Of the many joys of competing in a Ford Ka - success as a team, door-to-door competition on great circuits, learning how to race for hour after hour - that the little shopping car has proved such an adept racer ranks very highly. With a few choice mods the Ka's excellent chassis has really come to the fore; it's how all front-drive hatchbacks should behave, agile and lively but also progressive and forgiving. My first race laps at Oulton Park will live fondly in the memory, the car slipping and sliding in horrendous conditions yet never feeling spiky or unpredictable - were it not wasting so much time the whole race could have gone that way...
Anyway, such a delightful chassis only makes you crave more power in the Ka, as 60-something horsepower is not the most thrilling down the straights. Or between corners. Or anywhere, really. What we need to race, really, is a SportKa.
You remember the SportKa; launched alongside the StreetKa convertible in 2003, it used a 1.6-litre engine instead of the standard 1.3 to liberate a heady 95hp - 50 per cent more than standard. It was a wider, stiffer, lower Ka which, with a couple of Puma bits thrown in for good measure, worked wonders: Evo called it "fantastic", with "thoroughly entertaining" handling, and Auto Express said it was a "great performance car"; the Telegraph review spoke of "dynamic excellence". It's the perfect template for a more powerful Ka racer.
Well, that's assuming one can be found. Like so many similar vehicles, the number of SportKas in the UK has plummeted over recent years. They were cheap (£10k) and not considered all that remarkable when new - it's not an ST or an RS, basically - which, combined with the Ka's propensity to rust and the plethora of scrappage schemes, has meant scores of them have disappeared. From a peak of more than 8,000 a little over a decade ago, HowManyLeft says that just 1,800 remain today between standard and SE models. Cars that are plentiful are rarely deemed worth saving, often until it's too late, so now might be the time to grab a SportKa.
Because, in all honesty, this one would be too nice to do anything with. The fact it appears to be rust free is perhaps more remarkable than its 25,000 miles, the car having been serviced 12 times at the same Ford specialist by its one original owner. It's an absolute gem, with surely no better examples around.
Let's not forget, either, that the SportKa was the first and only fast Ka, from a time when there was also a Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo ST in the range. Small, cheap, fast(ish) cars won't happen again, the demand and profit simply not there, so one day cars like the SportKa, Swift Sport and Twingo 133 will be seen as the last of the breed. And while it's unlikely to ever be seen as an icon, many less illustrious Fords have become collectible over time - so let's see.
£3,500 is probably more than a SportKa has cost for many years, and enough to buy almost a whole grid of standard ones for an EnduroKa race. You probably don't need us to point out, either, that cars like the Twingo, Panda 100HP, Swift Sport and even Clio are available for much less money. But none are in quite the condition of this Ka, and arguably none will have quite the following in the UK of an Imperial Blue hot hatch with a Blue Oval on the front. So while it won't be the ideal candidate for a cheap, fun shopping car of the old school, we can absolutely see why a fast Ford fan might be tempted. When an Orion is more than £5,000, who knows what might happen...
SPECIFICATION - FORD SPORTKA
Engine: 1,599cc four-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 95@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 100@4,250rpm
First registered: 2007
Recorded mileage: 25,000
Price new: £9,995
Yours for: £3,495