First of these was the Sierra Cosworth coupe and the Sierra Cosworth Sapphire sedan, powered by turbocharged 205-bhp 2.0-liter Ford Cosworth engines, and suitable for competition in European and national touring car racing. Then there was the fabulous Ford RS 200 rally car, intended for the FIA Group B formula that included the Porsche 959. It never really got off the ground, because the cars were so expensive to build. Ultimately, in 1998, Ford bought Cosworth outright.
The first rear-drive Escort came in 1968, followed by the Twin Cam model using the Lotus Cortina engine. Such was the demand for these hot lightweight cars that in 1970 Ford formed Advanced Vehicle Operations in Aveley, only a few miles from the Dagenham plant, the Dunton engineering center and the Warley headquarters, in Essex County, England. At its peak, AVO built 30 Escort Twin Cams per day. Equally important, though, was the Kent engine, the standard 1.6-liter pushrod engine around which was created a most popular race car, the Formula Ford, and the industry that went with it.
In 1969, Ford of Europe started up a partnership with Italian industrialist Alejandro de Tomaso, and in 1970 Ford bought almost 85%of the shares, leading to the creation and production of the de Tomaso Pantera, with radical styling, monococque construction and a rear-mounted Ford 351 V8 engine. It turned out to be one of the worst sports car programs Ford would ever be involved in, with lots of quality problems from the beginning to the end of the run.
Ford also acquired the famous Ghia design studio in Turin, Italy, and used it as a third European design center, along with Dunton in England and Merkenich, Germany, until quite recently when it was sold off.
Perhaps the most significant sporty car Ford of Europe built in the 1970s was the Capri, which was sold all over Europe and came here as a Mercury. The little notchback coupe was available with 1.3-, 1.6- and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines, then later 2.6-, 2.8- and 3.0-liter V6 engines, which led to the creation of the RS 2600 and RS 3100 road race cars and a long racing relationship between Ford of Germany and Erik Zakowski of Zakspeed fame.
Zakowski's friend, Michael Kranefuss, ran Ford of Germany's racing department, then Ford of Europe's racing department, and then moved to the States in 1980 to preside over the establishment of Ford Special Vehicle Operations (SVO), which has been running racing, parts development, aftermarket liaison and production car development in various forms (now called Ford Racing Technology) ever since. Under Kranefuss and PR boss Walter L.A. Hayes, Ford returned to Formula One racing in 1985 and has been involved continuously ever since. Kranefuss got Ford championships in CART, NASCAR, NHRA, SCCA and IMSA in short order.
Another hugely successful product for Ford of Europe was the little front-drive Fiesta of 1975, built in England, Germany and a new plant in Valencia, Spain, and exported to the U.S. as well. Millions upon millions of Fiestas have been built, and the car continues to be a European transportation staple to this day in its fourth generation.