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Sierra, Cortina, Capri Perana - These Ford bespoke SA-only models carry a rich Heritage

2020-09-14 11:33
Ford Sierra XR6

Ford Sierra XR6. Image: Quickpic

• Ford South Africa started local vehicle assembly in 1924. 

• The US company has built unique models were built exclusively in South Africa. 

• Heritage Month epitomises the 'Ford For South Africa' brand campaign.

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Ford South Africa has left an indelible mark with bespoke models manufactured for our vibrant country. If we cast our minds back to South Africa's terrible pre-democratic era, when sanctions imposed on companies.

US carmarker Ford had a severely limited access to a wide range of models available overseas.

This forced the company to draw on its technical expertise and saw the birth of a period of homologations that produced several road cars that spilled over into the motorsport world too.

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: "I think most of us have a special Ford model that forms part of our initial love for cars. I grew up watching my father being a massive Ford fan with his Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts. My favourite was probably the Sierra and Saphire models he owned too. But these are the cars that planted the seeds in my petrol veins.

"I still love seeing these cars in mint condition by those who still love the brand, and take such good care of their vehicles.I remember moving to Joburg and making an instant connection with a new friend just because of his 3.0-litre Cortina. I had the biggest laugh last week when his wife posted a picture on Instagram about not being able to go out for the weekend because her husband, my said friend, had to stay home and work on his latest Sierra project car."

Have you or your relatives owned any of these bespoke SA-models? Do you have a Cortina, Sierra, Capri Perana, or any other classic Ford you would like to tell us about? Please email us your story and some photos here, we'd love to publish them.


Image: Quickpic 

Early days

Ford's earliest traces in South Africa go back to 1905 when Port Elizabeth-based Arkell and Douglas were appointed as the brand's first agents in the country.

This laid the foundation of the Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) that was founded in 1923, and a year later it opened its assembly plant in a converted wool store in Port Elizabeth to assemble Model T cars from export kits shipped from Canada. By 1930, Ford opened a new purpose-built factory in PE.

SEE | This mega-Ford fan owns all three generations of potent Focus RS cars - Here's which one is his fave


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With September dedicated to South Africa's Heritage, Ford is pulling back the covers on some of its homegrown models that shaped the company into what it is today. 

Motorsport in general was the main catalyst for many of these models, but in order to compete, the rules (known as homologation) usually required that a certain number of road-going versions be built, the company said.


Image: Quickpic

Sierra XR6 - A racecar for the road

Although the Ford Sierra was sold in other markets, its reputation as a performance car was cemented in South Africa, under the project name of 'Toni'.

The most well-known is the flagship Sierra XR6 which used the the 3.0-litre Essex V6 produced at Ford's Struandale Engine Plant in PE. A race car for the road was conceived, with 112kW and 236Nm. 

The Sierra XR6 was more than a little inspired by South Africa's Cortina XR6 – and the more powerful and rarer Cortina XR6 Interceptor – that preceded it.


Image: Quickpic

The end of the Sierra XR6's production in 1992 saw it replaced by the fuel-injected 3.0iRS a year later. Power was upped to 117kW and 260Nm and the development of the fuel-injected V6 was a joint effort by the South African Motor Corporation (SAMCOR), the predecessor to FMCSA, and Lucas during the mid-1990s.

More or less 500 models were sold. 


The ante was upped even more with a locally-built muscle car in the form of the XR8. Motorsport fans will recall it was successfully in the 1985 Group 1 championship by John Gibb and Serge Damseaux.

Production in the mid-1980s was limited to 250 units, decided by the 'one-time-buy' component of 250 component sets.


Image: Quickpic

Instead of the V6 engine, these XR8s were fitted with a Mustang-derived 5.0-litre V8 which was imported directly from the US. Power of 161kW and torque of 374Nm enabled a top speed of 231km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 6.95 seconds. 

The V8 was mated to a Granada five-speed manual gearbox with shortened input shaft and brake discs all round. All XR8s were painted white with motorsport triple blue pin-stripe and grey trim. 

The Capri Perana

Johannesburg businessman and SA Hall of Fame inductee Basil Green is synonymous with modifications of Fords in the late 1960s and 1970s, not least of which is the Capri Perana V8 which was SA’' fastest locally produced road car and was unbeatable on the track.

Powered by a lightweight V8 from the Mustang, the mighty Capri Perana race car was capable of over 270km/h and topped the saloon car lap records at every one of South Africa’s racetracks. It is very rare as only 500 of these Capri Peranas were built by the comopany. 


Image: Quickpic

Cortina bakkie builder

Another bespoke vehicle was the Cortina bakkie, and could be said it helped fuel South African’s affinity with the venerable bakkie. 


Image: Quickpic

Eight prototypes including the Mk1 Cortina, Corsair, Mk2 Cortina station wagon, Mk2 Cortina sedan and even an Escort panel van were built at Ford's Port Elizabeth plant until the Cortina bakkie was launched in 1971.


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The Cortina bakkie paved the way for the Bantam bakkie. A worker bee in its own right, This half-ton small utility vehicle with passenger car-derived handling and safety used the locally produced 1.3-litre Kent engine as well as the UK-sourced Fiesta engine ancillaries.

Interestingly, the rear suspension used a strengthened axle from the British Escort GPO Van. The RoCam engine which powered later generations was a key part of the Struandale Engine Plant story, with 1 346 919 units produced from 2000 to 2012. There was also a locally-developed a naturally-aspirated 1.8-litre diesel model.


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Ranger -Proudly South African

Two totally unique versions of the Ranger have been added to the brand's Heritage models.

"Ford has been an integral part of the automotive landscape in South Africa since local assembly of the Model T began in Port Elizabeth in 1923. Ford remains one of the country’s largest vehicle manufacturers and exporters and these heritage cars have added wonderful gravitas to the local Ford story,"says Neale Hill, managing director of Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa.


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Heritage Day in 2019 was shown in all its splendor by a one-of-a-kind Ford Ranger painted in the colours of the South African flag, and included its rich diversity of cultures, arts and wildlife by FMCSA’s own Paint Shop at the Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria.

It took a team of five artists, three sprayers, and one assembler a total of 650 hours to produce, with the result reminding all South Africans how much the nation loves bakkies. 

Unique South African artwork reappeared on a Ranger this year – given the name Mandla by employees at company's Silverton plant – for Mandela Day in July 2020.

The South African flag features again with a portrait of the country’s iconic former statesman, Nelson Mandela, painted on the bonnet. While the 2019 Heritage Ranger remains part of Ford’s collection,'Mandla' was donated to the Nelson Mandela Foundation to support the fight against poverty and inequality.

Compiled by Sean Parker


Image: Quickpic

Read more on:    sierra  |  capri  |  ford  |  cortina  |  bantam  |  escort  |  ranger  |  south africa  |  heritage  |  classic cars

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