XR4x4 - "Helen"

This is the earliest picture I have on record taken in 2002. Here she is pretty much as I bought her except for the black front bumper, the reason for which is explained later
  I saw this 1990 model XR4x4 advertised in Auto Trader in August 2000, and travelled to Thetford in Norfolk to view it. The owner had recently been provided a company car, so the Sierra wasn’t getting used as often as it should. However, he was in no raging hurry to get rid of it and would have happily kept it if it didn’t go for close to the asking price of £2,000 - a reasonable price for the excellent condition it was in and the below-average mileage of just 85,000. It was completely factory-standard in Flint Grey except for the addition of 15” RS Cosworth lattice alloys shod with 205/50/15 tyres, and had the optional air-conditioning fitted. Once I had been for a test drive along the country lanes I was smitten!! The power delivery from the 2.9i V6 engine was smooth and with the traction of 4WD there were never any dramas, surprising progress could be made with very little effort. A week later and the car was mine, and it was going to stay standard. YEAH RIGHT!!! 
My next step was to join the XR Owners Club, a very helpful and friendly bunch of people who not only helped me with any mechanical issues I had, but also helped to empty my wallet by introducing me to a whole world of modifications!!

Admittedly I’m not a ‘virgin’ when it comes to modifying cars having had numerous Minis over the years: my first car, a Mini 1100 Special that gained a Monte Carlo style four spot-lamp arrangement, custom interior and Dunlop alloys; the 1275GT-based road-rally car with full competition interior, 1380cc Minisport engine running twin SU carburettors, and custom paint job (see pic); and the last Mini that started off as a standard 1000 and ended up with a 1275cc MG Metro engine, front-mounted radiator, Metro Turbo brakes and fully-stripped competition interior.
This was the Road-Rally Mini that my brother and I won all the trophies in. Sorry about the offensive jumper - it was the 80's!

So barely a few months after buying the Sierra it gained a K+N Induction Kit for better breathing along with a nice throaty roar when the go pedal is buried into the carpet. Soon after this a Black Diamond stainless steel exhaust helped the engine breathe even better, a second-hand Superchip sharpened up the throttle response, and a set of stiffer springs and gas shocks firmed up the ride nicely without being bone-jarringly uncomfortable. No, that was to come with the replacement of all the front suspension bushes with Superflex polyurethane items!! Add in the replacement of the 15” lattice alloys, which by now were shaped more like 50p pieces due to the quality of our lovely British roads, with some ex-Mondeo 16” 12-spoke alloys and 215/40/16 tyres and the ride was now decidedly ‘firm’. Turn-in was fantastic though!!

I had planned for the car to stay this way, although temptation was also growing for a Turbo Technics twin-turbo kit in the pursuit of more power, however fate was to intervene when the then Mrs Sprintex decided to crash into an unfortunate Peugeot 405 – she quickly became the ex-Mrs.Sprintex!!! Damage to the car was extensive; the bonnet was folded in two, the front panel and radiator were pushed onto the engine (along with most of the air-con installation), both wings suffered damage, and even one chassis leg was bent where the bumper slots into it. Needless to say the bumper, grille, radiator, and all the lights were in tiny pieces. At this point most would have scrapped the car, but since the rest of the body was practically rust-free I opted for repair. I stripped all the broken parts from the car, sourced a replacement bonnet, and shipped the car off to a bodyshop where the chassis was checked on a jig, and new panels fitted and sprayed along with the supplied bonnet. A new radiator was fitted along with twin electric fans from a 2.0 car, plus lights etc and the only decent front bumper I could find, in black. As the car was no longer ‘original’ it was now easier to look at further modifications, and serious consideration was now being given to a turbo kit.

Here she is in two-tone with RS sideskirts and Mondeo wheels. This profile shot shows off the new front and rear spoilers to their best.
In the meantime a set of RS Motorsport sideskirts were fitted, at the same time spraying the entire lower body and rear bumper in black to match the front one, giving a nice two-tone effect. An RGA rear spoiler similar in style to the 3-door RS Cosworth whale-tail, but smaller and made of rubber, was fitted in place of the standard ineffective item, and a rare Ford Motorsport front spoiler also appeared after a furious bidding war on eBay. I have since made up perspex covers for the front fog lights to protect them from stone damage (a frequent occurrence), stealing the idea from the headlight covers on the Vauxhall Firenza Droopsnoot.

The interior has also received a makeover with a complete RS Cosworth Recaro grey cloth interior (shown right - lovingly cleaned by the current Mrs Sprintex-to-be), Mountney leather steering wheel, and a tachometer from a 2.9i Granada model purely because I think its circular shape mirrors the speedometer better than the “quadrant” type fitted to Sierras (pic below). It also has the added benefit of being easier to read at a glance.

Under the bonnet an OMP strut-brace was fitted to further sharpen the handling, and the brakes were changed for Black Diamond grooved discs and EBC Greenstuff pads. It
still needed more power though . . . hmmm.


Just at that point I got a whisper of a VERY rare Sprintex Supercharger kit that might be available, as the owner couldn’t get it tuned to run properly and wanted a 24V Cosworth engine instead. So a trip to Top Boss in Derby in a hired van later, I returned home minus numerous hundreds of pounds with a 65k mile engine and complete Sprintex kit on a pallet. Pick any 'rare as' metaphor you like – hens teeth, rocking-horse poo, foreskins at a Bar Mitzvah – all can be applied to this kit: in fact only two others are known to exist and neither of these are 100% complete as Power Engineering intended, and I acknowledge huge thanks to a helpful chap known as ‘Dojj’ for pointing me in its direction.
The heart of the beast - the Cologne V6. Twin-cone K+N kit helps the engine breathe and makes nice noises too! Strut brace took some fitting as the ABS brake fluid reservoir had to be cut and reshaped. I don't do shiny engines!   This shot shows the front spoiler and the perspex covers to protect the foglamps from flying stones. Mesh has also been fitted in the bumper to shield the radiator from the same.

Finally for now some current photos of her before the major rebuild started.

I did briefly fit the Sprintex kit to the car and it all worked perfectly barring a good tune-up, but having now covered nearly 240,000 miles on the original engine, gearbox, diffs and shafts there is a lot of ‘play’ in the components and I think the car needs a full overhaul before refitting it. The gearbox definitely needs reconditioning and the viscous coupling in the centre differential is completely non-functioning. Not only does it make sense for the drivetrain to be in tip-top condition before increasing the power, in this case by some 66% over standard, but the opportunity will be taken to review the suspension and braking requirements as well as ensuring the bodywork is 100% sound, and even a decent respray to show off what will hopefully be a unique car.

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