Welcome to Old School vs New School, the series where we pick out the cars from the good old days, and pair them with their spiritual successors. First up, some Fast Fords….

Cast your mind back to the modifying scene of the late-1980s and the go-go nineties. Was it all TSW Venoms, asymmetric Delta bodykits and badly smoothed tailgates with number plates cabletied back on to please the rozzers? It’s easy to be cynical, but the bare bones of what we used to do in those days were pretty similar to what we’re up to today.

Sure, back then it was all about outrageous bodykits, big rims, neon lights, and massive audio installs… but doesn’t that sound familiar? Yep, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, there are some things that were massively popular which have since totally gone out of fashion – everyone used to rock Lexus lights, headlights swaps from random different cars were popular, every other Saxo had four 6-inch exhausts… but a lot of the things that went out of fashion have come back around.

Like what? Well, three-spoke wheels, big aluminium spoilers, wide-arch kits – the difference is that people are focusing more on quality. It’s all in the details, from your obsessively smoothed engine bay to your impeccably retrimmed interior, and there’s a lot more awareness of rare parts; if you spend a year tracking down an obscure OEM+ spoiler that was only available in Austria for six months in 1994, the chances are that people will recognise it when you roll into a show.

The internet has broadened everyone’s horizons, and it’s also inspired a oneupmanship that keeps so many builds truly world-class. The days of building something over the winter and debuting it at a springtime show are largely over, as people are documenting their builds on Instagram, everyone’s open and aware, and it’s all about being the person who’s using the most original ideas to win the most peer approval.

With all that being said, some things really don’t change. At the heart of the tuning scene, now as it was then, we all want to run a car that goes fast, looks cool, and makes rowdy noises. The technology’s moved on, and the bar of quality gets raised time and time again, but we’re fundamentally still doing what we’ve always done. Long may it continue.

This week it’s the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth vs the Ford Focus RS Mk3…


Back when Fast Car was all shiny and new, there was a revolution happening on the streets of Essex. While the three-door Sierra RS Cosworth had been around for a while, relentlessly winning races, being used in police chases and endlessly getting stolen, the Sapphire RS Cosworth of 1988 is the model that helped the Cossie mature and evolve.

It provided a handy outlet for all the YB motors that Ford had stockpiled, and packed it in a well-appointed saloon car that looked kinda sensible. Of course, pretty much every buyer decided to capitalise on the potential and wind the boost up – whether you prefer the earlier 2WD or the later 4×4, the Saff was an everyday hooligan with kudos in spades.

It’s still a hero today, although unsurprisingly the values are getting pretty spicy…


Performance: 217bhp, 0-62mph – 5.8s
Top mods: Turbo Technics hybrid turbo, 200-block, green injectors, 3-bar map sensor, Mongoose exhaust, massive dump valve, Konis, Compomotive rims.
Price then: £19,500 (in 1988; equivalent 2018 price adjusted for inflation: £49,710)
Price now: £17,000+


The spiritual successor to the Sapphire Cosworth is the Mk3 Focus RS. This is an absolute animal of a car by any measure; the Mk1 Focus RS was a beautifully-specced Rallye Sport car, the Mk2 brought huge power into the mainstream, and the Mk3 took hot hatches into the realm of the supercar.

Not only does it feature a drift mode (yep, it’s four-wheel-drive, so it’s hand-in-hand with the later Cossies), but it’s got 350bhp right out of the box, which is insane in a practical hatchback that’s happy to pootle to the shops with grandma in the back.

Naturally the aftermarket’s all over it and, just like the Sapphire, the Focus RS offers blue-collar buyers a window into crazy performance.


Performance: 350bhp, 0-62mph – 4.5s
Top mods: Mountune forged internals, Quaife ATB LSD, KW coilovers, AP Racing big brakes, Maxton Design splitters, KMS Motorsport, Tornado exhaust.
Price: £31,385

If you had the money, what would you choose?

Words Dan Bevis