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Wednesday 2nd February 2011

My First Car: Mk2 Ford Escort 1.3

Old Escorts seem popular as a PHer's first automotive love, as Beth Parnell-Hopkinson proves on the return of MFC after a long sabbatical


Mk2 Escort taught Beth much - but mostly how useful the humble hammer can be in car maintenance
Mk2 Escort taught Beth much - but mostly how useful the humble hammer can be in car maintenance

1991, the year of the first Gulf War, the collapse of Yugoslavia and Bohemian Rhapsody getting to number one in the hit parade for the second time. It was also the year I bought my first car, a green Mk2 Ford Escort 1.3.

Not Beth's car...
Not Beth's car...
Freshly armed with a driving licence and a total lack of knowledge about cars, I eagerly scoured the classified adverts in the local paper, desperate to spend the £500 languishing in a Post Office account and enjoying an interest rate of around 12 per cent; not that I gave a bat's thingy at the age of 18 about my personal financial growth. I wanted independence and mobility and I wanted it now.

Even then I had developed an irrational and wholly incomprehensible dislike of small cars, so I turned my nose up at anything that would have been remotely sensible for a first-time car owner to buy and, for some random reason that I can't even remember, set my cap at the Ford Escort, beloved of teenage car park cruisers across the country. The green one at £495 looked like a bargain.

So on a cold, dark night, I went to a small village near Oxford, all bright-eyed with anticipation and clutching my 500 notes, accompanied by my boyfriend and a friend of his who claimed to know a lot about cars. It was only later when I confronted him over this claim that I discovered he was actually an army mechanic, but had only ever worked on tanks.

...Just some glamorous 70s road test shots...
...Just some glamorous 70s road test shots...
The guy selling the Escort was impatient and shifty, but the tank mechanic gave the car a cursory glance over, shrugged and said, 'It looks Okay, you should buy it,' so I handed over my notes and drove proudly home. My dad took one look at it and said, 'Hmmm,' before attempting to check for rust by sticking a screwdriver through the panels which wasn't promising but hey, I owned a car! I was independent! I was mobile!

Mobility and independence turned out to be mutually incompatible with ownership of the Escort. The night after I bought it, it mysteriously refused to start, so I called the seller and demanded to know what was wrong with it. Of course, he took the only reasonable course of action for a dodgy second hand car seller and pretended the signal was breaking up before hanging up on me.

The next few months were a crash course (in all senses, as I was a terrible driver) in car ownership. The car became the bane of my life, but I was determined not to let it beat me. When it wouldn't start (which was often), I learned how to hit the failing starter motor with a hammer to get it going. I also hit the inside of the door with the hammer in a temper when that didn't work. When I somehow shoved it into first gear instead of third at about 50mph and the engine screamed in protest at this ill-treatment before going pop, I nursed it to my local pub and left it in their car park overnight.

...wish you were there?
...wish you were there?
The next morning, when I tried turning the engine over, oil splattered from the sides of the bonnet. This wasn't a good sign, so I got someone to tow me home then bought an engine from the local breakers and coerced several men in my circle of acquaintance by means of fluttering eyelashes and promises of beer into helping change it. The gearbox also turned out to be terminally unwell and had to be replaced, but at the end of a very long and fraught day the new engine spluttered into life. I went home covered in oil, exhausted and slightly more knowledgeable about engines to be confronted by my mother shaking her head and telling me with an air of disappointment that she thought she'd raised me as a lady.

What else did this car do for me? It got me to illegal raves, which were all the rage in 1991; it provided an endless source of amusement for the local constabulary, my family and my colleagues; it taught me how to mend rust holes in rear pillars with newspaper and filler, then sand and paint them so they looked okay; it taught me that when you break down at a busy roundabout when only you and your non-driving sister are in the car and you try to push it, only 2 out of 10 people will stop to help; it taught me that there should be more than two bolts holding a fuel tank on and that you shouldn't rely on a rusty jacking point.


It also made me the best-known cruiser in my local town (because of course I hung around at the local supermarket car park with the other boy-racers and was the only girl over 14 there - incidentally, I also learned how to do handbrake turns in a Capri there - happy days) and it got me from A to B, if not always back to A again. It started first time for once and allowed me to drive away with dignity and through tears after my boyfriend binned me and I hung out in it at petrol stations like in the Pulp song to find out where the next rave was.

But all good - albeit unreliable - things come to an end and after a year of owning the Escort, it was due for an MOT. A friend was an apprentice mechanic at a garage close to where I worked and I gingerly asked him to have a look and let me know how much he thought it would cost me to get it through an MOT. He laughed. Not in an unkind way because he was my friend and that would just be nasty, but in a knowing, professional way.


The next Saturday was spent stripping the starter motor - I'd eventually had to get a new one when the hammer stopped working - the alternator and various other bits off the engine. My mum sighed and shook her head. It reminded me of the Saturdays my dad spent working on his Mini on the drive with me trying to help him in a ham-fisted toddler kind of way. I liked it but I was sad. It was the end of an era.

The last time I saw my first car, it was in the forecourt of the local scrap merchants, where I'd spent whole minutes of my life over the past year climbing precarious towers of cars to unbolt a solenoid or door skin. They asked me if I'd driven or been towed in and in a moment of inspired opportunism, I said I'd driven in. They gave me £25 as opposed to the £15 I'd have got if I'd been towed. I left quickly. I spent the money on a pair of shoes.

Then I bought a Vauxhall Cavalier.

Silver
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Author Discussion

Cassius81

Original Poster:

261 posts

72 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
I have always been a fan of older Escorts. A bit like Mr W Rooney.

Boom boom.

dvance

603 posts

51 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
Cassius81 said:
I have always been a fan of older Escorts. A bit like Mr W Rooney.

Boom boom.
hehebow

wackojacko

8,532 posts

73 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
I'm also a fan of the Classic Fords ....... 'The professionals' series is awesome to see the cars in their prime.....'

The Crack Fox

9,632 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
"They asked me if I'd driven or been towed in and in a moment of inspired opportunism, I said I'd driven in. They gave me £25 as opposed to the £15 I'd have got if I'd been towed. I left quickly. I spent the money on a pair of shoes."

Love that biggrin

Ruddmeister

31 posts

107 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
My first car too, very happy memories....

It was 1989 when I bought a T-Reg 1.3L 3-door Mk2 Escort in a kind of beige / gold colour, the rust was a serious issue for me. I remember having a discussion with 2 lads from the local rugby club who suggested there was enough rust on the bottom of the roof pillars that it could be a convertable if they got either side and gave it a shove.

My happiest memories are of power oversteer on wet roundabouts, easily controlled with a 'dab of oppo' even by me (a spotty 17 year old with little driving experience). Oh how I longed for an RS2000.....in reality it would only have made it to the nearest ditch before I was out of skill.

Still it gave me some independence from my parents at the time......which in turn probably prevented me being murdered in my bed......when I used it.

I also remember selling the car to lady, the following day she was waiting outside my house....when I went out she accused me of knowing the clutch was going to fail when I sold it, apparently the car was at the local garage and she was walking home.....the clutch went 24hrs after I sold it, she thought she'd been ripped off by me but I didn't have a clue...

Then I bought a B'Reg Fiesta 1.1 Pop Plus.....Ooooh the power




Edited by Ruddmeister on Wednesday 2nd February 14:25

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Escorttom

45 posts

59 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
As is fairly apparent im a bit of a fan as well. So much so ive got a 170bhp 2 litre one. Nothing but a bit of cable attached to some weber 45s. Everyone always comments on her and ends up telling me there own Escort story.
Rear wheel drive Fords are all good for a bit of messing about in a car park biggrin


If you are going to watch this please excuse the guy taking the videos language. He's a paint sprayer......
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IjNZJKBJlo&hd=...

rallycross

5,666 posts

120 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
That brings back memories.

I had a mk2 escort as my learner car / first car.
1976 P reg 1.1 popular escort 2 door.
Custard cream yellow, plastic seats, plastic floor, fixed seat belts, 4 gears, 12 inch 145 tyres


As a 17 year old driving on country roads I used all 45 bhp to its worst effect learning about understeer/oversteer how to overtake (you had to plan overtakes moves about 30 seconds in advance taking a run up due to the lack of acceleration) and how not to crash. Good job I only had a 1.1 not an Rs2000.

Denorth

448 posts

54 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
Riggers? ... Beth?... I am a bit confused.

anyway. Such a nice piece of writing - there is love and sadness and common sense... wreminds me of owing Lada Samara - needed a hammer as an everyday tool and ocassional need to be towed.

AndyT77

1,508 posts

45 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
I had one as my first car, i loved it. Didn't take long for me to right it off though!

Riggers

1,851 posts

61 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
Denorth said:
Riggers? ... Beth?... I am a bit confused.

anyway. Such a nice piece of writing - there is love and sadness and common sense... wreminds me of owing Lada Samara - needed a hammer as an everyday tool and ocassional need to be towed.
Ummm....yes...

It shouldn't say Riggers as the author, but for some reason the back end of the website hates me today and wants all my endeavours to fail.

I will get Beth her rightful credit as the author as soon as I can work out why her name's disappeared from the list...

ETA:

Beth (Silver) now has the credit due her smile

Edited by Riggers on Wednesday 2nd February 14:54

PompeyM3

1,352 posts

88 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
I had a White MKII 1600 Ghia with a black vinyl roof as my first car. Great memories and I often look in the classifieds to see if there are any for sale.

Wasn't earning much money then and taught myself basic car maintenance with the help of that trusty blue Haynes manual. Happy days.......

djt100

1,104 posts

68 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
My first car too, Given too me by dad, his old car had a dent in the wing and door after someone drove into it, as i was going a C&G in motor vehicle body repair i got all the work done and had a place to store it until i passed my test, Looked at getting a RS2000 a couple of years ago and could not believe the price they fetch these days!... madness good memories but I'd never buy another prices they are now can get you into some seriously nice kit

Biker's Nemesis

25,722 posts

91 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
I've had every model of Escort, MK1 1300E, MK11 1600 sport, Mk111 1600 estate bought when my son was born. Had a MKV all the way through till they stopped making them.

Mk11 was the best, low at the back and high at the front, white Eight spokes with 205 tyres, Spax on the rear with Bilsteen on the front and of course the big bore pipe.

slarnge

350 posts

74 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
I use to love drifting in my old RS2000.Lots of happy memories

SlimRick

1,528 posts

48 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
Good times!!! My old 'tina next to my friends Mk2 circa 1989


mat205125

14,770 posts

96 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
A Mk2 Escort thread!!!!! Woo hoo!! Bookmarked!!!!

M

Greenpis

302 posts

57 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
Great Story, brought back plenty of memories here.

First car in 87, 2 door 1300 Sport, Miami Blue, with RS alloys, Janspeed exhaust, K&N Filter and bucket seats. None of these mods completed by myself I might add, but previous owner a mate.

Oh and did I mention lots and lots of rust.

Too many parts of the original story ring true, newspaper & filler, hammer/starter motor, screwdriver to short the solenoid. Happpy Days. cloud9

One memory that remains clear today, was after rotating the front and rear wheels, getting a loud knocking noise through the steering wheel that increased in frequency.
Then BANG, felt like the car took off, passenger footwell imploded and the sight of my front nearside wheel bouncing down the road.
I ended up blocking the road as the MkII sat on it's disc, and I chased after the wheel - and all outside my School gates at lunchtime.
I hadn't tightened the wheelnuts properly/if at all! whistle
(P.S. Was in the 6th form at the time)

rallycross

5,666 posts

120 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
there's quite a few in the classifieds this one caught my attention (well the price did)

http://www.pistonheads.com/sales/1843010.htm

I had quite a few escorts thinking about it had 1.1, 1.3L , 1.3 GL (aah the luxury of that one), a blue 1.6 L 4 door that was happy to be driven sideways everywhere, a 1.3 L 2 door that was like new even though it was 10 years old, bright yellow, then an Rs2000 custom in faded terracota red that we decided to respray venetian red.

The purity of driving a good example of one of these mk2 escorts is lost to todays youth!



MrTickle

1,643 posts

122 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
1988 I bought my 1980 Mk2 1.3GL with square headlights, in brown with a vinyl roof, VPT301V (why can I not remember my current plate but I still remember that???)

Inner wings rusted away and re-welded with a mate. Replaced engine myself also, with a £50 scrap engine. I remember paying £19.80 for a FULL exhaust system from KwikFit in Reading.

Oh the memories. Ran it for 20,000 miles for less than 1 replacement tyre on my current car! LOL


MrTickle

1,643 posts

122 months

[news] 
Wednesday 2nd February 2011 quote quote all
rallycross said:
there's quite a few in the classifieds this one caught my attention (well the price did)

http://www.pistonheads.com/sales/1843010.htm
EscortAd said:
Price reduced from £17000 to £8995 due to an impending move, this car has to go.
yikes

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