In late 1978 Britain’s most prolific kit car maker Tim Dutton previewed his latest pioneering self-assembly kit, called Sierra and loosely inspired by the tough-looking Matra Rancho; a practical family ‘cross-over’ with a raised rear roof section, and styled by the gifted automotive designer Richard Oakes.
The Dutton Sierra proved to be an instant hit. Based around the running gear of an old and tired Ford Escort Mark I and II (cleverly using the Mark I doors), the Sierra sold in considerable number by kit car standards, the model becoming a regular sight on UK roads by the 1980s.
All was good in Tim Dutton’s world, with his Sierra and more basic Phaeton two-seater sports car kits selling very well thank you, until Ford announced that its replacement for its best-selling Cortina/Taunus model would be given a new name… The model name Ford choose was Sierra!
This suddenly created a big problem for the West Sussex kit car maker, as outrageously, Ford served a legal writ against Dutton in 1982 when it was launching its own new Sierra, insisting that Tim Dutton immediately stopped using the Sierra name and destroyed all marketing materials, etc., relating to the model.
Ford’s astonishing behaviour against Dutton (which had already been using the Sierra name for five years since 1978) went to the High Court in London, turning into a real David versus Goliath case, the public’s sympathies lying with the kit car maker, egged on by much high-profile media coverage, which actually worked in Dutton’s favour, helping to build awareness for his ‘brand’ and actually sell more Sierra kit cars!