CC Follow-Up: Project Elderly Ford Sierra – The Saga Continues


“Hey! I can see my house from up here!” Author photo.

So it was a month ago today that I introduced My Unintentional COAL, a 1989 Ford Sierra 2.9i 4×4 Ghia, to y’all in CClandia. I regaled all and sundry with the tale of how I found and bought it 17 years after first sighting it and lusting after it. Oh how we laughed at what the words “25 year old British Ford” would mean for my already-miniscule bank account. There was a lengthy list of items requiring repair or replacement, most of which resulted in utterances of “Obsolete!” and “Unavailable. Anywhere. Ever.” from my mechanic Les. In fact, Les had taken to hiding under his office desk whenever I popped in to check on progress… But, I’m delighted to report progress is indeed now well underway, so I thought I’d share a few pics and details with my fellow Curbside Classicists!


Magnificent in magenta; there can’t possibly be any hidden horrors lurking…can there?… Author photo.

As you may recall, I came upon my marvellous magenta masterpiece in a used car lot north of my home, 17 years after I first (and last) saw it parked curbside elsewhere in New Zealand. I’d thought about it often since that first sighting in 1997, and upon re-finding it, I immediately bought it without nearly enough thought. It was an as-is-where-is purchase with one condition: I required it to have a new WOF (Warrant of Fitness), which is New Zealand’s 6-monthly roadworthiness certificate. Hilariously it transpired that the WOF was dodgy, and not in a Darty way – more a dirty-rotten-scoundrels way…


Sierra’s valiant efforts to change blown lightbulb using its bonnet thwarted by lack of opposable thumbs and hoist being too far away… Author photo.

In the Unintentional COAL article I mentioned having just discovered unWOFable rust underneath (courtesy of being on the UK’s salted roads for the first 8 years of its life); the requisite rust repairs will be commenced this week. I’ll also have the panel-beater fit the correct front bumper and spoiler, replace the rear door’s clear glass with factory tinted glass (to match the rest of the car), and make one good sunroof out of the two rusty ones I have.


“There’s a hole in my car that can only be filled by youuuuu” (With apologies to Extreme). Author photo.

While the body shell’s away having holes and fibreglass replaced with lovely and expensive new metal, the engine’s coming out for a freshen-up. It’s done around 190,000km (118,000mls), and appears quite sound – it started, ran and sounded great in the 3 days I managed to drive it following purchase. It proved to be still capable of getting within a hair’s breadth of the factory top speed – allegedly of course.

Aside from heavier-than-expected fuel consumption (that surely had nothing to do with any alleged top-speedification!), the engine gave me no cause for concern – until I took it for a drive, parked it afterwards and came back after five minutes to find a dinner-plate puddle of lusciously rich oily oil underneath it. ‘Well it is an Elderly British Ford…’, I reasoned as I sprinkled the kitty litter over the oil.


Pressure plate tired, clutch worn out, owner old and broke. Author photo.

But seeing as it was going to my mechanic Les for a thorough check-up and other minor repairs, I thought I’d mention the excitingly large oil puddle. Annoyingly, it remained thoroughly unincontinent for Les, with nary a drop of oil. Of course no oil leaking from an Elderly British Ford is also cause for great concern… Eventually, after it’d been with Les for a week or two, it suddenly emptied its bladder all over his workshop floor following a drive.


As with plants, suspension struts will generally grow towards the sunshine. Author photo.

The prognosis was the rear-main crankshaft seal was likely blown, but that it’d be an engine-out job to confirm. As the car had no service history and had been mostly unused for several years, I decided it’d be best to replace every seal/gasket/frost plug on the engine, hopefully guaranteeing me several years of mechanically-sound motoring. Replacing the parts would naturally be much easier with the engine out, so the go-ahead was given and work commenced last week.


“Cologne”, 25 years young, British-born, now resident in New Zealand, hard worker but lonely, seeking kindly car with spacious engine bay for dating with a view towards marriage. Must send photo of engine bay. Author photo.

When I dropped past last Friday, I was surprised to find the engine, cross member and front suspension all out of the car. It turned out separating the engine from the cross-member proved impossible (think seized bolts, broken engine mount etc) in situ, so the whole lot had to come out from underneath. Once the cross-member is separated from the engine, it’ll get reinstalled, allowing the engine to be worked on separately this coming week.

Both my mechanic Les and I see dollar signs every time we close our eyes – the only difference being that when I see them I curl up in the foetal position and shake back and forth, whereas Les beams brightly… As I type, the job of separating the engine and cross-member has commenced, so tune in this time next month (maybe) to see if the Marvellous Magenta Masterpiece has gone back together as intended, or if the Project Elderly Ford Sierra saga continues!