I bought a low mileage Cosworth YB engine a few years back for a Westfield project that never got off the ground. A neighbour was scrapping his above average condition Sapphire 2.0 GL after a timing chain snapped and destroyed the engine... a few beers with a mate and a silly idea formed.
After much blood, sweat and tears, too many weekends and long evenings, two near divorces, and far more money than originally envisaged, we have probably the ultimate Q-car. A baltic blue (I think) Sapphire 2.0 GL with 375 bhp worth of tuned Northampton finest under the bonnet. Outwardly, it is as standard as the day it left the factory - the keen eyed will spot that it sits a little lower than standard thanks to the Konis all round (lethal without them), and the Cosworth alloys, but these are nothing unusual on the few Sierras left today. They won't spot the Cosworth limited slip diff, Borg Warner T5 gearbox and front and rear strut braces designed to help that power onto the road, and the uprated Cosworth brakes to help stop you.
The finished car weighs 1175kg with fuel and fluids, and makes a dyno proven 375 bhp. Power to weight ratio is therefore within a sniff of a Porsche 911 GT3. As is the acceleration. This thing is searingly fast. Traction off the line is poor, and there is definitely an art to launching it with any decorum, but once rolling it will wipe the floor with almost anything. The look of sheer astonishment on the face of an E46 M3 driver only this morning as I prevented him from tailgating me by simply driving away from him was a picture. All he saw were those words. "Sapphire 2.0 GL". On a G registration Ford with a bit of rust on the bootlid and a slightly wonky rear bumper....
My neighbour who I bought the base car from thinks it's fabulous. My wife who hates modified cars squeals like a little girl every time she gets in it. Premium German saloon car drivers despise it. I love it to bits. Of course it's not a complete package like an M3 would be, and when handling is thrown into the mix, it wouldn't be all the Sierras way, but as an engineering project, as something to just enjoy in its own right, and put people in their place when required, it's just been brilliant.
There are things I want to do to it to improve the drive - Cossie Recaros would be great, as would fatter rubber and a better steering wheel, but quite honestly I will lose a chunk of interest in the car the moment it will no longer pass for standard. I keep thinking of selling it, but really what's going to be half as much fun as this for half sensible money?
I know why insurance strapped yoof make their 1.1 Saxos look fast, but to me, a car that looks slow, but will blow your doors off will always be more fun. And although this car has cost me more than anticipated, I still reckon you'd struggle to match performance per pound with anything else.