We check out Michael’s Saab-engined modified Ford Sierra Sapphire, complete with 420bhp and perfect stance.

When you visit a farm, there are certain things you expect to see – tractors, quad bikes, muck spreaders, all totally commonplace. But on a quiet little farm just a little north of Belfast, something rather special is afoot with this project car.

We’re meeting up with Michael Scullin at Belfast port on a dreary winter’s day, and he kindly drives us to his farm to see this highly interesting build. It’s safe to say Michael is one of the friendliest chaps we’ve ever met in the car scene, and we’re soon chatting about his build in great depth and talking about the local car culture.

Rear shot of Modified Ford Sierra Sapphire

Choosing the Ford Sierra Sapphire

Naturally our first question is: why a Sapphire? “Well,” says Michael, “my neighbour is to blame really. He has an RS500 – you know, the ‘poor man’s supercar’… I clearly remember him doing donuts outside here at the farm and three-foot flames spitting out of the exhaust. I think that had something to do with it.” We think so too, because this has resulted in a minor collection, consisting of his pride-and-joy – the car you see here – along with a wonderful and very low P100, and a drift car to-be currently undergoing major floorpan surgery in the barn. Safe to say that there’s a theme developing.

side profile shot of Modified Ford Sierra Sapphire

Michael’s Car History

Michael clearly loves his cars, and definitely feels passionately about each one in very different ways. This red Sierra is his absolute favourite and has its own dedicated barn, parked exactly where it was built when it started out as a fairly basic model.

“I’ve had about half-a-dozen Fords,” he says, “my first being a 1.1 Fiesta field car. While in university it was not worth having a nice car, being a bit rough where I was, and so I bought a very old and very cheap Focus C-Max for £300… that lasted three weeks because I decided to race someone and did the sump in! So knock-knock-knock, that was the end of that. I always had a thing for Granadas and did end up buying one, but unfortunately it was a bit far gone and to be honest I didn’t have the experience at the time to put it right – and with it having a few rare parts on it, I decided to sell it.”

turbocharged saab engine

Engine Swap For The Modified Ford Sierra Sapphire

That brings us to the present day and, quite honestly, a very intriguing build – in large part because of the choice of engine. Having started out as a fairly basic model with a two-litre DOHC, the car wasn’t putting out nearly enough power for what Michael wanted… and with the JDM tax affecting the more ‘obvious’ choices of engine, the hunt began.

Needless to say, seeing a Saab engine under the bonnet today took a little processing time mentally, and the massive turbo parked beside it was another eye-opener. “This is actually its second Saab engine,” admits Michael, “as the first one blew up! I thought all these engines were the same, but it turns out that Saab made a non-turbo version which came with different cams and pistons affecting compression, so when it came to putting boost through it, it did not like that. So I had to source a new turbo block and start again.”

Turbocharger on Modified Ford Sierra Sapphire

Performance Optimization and Adjustments

Fortunately the engine choice Michael made was objectively superb, with a tidy bay and tasteful modifications which allow easy access for repairs and servicing. A local specialist and tuner, Ali’s Garage, did some of the more technical work and this has allowed a very healthy 400bhp+ to be attained. “I don’t like quoting how much power this car really has,” says Michael.

“It still has a few little issues, like the injector spray pattern that needs addressing, and along with that a fresh remap to help with the slightly excessive pops and bangs; on top of that I’m still going fairly gently on it, ironing out the issues as this is its full first year on the road.”

Modified Ford Sierra Sapphire interior

Future Plans For The Modified Ford Sierra Sapphire 

We’re sure you’ll agree the final outcome is an absolute triumph. The way the modified Ford Sierra Sapphire sits is just right and, let us tell you, the sound and power this thing puts out is not to be sniffed at.

We asked Michael if this is the way it’s staying and the response was a swift ‘no’; “You see,’’ he explains, ‘’it does look good but it’s a bit of a pig to drive. You have to be careful of every bump, hole or even cat’s eyes! So there are some chassis adjustments to make in the name of drivability – but on the plus side, it does get a lot of attention at the shows, I think simply because it’s a bit different.

aftermarket alloy wheels on ford

I do really like the way it looks and for the most part it will stay the same aesthetically, but a slightly more track-focused setup will be coming this year which means different wheels, a different tune setup and exhaust system to eliminate some of the fun but obnoxious bangs, and of course some tweaking to the alignment. That being said, considering how stanced the car is, it drives fine and having that adjustability with the hydraulic suspension helps too.”

Modified Ford Sierra Sapphire in barn


Michael was reluctant to put a figure on how much the build has cost so far. “It’s hard to calculate, simply because there was so much trial-and-error and some of the parts I didn’t use or I ended up with spares of which will eventually go into the other builds,” he reasons. “So although it’s a good amount, it’s ultimately spread across two or three cars depending on where the builds go.” Needless to say there is plenty in store for this fine car, and we can’t wait to see how it’ll evolve. Hats off to him for learning on the job and being an absolute legend.

So that was Michael’s farm. One full of petrol-powered animals. And on that farm there was a Sierra with a Saab turbo engine, E-I-E-… wait, what?”

Words & Photos: Chris Fletcher.