Random Thoughts III

Ford Escort 1

This looks a lot better than mine ever did. It also has four doors – mine was a two-door version. It might still be available if you fancy it. Try here.

As I said yesterday, a combination of factors led to me writing 400 words of digression. As promised, I have knocked them into shape and here they are, presented as a blog post.

Even as I write this, I am transported back to a time when I had a red Ford Escort (a Mark 1) with 160,000 miles on the clock, dodgy front suspension and side windows at the back which fell out from time to time because they were just glued to the hinges. And they wonder why the Japanese took over the world car market…

We had a metalwork teacher at school who had been a prisoner of the Japanese during the wore and still had the scars from being whipped. We knew this because it cropped up in nearly every lesson. We knew the war was over for him when he turned up in a Datsun – cheaper than a British car, with fabric seats and a radio as standard.

Someone at work bought a Japanese car shortly after that and came back to it one day to find a sticker on the windscreen – I can’t recall the actual wording after all these years but it was about him killing British industry. I had a Morris Ital.  It was supposedly a great British product (a Morris Marina) with a dash of Italian styling flair and more sprightly performance. It didn’t quite work out like that. The performance was achieved by reducing the weight of the bodywork by using something more like a thick foil than metal. The actual engine design was over 30 years old, and the major use of Itals these days, if you can find one, is providing spare parts for Morris Minors.


Mine was this colour and smelt of cigar smoke.

The heater burst in a multi-storey car park one day. It was interesting,  because the car filled with steam. I called out the AA and they connected the heater inlet to the heater outlet, by-passing it completely. There was no steam in the car, and no heat either. I was cold that winter…

Buying a new heater matrix would have definitely qualified as throwing good money after bad.

Whatever reason you put forward for the death of British industry – Japan, Mrs Thatcher or Trade Unions – it was, as I recall, a clear case of suicide. When the Japanese started building factories here we started building some good cars. Then we had Brexit, which probably means a second death for the car industry in the UK.

Meanwhile, back in my Escort, wondering why anyone would try to glue metal to glass (yes, I just can’t let it go), I managed to make it to Sheffield to see Ian Dury and the Blockheads.

The rotor arm shaft was, by this time, badly worn and it was difficult to get the car started. It was OK at home (I was living on a hill in Lincolnshire at the time) as coasting down the hill got it going. Sheffield was OK because it had car parks on slopes, which just about did the trick. But when I visited mum and dad in Peterborough there were no hills. That was a bit trickier.

Eventually I spent the money on getting the distributor replaced and the radiator disintegrated.

Distributor? Rotor arm? All gone the way of the Dodo. They have a box now. It does magic things, and and hardly ever goes wrong, but when it does go wrong you can’t start the car by rolling it down a hill.

I sold the car.

escort van

Mine smelt of mice, having been in a barn for a while. After I spilt a carton of milk in it, I used to yearn for the sweet smell of mice.

Bought an Escort van. I liked Escorts. It needed a bit of work. I did some of that work, which involved setting the electrics on fire one Sunday morning, burning my fingers and crossing a main road with it as I trotted by the side trying to control it.

Lesson number one – don’t use optimism as a substitute for skill, particularly with auto-electrics.

Lesson number two – when your van starts burning, put the brake on before you jump out.

The sub-title for this post is Memoirs of an Idiot.

22 thoughts on “Random Thoughts III

  1. derrickjknight

    Some great smiles here, Quercus. Got me thinking about our son’s Skoda in the days when they were a joke. He was stopped for speeding in it. The police – one man and one woman – congratulated him and walked away. He called them back and told them his starter motor wouldn’t work. “I suppose you want us to push you”, said one of them. “Yes please”, replied Mat. They did.

  2. Clare Pooley

    I don’t need to learn your very sensible lessons because I have never had the skill or the strength to do any repairs to any of the cars I have ever owned. I can top up the water, check the oil and if pressed, can pump up the tyres. I have no skill in mending anything except with a needle and thread. I am afraid I was amused by the Escort van repair story 😀 It was fortunate you attempted the repair on a Sunday when there used to be less traffic on the road.

    1. quercuscommunity

      I’d never thought of the significance of the day – you are correct. I used to check the oikl and water but now I have warning lights to do it for me I just wait until they come on. So much easier… 🙂

      1. Clare Pooley

        It is! I’m afraid I forget about the car completely as soon as I get out of it and never think to check anything before setting off again, except if I’m going on a really long journey. 😉

  3. Lavinia Ross

    I’ve driven the same car for 27 years now, a 1993 Subaru Impreza LS Wagon. The odometer passed 455,000 miles recently. She is showing her age and signs of wear, along with me, but she has the original engine and transmission. I know how to do simple repairs on her, and will keep driving her until she gives out, as long as we don’t go down like the Yarmouth Castle. 🙂

  4. tootlepedal

    I like lesson number two a lot. I shall bear it in mind as electric cars may well burst into flames. I had a Datsun Cherry, the first new car that I ever bought. It was good. We also had a Ford van which my dad gave us after we were married. I had a rickety Morgan when i was a student but I had to give it away as I couldn’t afford the repairs. Not my best decision.

    1. quercuscommunity

      If only we’d had the benefit of foresight…

      I’m sure electric cars are safe as long as you don’t attempt to repair them yourself. Get Mrs T to do it, if she can manage a rocking horse I’m sure auto-electrics will be all in a day’s work.

      1. quercuscommunity

        Last time I had to replace a headlight bulb I was told some of the new systems incorporate enough voltage to kill someone.

        How different to the old days when all you had to do was remember not to touch the bulb.

  5. Laurie Graves

    Very good lessons, Quercus. I shall keep them in mind. 😉 On a more sobering note… what you wrote about the British auto industry also applied to the American auto industry. Sad.


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