RESTORED! THE CAR THAT KICK-STARTED SIERRA LEGEND

This was one of two XR4Tis built by Eggenberger. Pic: Supplied

A FORD Sierra XR4Ti that paved the way for the legendary Sierra RS500 to dominate Group A racing in the late 1980s is up for sale following restoration to its original glory.

While the touring car racing world waited for the Sierra RS Cosworth to arrive in 1987, Ford gurus Rudi Eggenberger and Andy Rouse built cars to American Merkur XR4Ti specifications.

Although the Merkur was a rebadged Sierra, its XR4Ti variant featured a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine, as opposed to the 2.8-litre naturally aspirated V6 in the Sierra XR4i.

The car has been restored by CNC Motorsport AWS. Pic: Supplied

This car was one of two XR4Tis built by Eggenberger and raced in four rounds of the 1986 European Touring Car Championship with drivers Steve Soper and Klaus Niedzwiedz aboard.

Campaigned under the Ford Sierra XR4Ti name, results included seventh place in the Spa 24 Hour and victory in the season finale at Estoril.

The car was then purchased by Neville Crichton and shipped to his native New Zealand for the two-round 1987 Nissan Mobil Series, where he was joined by Soper.

It also appeared in several Australian Touring Car Championship rounds that season in the hands of Crichton and 1967 Formula 1 World Champion Denny Hulme.

Crichton in action at Calder in 1987. Pic: an1images.com / Dale Rodgers

Upgraded to two-litre Sierra RS500 specifications, the car later spent time in New Zealand’s Trans Am Series under the ownership of Mark Petch before an eventual return to the UK.

Its restoration has been undertaken by CNC Motorsport AWS, which is also behind a project to build a limited batch of ‘new’ RS500 race cars.

Work on the car over the last four years included fitment of a fresh 2.3-litre Merkur engine, and the remanufacturing of a rollcage to the original 1986 design.

Pictured during the restoration process. Pic: Supplied

“This is possibly one of the most significant cars of the Group A touring car era,” said CNC Motorsport AWS’ Alan Strachan.

“Without the Merkurs, the Sierra Cosworth may not have endured the success they did.

“This is a fascinating car, driven by some of the biggest names of the time and comes with an extensive history of its time in New Zealand including pictures, race reports and period spare body panels.

“We also can offer an additional spares package and support with running the car.”