Feisty Ford Friday | Four homegrown models that took South Africa by storm
Ford South Africa has developed and launched several iconic cars for local enthusiasts over the decades. Many of these developments have been unique to the South African market, building the Ford brand and heritage on our roads and racetracks.
Here we take a closer look at four models that proved to Mzansi how serious Ford was to stand out from the motoring crowd.
Ford Capri Perana: 1970
The late Basil Green is synonymous not only with the Ford Capri Perana, but also many other Fords from the 1960s and 1970s found on our roads and racetracks.
The Perana was a locally developed vehicle that aligned with Ford’s global commitment to its “Total Performance” advertising campaign from the period, and the road cars were officially available through Ford dealerships across the country.
The Capri Perana was particularly renowned for its dominance in South Africa’s Group 5 racing, especially during the 1970 season. That year, Bobby Olthoff, with his Capri Perana V8 Gunston-livery car number Z181, won 13 out of 14 races.
The Capri Perana is unique in that it is the only Ford factory-sanctioned Capri ever fitted with a V8 engine. Here the 5.0l Windsor V8 from the Mustang did an impressive job of seeing off the competition.
Car magazine tested one of the road cars at the time and achieved an impressive
0-100km/h acceleration time of 6.7 seconds. Both four-speed manual and three-speed automatic transmissions were available to buyers, though today collectors tend to prefer the manual version over the automatic.
The Capri Perana was identified by its larger wheels and double exhaust pipes, to name but two upgrades. In a car weighing just below 1,100kg, with 210kW and 407Nm on tap, the performance was truly overwhelming at the time.
The two official exterior body colours were Bright Yellow and Piri Piri Red. Likely because of its on-track success, it turned out to be a hit with the public as well, with Basil Green Motors shifting around 500 road cars. The company also produced Perana versions of the Escort, Cortina and Granada in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Ford Cortina Mk3 bakkie: 1971
Enthusiasts will remember a few years after the Cortina bakkie was unveiled, Ford released a limited-edition Cortina bakkie and sedan known as the Springbok edition. These vehicles, painted green and gold, left no doubt about their purpose: showing support for the Springbok team during the 1976 All Blacks tour of South Africa.
Both featured a gold painted roof and wheels with a pin stripe running along the side of the vehicles. The rest of the car was painted green.
The success of the original Cortina bakkie has also proven to be the genesis of the word bakkie in motoring, which is still used by all South Africans to refer to any type of light utility pick-up. The Cortina bakkie idea was carried over to the Mk4 and Mk5 versions of the Cortina, and it proved to be an exceptionally tough vehicle, with some still seen to this day plying their trade.
Ford Cortina XR6 Interceptor: 1981
A performance version of the MK4 Cortina, named the 3.0S, was developed by Ford’s Motorsport division in the late 1970s. It was fitted with the 3.0-litre “Essex” V6 and had uprated and lowered suspension, among other improvements. This car evolved into the better-known Mk5 Cortina XR6. An iconic Ford print ad at the time for the XR6 said: “Buckle in for the drive of your life.”
Celebrating its motorsport successes, the company produced a Team Ford, or “TF”, edition of the Cortina XR6 with distinctive blue pin striping. However, the ultimate development of the Cortina range came in the form of the legendary XR6 Interceptor, another homologation special to allow Ford to go racing.
Painted Wild Coral Red, this model stood out from all other Cortina models, replete with its shading slats over the rear window, the small black boot spoiler and the double, four-spoke wheels. If other drivers saw the car approaching in their rearview mirrors, there was no mistaking it for anything else on the road. Each car’s number was also individually printed at the bottom of the C-pillar and corresponded with the chassis plate.
As with all homologation specials, one of the stand-out features was the engine. The Interceptor’s 3.0l V6 featured a set of triple downdraft 42 Weber carburettors and new high-performance exhaust manifolds. One of the internal upgrades to the engine was a more aggressive camshaft. The result was 118kW, a healthy increase over the standard 101kW Essex V6 engines. To aid handling, wider Ronal 13-inch wheels were fitted to these cars. Further suspension upgrades rounded out the package.
Ford Sierra XR8: 1984
The Sierra XR8 was another distinctive model, widely regarded as a true South African muscle car. The aim of the XR8 was to develop a production car Ford could take to the racetrack, taking on other competitors for the Group One crown. For that to happen, at least 200 cars needed to be sold, and the race car had to be based on a production car, making it a true homologation special.
The 5.0l V8 engine came from none other than Ford’s halo performance car at the time, the Ford Mustang. The engine was bolted to a Borg Warner five-speed manual gearbox and a Borg Warner differential. It developed 161kW and 374Nm, breathing through a four-barrel Holley Carburettor. The side shafts as well as the drive shaft were upgraded to deal with the additional power. Ford also upgraded the suspension and braking system to harness the additional power and torque.
The purposeful Ronal alloy wheels, specially designed and manufactured for the XR8, came from Germany. All XR8s were painted white with Ford Motorsport-inspired blue stripes, while the lower panels were finished in grey-blue moulded PVC.
One of the most notable design elements of the road car was the double-plane rear wing, an element that was not only visible from a distance, but left the driver and fellow road users in no doubt as to the intent of the most-powerful production Sierra in the country.
Including prototypes, just more than 250 were manufactured. Another external cue unique to the XR8 was a slatted grille, providing more airflow to cool the big V8. Nowhere else was the Sierra officially sold with a V8 engine, making these cars highly sought after by Ford enthusiasts all over the world.
During its final years the Sierra XR8 was raced by Willie Hepburn in the WesBank Modified series. The car quickly earned the nickname “The Animal” and went on to secure an unforgettable win at the old Kyalami circuit in 1987. Official performance testing at the time revealed an impressive 0-100km/h time of 6.95 seconds, and a top speed of 231km/h, making the Sierra XR8 SA’s fastest standard four-door production car at the time.
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