Early motoring years P4 – blue oval classics!

I threatened last time out to trawl the memory banks for reminiscences about various ‘performance’ Ford cars I owned back in the early 1980’s, when you could pick them up for pocket money. So here goes…

Lotus Cortina mark 2

more properly known as the Cortina Twin Cam, mine looked pretty much the same as this one, apart from a) in 1982/3 mine had a black stripe I think, and b) the one in the photo looks to be in great condition – mine certainly wasn’t. In fact it was a bit of a dog, with a fair bit of interior trim missing – even in those days some bits were hard to find. All sorts of reliability issues as well – it refused to start with monotonous regularity, and as an impecunious 21 year old I didn’t have the expertise or the money to sort it out. I’ve never owned a Lotus since and this car is probably the reason for that. Didn’t have it long, and quickly moved it on.

Escort Mexico Mark 1

Mine, JEA 377K, looked rather like this one (it was certainly Daytona Yellow with black stripes), but without the spotlamps, and again, certainly not in this condition. And I think it was on steel wheels too. I bought it from a bloke in Walsall, and, driving it home, wondered why it wasn’t quite as lively as I’d hoped. I found the ignition timing was 180 degrees out – I suppose it’s a testament to the strength of the 1600 crossflow engine that it didn’t cause lasting damage. To date, this remains the only car I’ve ever written off in an accident, when a myopic pensioner punted me into the barriers on a roundabout in Reading in Spring 1983, ripping off the front crossmember and suspension. Amazingly, it still seems to survive according to the DVLA, but seems to be fitted with a 4.2 litre engine! I had heard it had been converted to a dragster so that may explain that…

After a brief interlude with a very quick and well-built white Mini Clubman 1380cc, the next fast Ford outside my house was..

Capri Mark 1 (facelift) 3.0 GXL manual

again, very similar to the one in the photo, in Daytona Yellow with a black vinyl roof. But without the horrid rear window slats – the one in the picture may actually be a V8 powered Perana from South Africa? This was a brilliant car and cemented my love of Capris. It never let me down – in fact I owned it twice as I sold it to a long standing friend who owned it for about a year before asking me if I wanted it back as he’d been offered a Mach 1 Mustang (which 35 years later he still owns).

I’d driven Capris before – a friend had a 2.0 V4 version (known affectionately as the Diesel Dumper) which was horrible, and a couple of 1.6’s which were a little underwhelming, but the torque of the Essex V6 was a revelation. In 1984/5 my then boss had a near-new 2.8 injection which I did a couple of long trips in, but again, preferred my old 3.0. It wasn’t the last ‘proper’ Capri (to my mind they have to have a V6 to be regarded as such) but more of that another time.

These days all of the above (especially the Mexico) command very high prices – I get the simplicity and the motorsport heritage bit, but with hindsight I do find them a little underwhelming in terms of their performance – give me a BMW 2002 Tii anyday. That said, I certainly wouldn’t turn any of them away if I was offered a good one. I feel I’ve missed out by never owning a Cortina 1600E, or an Escort Mark 1 RS2000. That may have to change soon..

Next time, we’ll move into the world of company cars when I gained a foothold in the motor trade.


Early motoring years P3

So, it must be 1981. I’d moved on from a Mini and acquired the first of many Triumph Vitesses. SUT 355H (which still seems to survive according to the DVLA database) was a rough 1969 Mark II saloon, exquisitely finished in red oxide primer with a white roof. These were the days when you could pick one of these 60’s gems up for peanuts.

I don’t have any photos of that particular one, but the ones above show a nice Mark II convertible that I had in 1992 for a while

Anyway, back to the 80’s. SUT was rapidly equipped with a) a CB radio (see previous post) and an overdrive. Then, due to their nut and bolt construction, the roof came off. Driving a saloon with the roof off and without the additional strengthening of the original convertible gave new meaning to scuttle shake, and often a door or two would spring open during spirited cornering, which was a bit less dangerous a task than on a Mark 1 due to the supposed rear suspension redesign.

A rotten rear outrigger didn’t improve the handling, and a propshaft UJ exploding at speed causing the propshaft to flail around dementedly wasn’t quite so much fun, but it did lead directly to an interesting encounter with a young lady that I won’t go into here, so every cloud etc…

As an aside, I went to see a guy in Aylesbury around 1982 to buy a tonneau cover for my convertible. At the time he had an as-new and low mileage late Mark II convertible in Damson in his heated garage, that he was looking to sell. £1500 would have bought it apparently…but a) I thought he was mad, and b) I only had about £150.

Over the next 3 or 4 years I had, I think, at least another 4 of them, possibly more, ranging from an early 1600 saloon through to a couple of Mark II convertibles, but the finest one was a Mark II saloon in black with red interior, minilites, SAH twin-pipe exhaust, and a webasto sunroof. I bought it from a mate locally who’d restored it, and fitted a highly-tuned motor to it. Suffice to say he managed to blow the motor up, and then lost interest. I had a similar one that was falling apart at the seams, but had a good engine, so bought his and, over a weekend, transferred the running gear over to his beautiful shell. It was my pride and joy and I kept it for quite a while before having to sell it in 1985 for the deposit on a house. I was then, for a while, relegated to a Morris Minor for a while, but that’s dull.

Apart from the one in the pictures that I had in 1992, I’ve never had another one, although if a good one came up I’d be interested.

Next time (when I can be bothered) we’ll move onto classic Fords (or at least Fords that are acknowledged classics now, but were just cheap performance cars then)…



1998 DEFENDER 90
2020 DEFENDER 90

This reminds me of the excessive hype around the launch of the Evoque. Sitting in the pub with a bunch of mates some time in 2011ish, it’d long been a great source of mirth that one of my friends had ordered one of the very first Evoques, and it’s build date was constantly being delayed. To wind him up, the inevitable ‘enjoying your new Evoque?’ question came up…

He responded with “at least they’ve given me a window now..”

To which the inevitable response “What? Are they sending them out in kit form now? “

Early motoring years contd

It’s 1981 – While the Bug was finding a new home, I was busy coveting my next door neighbour’s mk3 Mini. BPC 576H was black, fitted with an MG1100 engine with twin SU’s, Cooper front discs, revolution wheels with flared arches, bucket seats, and a myriad of extra dials in one of those ‘custom’ dashes. Sounds good, right? Apart from the badly-painted flames down the side that is, and the furry dice.

They were the first things to go. Both of them.

Next up was the fitting of a fibreglass flip front. No idea why now, but at the time I’m sure it was a great idea.

As always with Mini’s, it felt faster than it really was. I recently had a lovely mark 3 Cooper S in stock, and it reminded me just how much fun they are, and 50mph feels like 100 in a normal car. Also, nearly 40 years on, I looked at the rear accommodation in the S and wondered how exactly I succeeded in having carnal relations therein. And with a woman! A combination of needs must and the enthusiasm and suppleness of youth I suppose…

Anyway it was the first of what we today regard as the ‘classic’ Mini – a few followed over the years including a white clubman with 1380 engine, roll cage etc, and a Mark 1 850 automatic that was ideal for scooting around London in the mid 90’s.

Not sure what happened to the old girl, but it no longer seems to exist.

Family cars part 1

My dad was never a big car enthusiast. I’ve written before about the ‘family car’ being a Vauxhall Viva HA, although in fairness my parent’s one was a ‘deluxe 90’ version, which presumably was slightly less asthmatic than the standard model, but I’d guess still cornered like a hippo on roller skates. I have two vague memories of it: my parents buying it new from Great Western Motors in Station Road Reading (now Revolution bar), and of my father returning home from work in it one day probably a year later, with both the bonnet and bootlid tied down with twine, and the Viva looking, if it were possible, even uglier than before, having been rear-ended and then pushed into the car in front. Whilst it then disappeared from our lives, GRD 290D seems to have lived on until 1993.

I wasn’t technically-minded enough aged 5 to appreciate the charms of a blue Renault Dauphine that (temporarily) replaced the Viva in my parent’s affections, but as far as I can recall it swiftly went back to the supplying dealer as it was very rusty. Very ugly in my opinion, although the number plate swinging down to reveal the spare wheel was mildly interesting in a James Bond sort of way.

Next up came a Mark 2 Cortina 1600 Super, and, whilst not a 1600E, at least it wasn’t a vehicle that a car-mad small boy was embarrassed to be seen in. However, soon after, the ‘big end’ went (according to my father, who I doubt knew what that meant. To be fair, neither did I at the time, but I did have youth on my side). So that bit the dust as well.

My mother had always liked entering competitions, and those where if you supplied a witty slogan or something were quite popular in the 1960’s, and some new piece of furniture or gadget would often turn up at our house, she having won it. Anyway, in 1968 she won a brand new Austin 1100 2-door, as you can see at the top of the page, with me adorning the bonnet. RUD 89G was in the family for many years as my mother’s car. Memories of being wedged in the back on a family camping trip to Spain, with a massive box of spares from the AA for ‘everything the motorist might need’ taking up most of the space not already taken by the tent, food (none of that ‘foreign stuff’) still linger. DVLA have no record of RUD 89G so I suspect, like most of these, it rusted into oblivion many years ago.

You can see from my father’s expression in the photo that, although not interested in cars, he was less than enamoured with the little 1100, so it was about this time that we became upwardly mobile as a two-car suburban family, with the acquisition of a gold Hillman Minx.

Apart from the headlights, I’m not sure what the difference was between the Minx and the Hillman Hunter, but I’d imagine the Minx was the poverty spec model. However, ours was the 1725cc model (as proudly announced on the bootlid) with a massive 61bhp. I quite liked the Minx because of it’s busy dashboard – there always seemed to be a lot going on.

Apart from my dad’s friend James and his E-type (covered in a previous post), I think most of my mate’s fathers had similarly ‘sensible’ taste in cars. With one exception. My mate Steve’s dad had a maroon XJ6 Series 1.

He also wore a sheepskin coat, smoked cigars, had a glamourous wife, and allegedly had been a racing driver. All very rakish. Mind you I’m pretty sure his XJ6 was the 2.8 model not the 4.2, so he didn’t get everything right. However, travelling in the XJ6 (even though I was sick in it once, but that’s another story) cemented a love of these big beasts that continues to this day – especially the Series 1 models with the classic dash.

If I a) can be bothered and b) find the time, next time I’ll delve into my father’s company car years, and examine the hierarchy of L, XL, and GXL badges in the car park of a 70’s catering company. Compelling stuff.

2020 Lego Defender build – part one

I got a Lego Technic Land Rover Defender (the new one, obvs) for Christmas from my children, and just made a start on the transmission. 400 or so pieces later, one missing yellow rod, and retrieving one of the tyres from the dog who thought it was the best chew ever, this is the result.

If you’re building one of these, best not to do as I did and start it after a big drink…


More than once, I’ve had an enquiry asking “you’ve got so and so for sale – how come it’s also advertised on (a well known auction site*) for far less money, somewhere else but with the same photos?

Even after patiently explaining that the other ad is obviously a scam using cloned photos and description, more often the hard-of-thinking are disgruntled when they can’t buy it from us for the price in the scam advert.

Such scams are reaching industrial levels on said ‘well-known auction site’ who don’t seem to be too bothered by it in my opinion, despite it doing little for their reputation.

There seem to be at least two ways of parting people from their money, as follows:

A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) has run his own business for years, is usually pretty astute, and has an ‘eye for a deal’. However he’s not really experienced in the ways of the WKAS as I’ll now call it. He spotted a Toyota Hilux on there that seemed to be at least £3000 under the normal price. The seller had zero feedback and was a new user. This isn’t necessarily an issue, but can be a good indicator, especially in the light of what followed.

The listing had a phone number in it, and seemed to be relatively local. My friend phoned the number, and listened to a great story about how this Hilux had belonged to the vendor’s Dad, who had recently died – he’d been left with it and just wanted rid of it. For £7000.00, my friend could have it if he paid for it by bank transfer that day, and collected it the following day. Smelling blood, as apparently the vendor ‘sounded a bit thick’, my friend countered with an offer of £6000.00, which, praise be, was accepted with alacrity. Bank details were provided, funds paid, and arrangements made to collect from an address the following day.

Needless to say, on arrival, nobody knew of the seller or the Hilux, the phone number was dead (probably a burner phone) and my friend, rather chastened, was (and as far as I know still is) £6000.00 out of pocket. Presumably cloned photos and descriptions were involved here. This type of scam, for this amount, is quite rare. The more common one is as follows:

Browsing the WKAS myself over the past few days, I’ve noticed at least 100 classic car auction listings that are obviously fake, and all seemingly from the same hand. . The M.O. here is to hack into someones WKAS account by obtaining their password, impersonate them, price cars very low, and say they can be secured with a £500.00 deposit via PayPal. The adage that you can’t con someone who’s not greedy or gullible’ is never truer. It must be a very lucrative business – (certainly more so than actually selling cars at the moment). I would share a couple of links but it’s pointless as they’ll be dead within days.

However, the following (genuine but obviously sent for nefarious purposes) email came into us yesterday:

Vehicle Purchase Charlotte Clarke

Hello there,

I came across your vehicle listing on eBay couple of days ago. 


I`ve been searching for one of these vehicles for almost a month now.

I do have some questions : 

– Do you have a copy of the HPI certificate that you could send it to me ? (the car shows finance on the report i did it online)

–  I would like to view the vehicle and test drive can you give me a time as I work full time and have to book time off . Would it be possible tonight 8:30 PM ? 

– Can you tell me the name of the garage the vehicle was last serviced at ?

– Can you confirm the vehicle mileage ?

As soon as you get back to me i will prepare the funds and give you a call in the evening to pay a deposit. Do you take credit cards ?


Charlotte Clarke

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

The link therein is to a facsimile of the WKAS’s log in page. We also had 2 ‘I want to buy your car’ texts yesterday in a similar format. It’s always tempting to reply suggesting the sender f***s off, but it’s far more sensible to just delete them. I strongly suggest you don’t, but, If you type your user name and password into the screen that pops up if the link is clicked, hey presto, ‘Charlotte Clark’ has control of your account.

‘Charlotte Clark’ would then reroute your associated email account so you wouldn’t get notifications of altered or new listings, and reroute any associated payment accounts, and is then free to do with your well-established account and reputation as she wishes.

Another well-known adage: ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’. That doesn’t apply to these prolific WKAS listings. If something is too good to be true in the internet age, it most certainly is.

*just in case their lawyers are reading.