Say ‘Ford’ and several names and images come to mind: mass production; the ‘Model T’; the name ‘Henry’ and the iconic signature style Logo. For my generation, growing up in the Seventies, ‘Capri’ and ‘Escort’, are Escorts Sydney names that stay with us, as are windy words like Zephyr and Cortina for the Sixties folk.
Ford cars are ubiquitous, and their images sustained, and a few have popped up during my life. The first that I can remember is a beigey/goldey/ rusty coloured Mark IV Cortina.
The Mark IV was assembled in Dagenham, Essex, and was the United Kingdom’s most popular car of the seventies, in production from 1976 – 79, and the successor to three previous generations / incarnations Escorts Brisbane first released in 1962. This one was squarer and somehow chunkier than its forebears, and came as either as saloon or estate. You could get anything from a 1.3 litre to a 4.1 litre version somewhere in the world, with models being assembled in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Taiwan and Korea.
There were at least six previous owners listed for ours when we purchased it from a friend with whom we Orienteered at weekends back in the early eighties. It had a brown vinyl roof, went like the clappers, and had a 2.0 litre engine fitted where once a humble 1.6 had rested. To start, it came with a screwdriver – no key – as the ignition bits had been removed at a time when someone somewhere had nicked the thing. We were young, it was inexpensive: I remember this one of my cars as being fun. It followed a nasty, ill-judged, Mini which tried to kill us on the A37 south of Bristol, and our second car, a safe, dull, ordinary (except for the clever suspension system which caused the car to sit up and take notice when the key was turned and engine started) Citroen GS in ‘Beige Opale’.
Apart from a period owing a blue Orion (which one could open with almost any Ford key at the time (or so it seemed)), the next significant Ford moment for me was witnessing a little corruption in industry in the Nineties, when a ‘Probe’ was ‘gifted’ to a parts buyer in return for a favourable outcome on a contract. The man had expressed an interest in the vehicle to a Sales Director, whose company car it was, and it became part of an incentive package that included foreign travel, a samurai sword and a lady of the night. But enough of that, jobs were lost, contracts renegotiated, and the world moved on – and now we find eleven million VW cars under scrutiny for some extremely questionable cheating business practices.
A natural successor to the Capri, the Probe was Sports Coupe built in Michigan between 89 and 97. Built on a Mazda platform with either a 2.0 litre or 2.5 litre V6 Mazda engine, the second-generation model was the one that I came across. All that I really remember of it is that it was quick and low and a little too chunky, and built with gentlemen of a certain age in mind. I wasn’t that age then, and didn’t covet the thing. It was blue. The story that surrounded it was really what it was all about – but isn’t that the thing with any possession really, a case of ‘look at me, come and hear my story’?