'Ready for the summer'. That's been a stock phrase on used car dealer ads for convertibles since the days of the Austin Seven or the Ford Model T. British motorists do like to make the most of those odd days that could be categorised as summer in their country. The Sheds are no different. Well, they are different, but not in that way.
They took their MX-5 to Italy a few years back, with the roof down for every mile of the trip. When they reached Italy the locals looked at them with a mixture of horror and disdain. None of them ever lowered their convertible roofs in case the wind might disturb the carefully curated perfection of their expensive coiffures. After a few hours of hot autostrada pounding Mrs Shed looked like she'd had her hair done by Medusa but Shed knew better than to comment on that.
If the Mazda hadn't been available Shed would have been more than happy to take a Ford StreetKa convertible like today's sub-£2k runabout. Nice little motors these, designed by Pininfarina and benefiting from the genius of Ford’s chassismeister Richard Parry-Jones. The 94hp eight-valve Duratec 1.6 engine was a long way removed from its relative, the 157hp 1.7 Racing Puma, but it was a big improvement on previous Ka engines and anyway most folk weren't that bothered about the 0-60mph time (high 11 seconds on a good day) or 107mph top whack. They were more interested in the wide-tracked StreetKa's quick-steering chuckability, of which there was plenty.
Even today you'll struggle to muster up a better steer on a riviera switchback, especially if you're ensconced behind the wheel of a Luxury edition (as here). This spec provided you with most of the mod cons you wouldn't expect to see in a titchy motor – climate control, CD player, heated leather seats – on top of the heated metal gearknob. The knob wasn't supposed to be heated, but you try telling your hand that after jumping in at the end of a long sunny day in Positano and thoughtlessly grabbing first without your oven glove on. Ow!
StreetKas were strong and stiff too, as PHer Mr Penks' cousin discovered when he flipped one. They weren't massively economical at an average of 36mpg, and despite what the ad says they never did a diesel version, but the low-rev torquiness of the engine made you feel like the car was earning its keep entertainment-wise.
Rust was a constant threat. Even though it's said that these SKs were better protected than regular Kas, the number of Luxury versions registered for use on British roads has gone down from .just over 9,000 in 2012 to 1,500 in 2022. The history of this example is moderately reassuring though. It's only done 67,000 miles, just 13,000 of them in the last five years. Some non-excessive rust affecting one front suspension mounting was put right ten years ago. Since then 'corroded' has only appeared next to the word 'exhaust' on the MOT history, which Shed can live with. The last two tests were both clean passes.
The most recent StreetKa featured on here a couple of years back was about half the price of this £1,995 specimen. That one was a post-facelift '06 car too, but its MOT ran out in early '22, suggesting that the non-excessive front suspension corrosion noted in its '21 test went on to become excessive. Let’s hope today’s shed doesn’t suffer a similar fate.
Generically, StreetKa seat runners can rattle (an easy thing to sort out) and hoods can rip, but used replacements are available for £250 or less online. There's no dodgy electronic steel roof to worry about and there's enough room under the roof mech for you to angrily hurl your golf bag in there. Tyres can wear out surprisingly quickly, especially if the tracking has been knocked out of shape by careless kerbing, one of George Michael's lesser hits. The drivetrains are tough.
Shed makes a point of enunciating the name of this model very carefully after Mrs Shed once misheard his breezy announcement that he was off to look at a Streetka in the town centre. She clocked him one with the cast iron soup ladle for that. Well, she calls it soup. Shed calls it dishwater with lumps in it, but only from a safe distance, i.e. the next postcode along.
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