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 II – badge engineering madness

I think it must have been January 1974 when my father announced that he was finally getting a company car – one beloved of suburban worker bees across the land – a Mark III Cortina!

For those of a younger disposition, a company car in the 1970’s was an easy way for employers to reward staff without falling foul of government salary increase restrictions imposed to combat rampant inflation, and the major home market producers, especially Ford, quickly cottoned onto this, forming a new hierarchy.

With the Mark 3 Cortina, for instance, you could have a ‘base’ spec (effectively a proper steering wheel and glass in the windows), L, XL, GT (pretty rare as I recall) and GXL, the latter 2 with racy quad headlamps and a 6-dial dash. Probably the 2.0 engined one meant you got the pick of the choice at the wife-swapping parties (spoiler alert – ours was a 1.6, although my mother still has the giant pampas grass in the garden – however I don’t think she’s aware of the urban myth)

As an 12 year old boy who’s underpants mysteriously had started shrinking every time he stole his grandmother’s Kays catalogue to look at the lingerie models, I spent hours poring over a Cortina brochure with much the same effect, imagining my dad turning up in his brand-new 2.0 GXL with a vinyl roof. I was looking forward to the envious glances of my friends.

The day came. My father came home in his brand new Cortina, PGB 271M * But where were the quad lights and the vinyl roof, and why was it dogs lipstick purple? And why was there no badge whatsoever on the boot!!!

The shame. The ignominy. After years of motoring stodge, my dad had had the chance to redeem himself by driving something cool and racy (from the perspective of a boy of 12) and had blown it big time by coming home in a 1.6 Base model. My friends would want to beat me up and Nikki Varley wouldn’t want to kiss me. Or was it the other way round?

It was tempting to leave home there and then until I remembered I was 12 , so would have to tough it out for a few years yet…

* PGB 271M was first registered February 1974, and was last taxed in 1987. It was actually quite a good car, and my parents bought it after it was replaced as my dad’s company car by 2 Mark IV Cortinas, an orange 1.6 Base and lastly a white 1.6L Oh, the decadence.

It was kept as our second car for a few years, even surviving a bizarre accident (where it demolished a fence and a table tennis table when some young fool who’ll remain nameless) lost control of it) with no more than a slightly bent number plate.


Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been told by a couple of people that they’ve been scammed out of £500.00 or £600.00 by ‘sellers’ on such classified sites as Exchange and Mart, and Schpock (whatever the hell that is) using photos of at least one of our vehicles, and asking us to ‘do something’.

Such as what? Our own website stops the unscrupulous from copying our photos and text, but the same cannot be said for 3rd party websites that we have to use, who a) won’t let us put watermarks on our pictures, b) don’t really seem to care about seller fraud. It’s sensible to tell the two aggrieved parties that we’ll pay for a course of common sense pills for them, but that might be taken the wrong way…

This is the Land Rover that’s (at the time of writing) being advertised on Exchange and Mart.

The ‘vendor’s’ description is as follows:

Selling my dads old Land rover been stored in the barn for a few years. i know nothing about these at all so i am selling it as spares or repairs. i have uploaded recent photos of it. looking 500 for it Does not start. V5 Here will need trailer to tow away. My phone signal isnt great so please sms or email me

‘selling my dads old Land Rover’ – stops potential buyers asking difficult questions and introduces third-part deniability

‘been stored in the barn’ – an attempt to justify the ridiculously low price asked, and this is trading off it’s charmingly disreputable looks. Fortunately it drives really well…

‘I know nothing about these at all’ – again, stops buyers asking difficult questions

‘V5 here’ – err, no, don’t think so unless DVLA have made a major screw up. This one is actually personally registered to us.

‘Phone signal isn’t great so please text’ -classic scammer’s tactic – stops people recognising voices or indeed taping conversations.

Sadly people can’t seem to avoid looking a gift horse in the mouth. If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is. So here’s a tip: in the modern age, everyone has access to WhatsApp video calling, Facetime or similar. A genuine seller should have no problem whatsoever doing a live video call with you and the vehicle you’re interested in.

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…