My First Car: Ford Escort XR3i

It’s 1991, I’m 16, about to turn 17, and have decided I obviously need a car before I pass my test. All I cared about was (in no particular order): partying, hanging out at college, loud music and girls. Having had a Dad who worked for Volkswagen and Audi, and having grown up with them you would have thought I would have used the common sense part of my brain cell and purchased a VW.

But no. I could have had a Golf GTI, but for some reason decided to purchase a white 1986 Escort XR3i, with 25k miles. Why did I make such a decision? Because it had electric everything, nice seats and cloverleaf alloys, where as the similar priced golf, looked more like a coal cabin inside, and it just didn't seem cool, with its P-slot wheels and tiny spoiler.

Anyway the XR3i had a CD player and no one, expect people with Porsches, has a CD player in a car. The CD player only survived two months, due to me leaving the window open on a dodgy housing estate in Banbury. So the car was driven around my mum's driveway until, a week after my 17th when I passed my test.

£1,100 later for the insurance, which seemed worth the pain at the time, I was ready to hit the road. Within 30 minutes of passing my test off I went to Milton Keynes, with my mate Jonathan, with the inention of impressing women. Oh how we live and learn. An hour after passing my test, I was pulled over by the local police for some over energetic use of my right foot and not looking like I was old enough to own a mountain bike, let alone a car. In the first month, I had a small rainforest worth of producers.

The garage the car was purchased from gave me a 12 month warranty, which in real terms meant nothing and was a good way of getting even more money out of me. Fix 1: The car overheated so the fan was linked to the ignition. Fix 2: The alarm wouldn’t stop going off so was unwired as it was more cost effective than fixing it.

By the end of the first month of driving, I had an incident with a very sturdy brown Vauxhall Chevette, which decided to get in my way after trying to drive around Wellingborough as if it was the Monaco street circuit. The garage quoted me £1200 to repair the car, but I decided to use some entrepreneurial locals, who charged me £350.

Car came back, looking as good as new, although the holes in the front frame were a tad worrying. By month three it was summer and the little XR3i had decided that my passengers needed their feet kept cool by the rainwater that came through a little hole in the floor. Then the alternator went, the starter motor had to be hit if I was on my own, or the car pushed by my friends. The following month the car developed a new metallic ticking sound at high speed.

My friends and I being the amazing car mechanics we were, ignored the noise. Month seven and the manifold fell off while driving down the M1. By the eighth month of owndership the front wheel fell off while driving back from college, and by month nine the pristine white body started to develop brown shades around all the sills and valance and wings.

The MOT arrived and the garage quoted £1500, so again the local entrepreneurs welded in a new floor and it was all done for £400. I then moved to Canada and left the car sat on my driveway , before my Auntie decided to sell it. Various stories in the next six months made their way over the Atlantic to me, including such gems as it was raced around by various people, found in a ditch at one point and finally, still registered in my name, used for a bank job as a getaway car in Northampton.

So what did I learn from this experience. Fords are not always great cars, or at least ropey 80s XR3is certainly aren’t. Girls, did not think an XR3i was cool, no matter how much I though they did, although it did make me a popular taxi at college.


If you have an interesting My First Car story then we would love to hear from you. Email your stories here and if you have a pic of your first car then all the better. We'll need around 700 words...

Comments (57) Join the discussion on the forum

  • tastyturbo 24 Nov 2008

    This is the harshest story of the 3i I've ever heard.

    I still have, amongst others, a mk3 xr3i. I had bought it as a runner about 8 years ago whilt my s2 turbo was undergoing major work. I then decided the 3i was too good to scrap and handed it over to a bodyshop for everyhthing it could possibly need. It passed it's mot needing only a broken spring replaced, (which I had always known was broken due to the 'pung' on full lock) and the back brakes stripped and cleaned.

    I ran the car for a year and have had it stored ever since.


  • varsas 24 Nov 2008

    Sounds like it had done more like 250k miles to me!

  • dpbird90 24 Nov 2008

    Shame, it's a great car. £1100 for insurance sounds VERY cheap considering what the car is, my first year of TPFT for the Fiat Seicento 1.1 was about that, so you got off lightly!

    These days I know, a flash car is not really very good if you want to pull girls.

  • Kitchski 24 Nov 2008

    Thing is starters and alternators are wear and tear items, expect to replace them on older cars!

    Wheel falling off....well I imagine you and your mates chose to ignore the humming coming from that wheel, just like the manifold leak laugh

    Agreed, not much you could do about the rust catching you on one of them, but I would still have the Escort over a Golf. I know the Escort was flawed as most early hot hatch attempts were, and certainly the Golf wasn't perfect, but I'd go against the common grain of the dub and go for the XR3i anyday just like you.

    These first car things do make good reading though, keep 'em comin!

  • K50 DEL 24 Nov 2008

    I bought an '87 Mk4 XR3i Cabriolet when I was 18

    I couldn't afford it, it was more filler than metal but god it looked good and I felt like $1m driving it.

    The roof was rarely up (mainly because it had so many holes it was largely useless)
    The gearbox was like stirring soup
    The seats had sagged and and the alarm system had a mind of its own

    But god I loved it, I'd have another one tomorrow.

    Thankfully it was in '95 and the insurance was only 500 a year

    Ended up swapping it for an XJ6 as I couldn't afford the repairs it needed! oops

View all comments in the forums Make a comment