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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
Rear wheel drive Fords are all good for a bit of messing about in a car park
If you are going to watch this please excuse the guy taking the videos language. He's a paint sprayer......
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.
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.
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...
Beth (Silver) now has the credit due her
Wasn't earning much money then and taught myself basic car maintenance with the help of that trusty blue Haynes manual. Happy days.......
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.
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.
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!
(P.S. Was in the 6th form at the time)
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!
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