The words 'cheap' and 'Mondeo' tend to go together like gin and tonic. But our latest Great Escape Cars workshop project was cheap even by Mondeo standards. £50 cheap. That's literally pie-and-pint-for-two motoring.
There are few rational reasons for buying an early, cheap £50 Mondeo, particularly when you already own an early, cheap Mondeo as I do. But for reasons of nostalgia and Because It Was There, I now own a manual 1994 Mk1 Mondeo v6 Ghia. I also claim early adopter status - the first Mondeos are now 25 years old, so they're bonafide classics. Well, on paper at least.
There is some method to my madness, even £50 worth of madness. There are only a handful of early v6 Mondeos on the road and this particular car is one of the first registered in the UK. I also ran a Mk1 Ghia 2 litre as a company car for a while and have fond memories of it. That's the emotional stuff. In the realm of rational decision making, the early Mondeos were great steers, the v6 is a peach of an engine and £50 is a gift.
The car failed its MOT in November 2017, since when it had been advertised on a classic car website at a gradually reducing price. It failed the MOT mainly on emissions - 'probably an easy, cheap fix' said the owner. But presumably not probably easy or cheap enough for him to bother fixing it himself.
Collecting the car in June 2018 revealed some more detail about its history and that MOT fail. It turns out the seller didn't want to throw money he didn't have at the car. That he didn't have money quickly became evident from the car's service history, which was cloth of gold main dealer maintenance right up to 2006 and 110,000 miles when this chap bought it from a neighbour.
In the intervening 20,000 miles and 12 years it turns out the car had never been serviced because, in the never-to-be-forgotten words of the seller 'it never needed it.' And, in his defence, I suppose he was sort of right - it passed the annual MOT, it ran reliably, therefore it didn't need serviced. The facts, in a way, support him.
Except when it comes to that final 2017 MOT. I suspected that with fresh plugs the emissions would probably be cured and the other issues (brakes and handbrake) could be sorted fairly easily.
Back in Redditch our workshop took the car for MOT so that we had a base line to start from. Although the old MOT hinted at issues, a re-MOT would give us a firm position on current condition. It failed, inevitably, on emissions and handbrake.
New plugs have cured the misfire and, hopefully, the emissions. New rear calipers have sorted the handbrake problem. With these done the car will go for MOT in early August.
My colleagues, less so. The early Mondeo is still a very marmite car. Whereas older Fords like the Sierra, Capri and XR3, have been welcomed in from the cold and recognised as bonafide classics, the Mondeo is still in the old car hinterland. For most it's just a cheap smoker.
Yet there are signs of change. Over on Twitter and Facebook there is a surprising amount of love for these cars. Sure, nobody is going out to buy one, but the Mondeo's considerable abilities as a motorway cruiser and B-road driver are recognised.
I didn't buy this car for peer approval. Which is lucky, of course. And I can live with the jokes. But I am looking forward to getting it back on the road and giving it a new lease of life. I am extremely fortunate to own some nice cars but, in a way, this Mondeo is as interesting to me as an E Type or Jensen. Perhaps more so because it can be driven all the time without worrying about mileage or condition.
You can follow the recovery of this Mondeo here or on our Twitter feed @greatescapecars.
Porsche's 911 is one of those cars you either love or hate. Clarkson famously dislikes them, Hammond is at the other end of the scale.
I've driven a few 911s and am a bit of a convert. Where the 928, as I've controversially stated elsewhere on this blog, excites me in the same way as roadworks on the M5, the 911 remains a visceral thing, whichever era of car you choose. For Porsche to retain the essential DNA of a car that is now over 50 years old is quite an achievement.
|New Porsche 996 added to the Great Escape Cars fleet|
It's why Great Escape Cars has just added another 911 to its fleet.
That DNA is all about engineering overcoming physics. The original 911 put the engine out the back because that's how its 356 predecessor was set up and that was based, for family and practical reasons, on the Beetle. For a sports car it didn't make a huge amount of sense, creating a tail-heavy car that was erratic under pressure.
Porsche worked hard to create a car that could overcome these difficulties. In the process of not-quite-succeeding, the company actually created a car that was hugely entertaining to drive, distinctively different and still a bit of a handful when confronted with bends and hedges. Not to be discouraged, Porsche simply built on the basic idea, making the 911 progressively faster and turbocharged and creating 911-shaped holes in hedges around the world. Despite this, the car became a byword for skills and ability - the 911 gained a reputation for being a driver's car, one that only the foolhardy could crash.
Whether or not that reputation was warranted, it cemented the car's place against its peers from Jaguar and Ferrari. Where those cars flattered the driver, the 911 challenged them.
Porsche's failure to kill off the 911 led the company to double down and develop it. So it gained more power, turbos and body kits. By luck or design this endeared it to the get-rich-quick crowd of the mid to late 80s, bringing a new lease of life to a car that was by then 20 years old.
For the 90s Porsche rethought the car, creating the updated 964 and then the 993. The last of the aircooled models, they represented evolution rather than revolution. By the late 90s it was clear that change was needed.
It would have been easy at this point for Porsche to drop the ball, launching a softer car that would appeal to a wider audience. And in a way, they sort of did. The 996 was bigger, more luxurious and more useable than the earlier cars. But it was also suffused with the original car's DNA - great to drive, grabby and punchy if driven badly, but also more grown up and easier to live with. Moving the 996 up market made space for Porsche to launch the Boxster, a car that borrowed the 911's characteristics without the power or price.
Wherever you sit on the 911 like/loathe debate, it's hard to argue that the car doesn't fulfil its brief: a stylish, engaging and fast sports car. Lots of sports cars have come and gone but the 911 has endured because it delivers. Where a Ferrari is a little showy for some, an Audi TT perhaps lacking engagement and a Mercedes CLS too brutal, the Porsche manages to furrow a fine line through all of that. And it does so in a manner that's distinctive and interesting. That it's also well built and easy to own has helped cement its reputation.
All of which probably won't convince many naysayers, but if it helps shed some light on why this car has survived virtually unchanged for over 50 years, perhaps it's job done. Personally, I'm never going to buy a 911, it's not my style. But I do respect it.
The new Great Escape Cars 911 is available to drive on our road trips and taster experiences. It's not available right now for self drive hire.
Great Escape Cars