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  •   Davy Lewis reacted to this post about 4 years ago

    It doesn’t take much power to have fun in a light, well-built old Ford, just a good chassis and a box-fresh Zetec! Words & images: Adrian Brannan.

    The cars we own in our formative years are immensely powerful things, though probably not in the traditional, cubic capacity sense. They’re capable of asserting a phenomenal amount of influence over us and though we almost certainly move onto bigger and better things, the majority still hold their first car in high regard. Of course the temptation to revisit cars like this is always there, and that in itself is quite a divisive subject, with many in the close-knit world of old cars feeling that it’s best to leave things in the past and savour the memories (rose tinted specs can be powerful things). Not everyone agrees though and this immaculate MkI #Ford Fiesta proves that looking back can sometimes be a very good thing indeed. It’s owned by Gordon Sherry and both he and his girlfriend Rossalynn used to run around in first-gen Fiestas when they were teenagers.

    “Yeah, it’d be fair to say this build was inspired and driven by nostalgia. We both had fond memories of these cars, and that’s what convinced us to hunt one out a few years ago. The proviso was that whatever car we bought had to be capable of daily use,” explains Gordon.

    The hunt for a suitable car was well and truly on, with priority being given to examples that hadn’t been totally consumed by the rampant rot that early ‘80s Fords were so susceptible to! The pair also fancied a car with some period Supersport graphics, though didn’t quite fancy stumping up the large sums that particular special edition now commands. A well-priced and decent looking car cropped up shortly after the pair started hunting. The only problem? It was in Swindon, Wiltshire, and Gordon and Rossalynn are based a good 400 miles away in Glasgow. It was Gordon who was dispatched to collect the car, long-distance train ticket in hand, and though it took a long while. He has nothing but praise for the way in which the Fiesta tackled the return trip. “It was totally faultless - didn’t even break a sweat, though the four-speed gearbox did make for some fairly loud sounds when pounding up the motorway,” chuckles Gordon.

    The 1983 car’s arches and sills were in remarkably good condition, and though it wasn’t exactly at a concours level, it was certainly very presentable – the perfect base for a project in other words! That said though, they loved how the car looked, the pair weren’t quite as taken with the retro charms of the car’s GL interior. It didn’t take long at all before the late-’80s Ford parts bin was being plundered for upgrades. Within months the Fiesta was sporting a neat pair of Recaros up front, with the rear bench and door pockets re-trimmed to match, plus a S1 RS Turbo head unit, clocks and rev counter from an XR2 and, strangely, the door pockets from a Hyundai Accent.

    The pair then went to town uprating the car’s chassis, stiffening things up nicely with KYB shocks, lowering springs and polybushes up front, and an adjustable Panhard rod. Vented discs and calipers from an XR2 were also bolted into place, and then housed in classic 13 inch RS four-spokes, leaving a nicely upgraded OEM package. Now that could well have been it, job done; the couple would’ve been left with a tidy, solid little retro runabout with a sorted chassis. A quick peek at the photos in this feature will tell you that Gordon and Rossalynn went further though, quite a bit further in fact!

    “The 1.1-engine was good, but not really up to handling modern traffic, especially when bolted to the four-speed gearbox. I was sorely tempted to fit a CVH turbo, but was eventually talked round to the idea of a Zetec instead, mainly due to the ease of the conversion and some of the cooling issues that might have cropped up with the turbo setup,” muses Gordon.

    The ‘black top’ Gordon eventually ended up buying came from a firm based in England called Kit Parts Direct, and they were able to sell him a brand new, zero mile crate engine for a good price. Back in Glasgow, and though undoubtedly handy with the spanners himself, Gordon decided to entrust the engine swap to Fiesta nuts and all round old Ford legends, Paddy and Jo at the Fiesta Farm. The pair went to work over the winter of 2011/’12, using their own driver’s side mount and an XR2 cradle to get the block sitting perfectly in the freshly painted ‘bay, then cutting the hole needed to run the all-important 1B5 gearbox. Along the way a few power modifications were also added, including a Fiesta RS1800 inlet, a stainless four-branch manifold leading to a custom exhaust, and M-tech V4 management. All was going very well and by the spring of 2012 Gordon was in a position to trailer his newly built car to a local dyno where it made a none too shabby 120bhp at the wheels.

    “I was really happy with that, but then it all went wrong as I was unloading the car from the trailer back home. The winch snapped and the car rolled backwards into a stone wall, smashing one rear-three quarter to bits,” Gordon explains.

    Gutted doesn’t begin to cover it, does it? Gordon was down but by no means out, taking the sensible view that, though the accident was galling, the Fiesta was ‘just a lump of metal at the end of the day,’ and that all damage could be fixed. There was also the fact that it gave him the perfect opportunity to treat the whole car to a much needed re-spray and attend to the various scabs of rust that’d begun to blight some areas of the car, so there was at least a sliver of silver lining to be found.

    “That near enough wrote off the 2013 show season, though the car was still drivable. I booked it into RM Bodywork, and Robert and the guys there did a fantastic job sorting out the mess and giving it a coat of Stratos Silver. I kept costs a bit lower by stripping it all down myself, and the car I dropped off to them was really nothing more than a rolling shell,” laughs Gordon. This meant that the shell was dropped back to Gordon and Rossalynn’s in April of this year, giving the pair just about enough time to get it all back together and working in time for the show season. That said even this didn’t go totally to plan as some absent-minded shopper decided to open their door into the Fiesta, resulting in a nasty dent that’s only just been sorted. It’s a car that earns its keep this, being used near enough each and every day, gamely braving some of the very worst of the Scottish weather, then coming back for more. It might not be a big power monster (though Gordon is currently fighting the urge to splash out on a set of individual throttle bodies, so more shove may well be on the menu in the not too distant future), but it is the perfect mix of old and new, the ideal way for the couple to re-live their formative automotive years and still have a perfectly practical car that starts on the button each and every morning.

    SPECIFICATION #1983 #Ford-Fiesta-MkI

    ENGINE: 2.0 #Zetec ‘black top’ crate engine running Ford fuel injection, #Ford-Fiesta RS1800i HO inlet manifold, custom built injection fuel tank, stainless 4-branch manifold to custom stainless exhaust, #M-Tech V4 management, Nippon Denso alternator, Fiesta Farm mounts and chassis modification, XR2 engine cradle.

    POWER: 120bhp at wheels.

    0-60 6.1 Seconds

    TRANSMISSION: IB5 MkV Escort 5-speed conversion, custom drive shafts.

    CHASSIS: KYB shocks and -50mm Fiesta Centre springs, adjustable Panhard rod, polybushed all round, Mondeo servo and master cylinder, XR2 vented discs, pads and calipers, braided hoses, hand polished 13” RS 4 spokes with 185/60/13 Toyo Proxes all round.

    EXTERIOR: 1983 facelift MkI 1.1 GL shell, fresh respray in Stratos Silver, Supersport bodykit and decals, skinny bumpers.

    INTERIOR: 1988 spec Recaro front seats, rear seat trimmed to match, re-trimmed door cards with Hyundai Accent door pockets to take 6” speakers. S1 RS Turbo digital FM head unit with Bluetooth connectivity for iPhone/iPod. Alpine amp and concealed Alpine slim component speakers front and rear, XR2 clocks with rev counter.

    SHOUT: Paddy and Jo at the Fiesta Farm, Robert at RM Bodywork, Rossalynn for putting up with the endless weekends in the garage.
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  •   Daniel 1982 commented on this post about 5 years ago
    Buyer’s Guide: #Ford-Fiesta-XR2-MkI / #Ford-Fiesta-XR2 / #Ford-Fiesta / Words Richard Barnett

    The XR2 was a revelation back in #1981 , and it’s still a frontdrive favourite today. Here’s how to pick a good’un...

    Launched at the end of 1981, the #Ford Fiesta XR2 MkI might have been Ford’s first foray into small, pokey hatchbacks, but what it lacked in stature it sure made up for in performance.

    However, while the Fiesta had been a sales success, the yawning gap at the top of the range for a seriously rapid version needed plugging — the 1300S was more of a styling exercise than a highperformance model, because it was more visual than re-engineered for performance — but creating the XR2 was a simple task.

    Once again Ford’s engineers looked at what could be taken off the shelf and stuffed into the Fiesta’s bodyshell, and the result was a simple yet highly effective car, whose only real rival was the first generation Renault 5 Gordini.

    Using the tried and trusted 1.6-litre Crossflow and breathing through a twin-choke Weber and out through a 4-2-1 exhaust manifold, performance was pretty lively. An XR3 gearbox was used, and the result was an 84 bhp hatch that could be bought for £5500. As Autocar put it in 1981: “Get it whizzing along country lanes, or grabbing the few overtaking opportunities that may exist in urban traffic, and one begins to wonder what might beat this manoeuvrable and responsive little car from A to B.”

    The XR2 was not merely about a bigger engine and gearbox able to handle that grunt, though. Ford boffins had worked the suspension, altering tie-bar brackets and changing damping rates, and sitting the XR2 1 inch closer to road than the standard models. They also fitted Sonic wheels, like those fitted on early 2.8i Capris.

    Meanwhile the engine and gearbox were lowered 15 mm so that, to quote Autocar again, “We have come to expect something special in the way of handling from Ford’s SVE department.”

    Inside, the XR2 used the Fiesta Ghia’s interior, but with Recaro seats from the XR3. Don’t expect the luxury of today’s small hatchbacks though: there are no electric windows or air-conditioning in Ford’s first 100 mph Fiesta. However, you’d be hard-pushed to find another car that’s as fun to drive. So forget the fact it’s frontwheel drive, because the original XR2 is a true classic Ford.


    Age, and the fact this was a performance car, means you’ve got to check any XR2 thoroughly: because an XR2 is likely to have some form of rot, and there’s every chance of accident damage, too.

    At the front check the spoiler area for stone chips and rust, as well as the bumpers. Front wings can rust around the headlamps, at the bottom behind the wheels and along the top — almost anywhere in fact! Bottoms of windscreen pillars can also bubble up, which is a serious sign of rot.

    Lift the bonnet and check the condition of the slam panel, which might have been damaged after a front-ender. Look at the condition of the suspension towers, the inner wings and the way the bonnet is aligned.

    Doors can rust on their bottom edges and while you’re at it, check to see if they drop when opened. Rust can also develop around the rear arches. Pay special attention to the area around the filler neck, which is a notoriously weak point. It’s highly likely this rear will have been repaired, but make sure, as far as you can, repairs have been done to a fair standard. Tailgates can rust around the glass, and they can also leak, which in turn fills the spare wheel well. If you can, see if there’s been any accident damage repairs.


    Don’t expect to find an immaculate, little-worn cockpit, unless the car you’re looking at is a low-mileage example. Seats can collapse and wear through, as can the carpet, while the rear parcel shelf can collapse. Door cards can fall apart and dashboards can crack. Window winders and door handles can crack and fall apart.

    When inspecting the interior beware of worn seats as they can collapse.


    Unlike other Ford ‘boxes, this one wasn’t known for the slickest of shifts, and it’s likely to have some wear by now. Loose-changing means the linkage is on the way out, while a worn synchro will be shown up by crunching between gears, especially between second and third.


    The XR2’s simplicity means there’s very little to go wrong. During the test drive watch out for vibration during braking; if that’s the case, the front discs have warped, but replacements are easily available. At the back the only source of trouble you may encounter would be weeping cylinders.


    Expect any car you try to handle well: if it doesn’t, there will be some glitches in the suspension. At the front, get under the arches and have a good look at the dampers — check for damage and signs of leaks.
    Front springs can break after a time, so be aware of this too. On a test drive keep your ears open for any noises as ball joints can wear out.

    The original wheels were 6x13-inch alloys with Pirelli P6 tyres.


    You’ll have to expect some wear in an engine this age. Wear in the pistons, bores and rings is likely, and if that’s the case there will be plenty of exhaust smoke and the engine won’t tick over smoothly. However, if the breather is blocked you’ll get the same symptoms, so make sure that it isn’t the culprit...

    Timing chains and valve gear can rattle badly, which isn’t too much of a worry, but what’s more serious is the ticking sound coming from the valve gear, which means cam followers might be cracked.

    Luckily, because the XR2 came from a pre-electronic era, there aren’t many gizmos, either with the engine or for the car’s occupants. Do the usual lights/ wipers/horn test, but don’t forget the rear wiper and the heated rear window.


    Dave is a 25-year-old test engineer for the aerospace industry. Fancying a slice of early ’80s blue oval, he bought his MkI XR2 three years ago, in a modified state and has spent the last 18 months bringing it back to fine, standard fettle.

    He’s got three years No Claims Bonus and also has a clean licence. Valued at £3000, he keeps the Fiesta tucked up in his parents’ garage in Bedford, and has a second car for commuting to work.

    Dave pays £226.48 to insure the Fiesta fully comprehensive on an Agree Value, limited mileage policy. Quote provided by Classic Ford Insurance (0800 0276146, www.classicford

    Engine 1598cc #Ford-Kent , featuring castiron cylinder head and block, single twin-choke #Weber-DFT carburettor. Compression ratio: 9.0:1.
    Max power: 84 bhp at 5500 rpm.
    Max torque: 91 lbf. ft at 2800 rpm.
    Gearbox #Ford-BC four-speed manual.
    Steering Rack-and-pinion
    Front: Independent, featuring coil springs, MacPherson struts and telescopic dampers.
    Rear: Beam axle, coil springs and telescopic dampers.
    Brakes 9.4-inch ventilated discs, 7x1.5-inch drums.
    Wheels And Tyres 6.0Jx13-inch alloy wheels fitted with 185/60 HR13 tyres ( #Pirelli-P6 tyres originally fitted).


    Should get you a complete non-MoT’d car in need of major restoration.

    Should get you a running car, perhaps with a short MoT, but in need of bodywork for next test.

    A decent XR2 (with tax and MoT), some rust but nothing major (probably need a resto in the next few years), and probably had previous welding work.

    A very nice XR2, (original or restored) with some history. Maybe some subtle mods on it. Very nice condition interior (maybe some wear).

    Past this mark you should be able to buy an XR2 that needs little or nothing doing — probably already restored.
    Prices will vary depending on amount of history and if standard (standard cars seem to fetch more, but not always the case). Should have an excellent interior.

    Should buy you a show car, restored to high standard, or a lowmileage original model (if you can find one). Full history, mint interior.


    Many thanks to Mitesh Parmar of www.fiesta-mk1. for his help with the above values.
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    Ford Fiesta MkI

    Ford Fiesta MkI
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