multinational corporation, the Ford Motor Company, has produced some truly iconic and varied vehicles over the decades. The 1980s saw the rise of the performance daily driver, from powerful hot hatches like the Fiesta XR2 and Ford Escort RS Turbo to legendary sedans like the Sierra RS Cosworth. Due to economic uncertainty and a fuel crisis, the specialty sports car had fallen somewhat out of favor and Ford had to come up with new models to reclaim sales.
As the end of the combustion engine performance car seems inevitable, now is a good time to look back at some of the best models Ford produced in the 1980s.
10 1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
Ford’s legendary Sierra RS Cosworth was launched in 1986. The car was designed to enable Ford to participate in “Group A” races, to achieve this, 5000 road models had to be built to homologate the car.
The car takes its name from the 2.0-litre four-cylinder “Cosworth” turbo engine located under the hood. The most distinguishing feature of the car is the huge rear wing, also known as the ‘whale tail’.
9 1982 Ford Capri 2.8i
The Capri was Ford of Europe’s answer to the Mustang. The third generation car was released in 1978 and remained in production until 1986. In 1982 the car got a powerful 2.8-litre V6, which replaced the 3.0-litre Essex V6 fitted earlier, but due to emissions regulations was destroyed.
The new engine produced 160 hp, allowing the car to propel itself from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.8 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 131 km/h.
8 1986 Ford RS200
The RS200 for the road was put into service to homologate the car for Group B rallies. About 200 units were produced, each equipped with four-wheel drive.
The car had a mid-engine configuration, which was based on a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The unit delivered 253 horsepower and the car was fast, completing 0-60 mph in 6.1 seconds. Mated to a five-speed manual transmission, the car had a top speed of 140 mph. A more powerful “Evolution” model officially became the fastest accelerating car in the world, holding a Guinness world record for 12 years. This version took just 3.07 seconds to go from 0-60 mph, which is exceptionally fast even by today’s standards.
7 1983 Ford Escort XR3i
The hot Escort XR3i was produced by Ford from 1983 to 1986. The car was a hit with buyers as it combined performance with affordability and good looks too. The XR3i was equipped with a 106 hp 1.6-liter engine.
To develop the car, Ford added fuel injection to the XR3’s engine and managed to get more performance.
6 1987 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe
The ninth generation Ford Thunderbird was introduced in 1983, before undergoing a major overhaul in 1987 for its final two years of production. The exterior of the car was modified to improve aerodynamics and a revised headlight design was introduced.
The car had a 190 hp 2.3-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The slimmed down engine was unlike many rivals, which were usually equipped with V8 units. The Thunderbird had a top speed of 137 mph, while 0-60 mph took 8 seconds.
5 1984 Ford Fiesta Mk2 XR2
Powered by a 1.6-litre, 97-hp 4-cylinder engine, the XR2 had a top speed of 112 mph and would go from 0-60 mph in just over 10 seconds.
The look of the car was a major force, with round grille mounted lights and an overall sporty look. Compared to many others on this list, the car didn’t get the recognition it deserved, so it remains quite affordable.
4 1984 Ford Mustang SVO
The 1984 Mustang was the first car released by Ford’s “Special Vehicle Operations” (SVO) group. The aim of the car was to lure gearboxes back to the brand, after increasing competition and profitability.
Under the hood was a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine. The unit had enough poke to blast the car from 0-60 mph in just 7.5 seconds, while the top speed was 128 mph. Approximately 10,000 units were produced during the production run, making it quite an exclusive model.
3 1985 Ford Escort RS Turbo
Powered by a 1.6 liter turbo engine, the Escort developed 134 horsepower and earned its “RS” badge, one of the fastest hot hatches on the market. The car had distinctive styling, with most units finished in white and coming complete with seven-spoke alloy wheels and a small rear spoiler.
Notably, Princess Diana owned a modified SVO divisional version of the car, which came in a beautiful jet black paint color not available from the factory. The car has just come up for sale and will be auctioned on August 27, 2022 by Silverstone Auctions.
2 1982 Ford Cortina Crusader
Like a swan song, Ford introduced the Crusader to mark the end of Cortina production. The car was very well specified and came with a range of engine options from the basic 1.3-litre to the top-end 2.0-litre.
The car sold well and became one of Ford’s best-selling special edition cars. In total, approximately 30,000 copies were purchased. Both sedan and station wagon versions were available, adding to its appeal and helping to justify its sales success.
1 1987 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
The 1987 Ford Mustang received a radical restyling compared to the models that preceded it. Despite the “Fox” bodied Mustang being available for a number of years, the 1987 version brought the look all the way up to date.
Changes were also made under the hood, with an updated 5.0 V8 making 225 horsepower, an increase of 25 horsepower.