825bhp tuned 1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
A Fast Ford icon just got better. We revisit the four-wheel drive three-door Cosworth, ELE, now boasting over 800bhp, WRC-inspired suspension and a 200mph ambition…
Words GARETH CHARLTON
Photos ADE BRANNAN
It’s Evolution baby
SHAPESHIFTING COSSIE PACKS 825 BHPLEGEND: REDUX SIERRA RS COSWORTH
The legends returns, and it’s gunning for 200mph
Gluttony is bad for your health. It’s greedy to go back for seconds. However, sometimes a dish is succulent enough to warrant a return and you realise the ingredients have been tweaked to create an even more irresistible treat. Whatever your tastes, there’s something in Mark Hudd’s legendary ELE to whet your appetite and so we return, with camera and pen in hand.
Déjà vu strikes as we’re confronted by flawless Moonstone paint, Image split-rims and subtle RS500-inspired details; we’ve been here before, but all is not as it seems – the exhaust note and stance slightly altered, hinting at the major surgery that’s been carried out. Some readers will have grown up with Mark’s three-door, known as ELE, pushing 180mph top speed feats in the ’90s and pored over it at various shows and meets over the last 20-plus years, some will recognise it from Fast Ford over a decade ago. For others, this latest iteration will be their first introduction.
ELE’s been running up to around 600bhp and four-wheel-drive for over a decade, which is plenty for almost anyone who’s ever driven an old Ford. However, initial conversations with the now sadly departed top speed legend, Rod Tarry contributed to Mark’s desire to comprehensively rebuild the three-door’s impressive drivetrain with a specific 200mph goal in mind.
“I worked out with Rod that I’d need over 700bhp to go for a 200mph run, and then I got a little bit obsessed with numbers to be honest,” explains Mark, of the inspiration which drove the evolution of ELE over the last few years. Rod Tarry has now passed away and, as yet, Mark hasn’t made an attempt to achieve his top speed goal, but he hasn’t let it stop him building ELE the way he wants it, and taking it to a whole new level.
Mark built the previous 600bhp+ YB himself using a 200-block with Nikasil liners, and the same bottom end has been used for the latest build. Custom JE forged pistons, 909 long rods with 24mm pins and a knife-edged and polished crank have been put together using considerable know-how as a proven build. It’s been topped with a fresh head with solid lifters, bigger valves than before and custom cams designed by the wizard Mark Shead of MA Developments.
The turbocharger has been uprated further to a Borg Warner 91/80 twin-scroll, with twin 38mm external wastegates and 3.5” Spec-R intercooler, Hart inlet with 14mm spacer and Nortech Big Runner exhaust manifold, feeding into a new 3.5” bore exhaust. A new triple-plate clutch has been fitted, actuated by Mark’s own hydraulic clutch conversion kit. Fuelling is through eight 1,000cc injectors and Mark’s opted for Suzuki GSX-R coils, which he states seem to cope much better throughout the rev range. The whole lot is controlled by an Autronic ECU with CDI mapped by, of course, MA Developments. The RS500 grilles have been designed to vent great dollops of cold air into the airbox, demonstrating that every aspect of the build has been carefully considered and gradually optimised over time. The result? A proven 825bhp and 623lb.ft.
Power is nothing without control, and the decision to convert to 4x4 was taken fairly early on in Mark’s ownership. “When it was 600bhp-odd it stepped out and I thought ‘this needs to be four-wheel drive’,” he recalls. “You don’t want it doing that when you’re overtaking on a dual carriageway at speed...” He knew that 4x4 would help provide the stability required for future top speed attempts, and generally made the car a more liveable proposition. The conversion itself was “easier than you’d think,” he continues, making the process of reshaping the front chassis legs slightly to clear the 4x4 driveshafts, moving the gearbox mounts and adapting the floorpan to create space for the transfer box sound simple.
It’s not just the headline power figure that makes ELE worth revisiting. Since last catching up with Mark the car’s undergone a complete suspension change, now boasting custom turrets as part of a fully adjustable setup based on WRC-spec components.
“Mark Walker at MK Motorsport made all the components based on WRC parts with the addition of using billet alloy hubs,” says Mark, “which I suppose makes it better than WRC spec. It handles like you wouldn’t believe – the difference is night and day and it will outhandle a new GT-R.”
Bladed anti-roll bars and Bilstein 909 WRC shocks are used, with polybushes and rose-joints wherever suitable. Custom turrets have been welded in to house the struts, and a motorsport-derived cradle mounts the assembly to the underside, providing arguably unbeatable axle location and setup flexibility for any Sierra. It’s a very trick arrangement and one which ensures the car remains planted even with 825bhp bursting through the twin thick-walled Quaife diffs and Bara straight-cut gearbox.
With straight-cut gears, over 800bhp and 200mph potential you’d be forgiven for thinking that ELE is a one-trick pony destined for a life between trailer and track, but that’s not the case. Yes, the interior now has a full cage, but the seats are beautifully retrimmed in two-tone leather and the MOMO wheel has perfectly period audio controls. Because, as 200mph approaches, the heart palpitates and palms sweat, what could be more important than retuning Ken Bruce? An array of subtly mounted gauges provides an overview of more important vital signs.
Even the previous big brakes have been uprated to a more modern 330mm AP Racing setup, which underlines the reasons ELE is so popular and rightly earned its status as a legend: it continues to evolve.
As more and more cars require a plug rather than a glug to refuel, we’re arguably living at the back end of the era of such turbocharged all-wheel-drive lunacy. There are plenty of alleged ‘big power’ all-wheel-drive hatchbacks available, most of which are used for nothing more than a trip to town and the occasional pop ‘n’ bang clip for TikTok. ELE is different. It’s used – hard – regularly, and is as much about the theatre as it is the performance. Where’s the fun in going fast when 95% of a car’s performance can be accessed while eating a bag of sweets and changing gears automatically? We want an analogue soundtrack of straight-cut gears, shrieking boost and passengers’ screams to have us asking for more.
TECH SPEC 1986 Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
- ENGINE Cosworth 200 block, Nikasil liners, long studs, oil spray jets, uprated water pump, high pressure oil pump, knife-edged and polished crank, JE forged custom pistons, 909 long rods with 24mm pins, 8:1 compression ratio, portmatched manifolds, solid lifters, big-valve head, MA Developments-spec cams, Borg Warner 91/80 twin-scroll turbo, twin 38mm external wastegates, 3.5” Spec-R intercooler, Hart inlet with 14mm spacer, Nortech Big Runner exhaust manifold, custom 3.5” tubular stainless exhaust, GSX-R coils, 8x 1,000cc injectors, Autronic ECU with CDI, remote oil filter and braided lines, oil cooler chrome plating
- MAX POWER 825bhp
- MAX TORQUE 623lb.ft
- TRANSMISSION Bara straight-cut 4x4 ’box, Quaife diffs, triple-plate clutch, hydraulic clutch conversion
- SUSPENSION WRC-derived using custom front and rear turrets and cradle, adjustable top mounts, billet alloy hubs, bladed anti-roll bars, Bilstein 909 shocks, rose-joints and polybushes
- BRAKES AP Racing 6-pot calipers, 330mm discs
- WHEELS & TYRES 7.5x17” (front) and 8.5x17” (rear) Image split-rims, 215/45 Yokohama Advan Neova tyres
- EXTERIOR Moonstone Blue, RS500 front bumper and spoilers, RS500 grilles, RS500- inspired RS ELE decals
- INTERIOR Custom leather retrim, AFR, oil pressure, fuel pressure and boost gauges, MOMO steering wheel, full rollcage
“When it was 600bhp-odd it stepped out and I thought ‘this really needs to be four-wheel drive’. You don’t want it doing that when you’re overtaking on a dual carriageway at speed...”
New suspension setup has a strong WRC influence. Brutal YB build keeps on evolving.
We’re fully in love with that MOMO/Alpine steering wheel. Some readers will have grown up with Mark Hudd’s three-door Cossie, known as ELE, pushing 180mph top speed feats in the ’90s.
Image splits don’t just look great — they;re tough too Massive AP 6-pots, for obvious reasons