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The 1980s European classic sat for 20 years in a chicken shed, where a roof nearly collapsed on its frame.
The term "barn find" gets thrown around loosely nowadays. Any vehicle found in any building receives the "barn find" title, and there isn't anything inherently wrong with that. But, it's always a good feeling when a claimed barn find actually turns out to be sitting in an old farm building. Such is the case with today's featured rescue, a 1989 Ford Sierra GLS 2.9i 4x4.
If you're most familiar with American cars, it's possible you have absolutely no idea what those words mean or what a Sierra even is. And that's not your fault. The American government has shielded us from some of the coolest road machinery in history thanks to the Department of Transportation. Even if the DOT is trying to keep us safe, it still hurts.
A Ford Sierra was essentially Ford's go-to mid-size sedan in Europe from the early '80s into the '90s. Much like the Taurus was for America, the Sierra was extremely popular and sold over 2.7 million units in its production run from 1982 to 1993. This particular Ford Sierra is something that we don't see often in any country, and thanks to The Late Brake Show on YouTube, we can see this glorious European/American car lifted from the ashes.
The owner of the Sierra is a gentleman named Richard who contacted the show and asked if they fancied the car. They, of course, jumped at the opportunity, and at the beginning of the video, Richard tells the host, Jonny, about the car's history.
Acquired more than 20 years ago, Richard used it for a couple of years as a family car. Believe it or not, the Sierra was quite a nice driver back in the day. In addition, Richard's brother borrowed the car for about 6 months right around the year 2000. According to Richard, once he got the car back, he parked it in a chicken shed on his property and never found the time to take it back out.
Over two decades, Richard has used the shed like a normal person and stored a great many things in there that block the Sierra in, from lawnmowers to farm equipment. Sadly, that is the biggest hurdle the guys have to get through in order to rescue the old Ford - moving everything that's in their way.
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The guys begin moving everything between the shed doors and the Sierra. Richard works in landscaping, meaning he was able to use industrial-level diggers and machines to clear some of the brush outside the entrance to the shed.
Once finished, they hauled small digger machines, lawnmowers, lumber, car parts, barrels and countless other junk you would expect to see in an old shed.
In the meantime, Jonny explained just how rare an 89' GLS 2.9i 4x4 is. He says that the XR4 is the AWD Sierra that everyone thinks of because of its high trim package with sport bumpers and seats, but the Sierra GLS 2.9i 4x4 is basically the same car with fewer high-performance options. According to Jonny, Ford Europe sold just 1,097 GLS 4x4 units in 1989, the same model year as the one they are trying to dig out of the shed.
Keep in mind, the 2.9-liter engine is a V6, not an inline-four. European manufacturers are adept at utilizing smaller displacements; it would have likely been upwards of 3 liters if it came from the States. Jonny also noted that at the time of filming the video, there were only 22 individual GLS 2.9i 4x4 models registered in the entirety of the U.K.
After a good effort, they had finally reached the Sierra. Sitting under a thick tarp and still trapped by many pieces of junk, the car was just waiting to see daylight. When the guys got close enough to touch the car, they lifted the cover and exposed the shockingly well-preserved paint on the rear panels and that ever-so-cool "Sierra GLS 4x4" badge.
Once the cover came off, we can see just how lucky Richard and Jonny were, because, oh yeah, the roof of the shed had caved in nearly right on top of the Sierra. The wooden beams that used to hold up the roof high above the ground were sitting literally a centimeter or two away from the roof of the car. If the beams had fallen just six inches lower when it caved in, the car wouldn't have survived.
At this point, the guys are ready to extract the Sierra from its spot in the shed, but not so fast, because in order to get the car safely out, the caved-in roof had to come up several feet. And Richard's handy digger and crane vehicles couldn't be more useful in that situation.
They used the digger to drag the Sierra far back enough so they could lift the roof and then pull it slowly out of the shed. Next, the gentlemen rigged the crane to two main parts of the caved-in roof and heaved what we can only imagine is a massive amount of roofing, metal, and wood into the air to clear enough room for the little Ford.
This provided enough room to hook the Sierra's tow-bar up to the digger and safely back in out of the shed, without a scratch. An absolute feat of ingenuity if you ask us.
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After pulling the Sierra away from the shed, they were finally able to take a closer look at what is a truly rare piece of 1980s European automotive history.
Inside and out, the Sierra proved to be worth all the lifting, dragging and hauling they did that day. The paint, though dustier than the Sahara, was in immaculate shape as was the glass and interior relative to the fact it sat for 20 years.
Jonny explains how the mechanical bits of the Sierra GLS were far more hardcore than the sober-looking interior would have you think. Using an electronic fuel-injection system, the 2.9-liter V6 put out 144 bhp at 5500 rpm. The AWD system is another engineering wonder of the Sierra and was not a common-place option to have in a non-SUV car in 1989.
And after some troubleshooting with the electronic ignition key, they were finally able to get the engine to turn over like new. They were able to get spark on the engine, but it wouldn't run on its own. Sadly, the guys ran out of time, energy and options by the time the darkness of night came over the sky. However, the Sierra lives on and is in fantastic shape for how long it's been hiding.
With a small service on the engine, some new tires and a brake job, that Sierra may see the wet and mossy roads of England once again.
Max Larsen has worked on, driven, and been around cars his whole life. He has been a daily automotive journalist for quite some time and specialized in Porsches, but don't let that fool you. He grew up with old American cars and turned into an omnivore of sorts. As a Journalism Major, classic rock snob, and car enthusiast, he now writes features for HotCars.com.