When I were a lad: The self repairing Sierra.

Here’s the first of a few tales of woe from when I were nowt but a whipper snapper. Stories of motoring misery or mayhem many of us will relate too…

A Sierra with pepperpots and Ghia badges… welcome to the future in the eighties and bargain motoring of the nineties! If I had a time machine… I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Let’s be truthful, how many of us have gone to look at used car only to be fed a load of old pony from the vendor about how the car only needs this or requires a little bit of that to make it perfect? You see it in the online adverts, too, where the faults are mentioned and the remedy is also mentioned – for most of the time, it’s all utter tripe. There’s a very true saying that every used car has its story…

Blimey, if some of mine from when I was a pup could speak, I’d be writing this from the comfort of a prison library! I once travelled across the Pennines to view a used Saab that was so full of little niggling problems that, having listened to the dunderhead owner tell me all about what needed to be done for half an hour, I put the journey down as half a day out in the countryside and ran off.

However, sometimes these snag-riddled rattlers make a stunning bargain purchase, especially if you are savvy with a spanner. That said, just as with an advisory issue on your MOT, these need to be addressed if you want to avoid trouble with your Triumph with a capital T – faults just don’t go away by magic. And yet how many of you have heard that smile inducing quote ‘oh, it’s sorted itself out’?

Plenty I would imagine… If you cut your finger on a Spam tin, it bleeds like a machete-frenzied massacre but, after a week or so, the wound heals and you would never know – the human body is quite remarkable. If only you could park your Marina in the garage after clobbering a bollard and come back a week later to find a similar miracle… Nope, that front wing still looks as bent as an expenses-fiddling MP.

My mind takes me back about four stones ago when my good mate, but often spectacularly useless; Richard bagged a really cheap 87/D Sierra 2.0i Ghia. All the boxes were ticked so far as it was gold metallic, had a gutsy injected Pinto, a slick-shifting five-speeder and had what lesser-badged Ford owners had wet dreams in the night over – pepper pot alloy wheels.

There were, of course, some downsides in that it required a fair bit of welding and, thanks to that other Sierra trait of knackered compliance bushes on the track control arms, it cornered with all the pin-sharp precision of a Tesco trolley. There was also the issue of its MOT being even shorter than the lifespan of a mayfly, but the car was bought for pin money and destined to be nothing more than sold on for a modest but worthwhile profit.

The Sierra interior from its launch in 82 to its exit in 1993 was a textbook lesson in ergonomics and driver comfort. You had to go premium to find an easier to use and more fitting cockpit… in my opinion that is!

After burning a few holes in our finest Fruit of the Loom T-shirts with a Clarke Mini Mig and some fettling of the front suspension, the all-important ticket was issued, but then another problem came up. Every now and again it would simply splutter and die – my mate was convinced it was muck in the fuel while I was betting my last Rolo it was the coil or something electrical breaking down under heat/load owing to the fact it seemed time/distance related.

However, this was my problem as it wasn’t my car and my labour was provided as a favour. Well, that was until one weekend when my friend’s parents went up North visiting family. Plans were made to spend Saturday night terrorising the residents of Northampton with the Sierra, grab an Indian take out and some tins and duly fly back to his house to watch something ‘educational’ on the VHS.

For reasons I can’t remember, we had a spin out to Rugby in the end (some 18 miles west) via our test route of choice – the A428 via West Haddon and Crick. It was getting late by now and about half a mile shy of Althorp House, where the Euston – Birmingham railway line crosses the A428, the Sierra lost all its power as if someone had turned the key off.

Ahh… the veritable Pinto Ford lump. Simple and easy to mend, took abuse in its stride and when it did go wrong… cost nowt but pennies to put right.

Freewheeling onto the verge some furious engine churning failed to coax some life back; that’s ok he said; she’ll go again in 10 minutes. The allocated time came and went but the car point blank refused to run and, by now, the battery was fading fast. I remember getting somewhat irate as I had taken it as red that he’d fixed the fault only for him to reckon that, because it hadn’t packed up in a few days, it must have surely cured itself.

Thanks to those pre-mobile days, we enjoyed a long six or seven mile walk in pitch darkness with about three cigarettes between us back to his parents’ house to grab my car and drag his sick Sierra back to civilisation. We did, of course, try thumbing a lift but, quite rightly, who was going to stop for two lads in the middle of nowhere rapidly approaching the middle of the night?

Arriving back at the scene of the breakdown, the Sierra’s hazards were dimmer than a glow worm. My hefty jump leads crackled and sparked as some badly-needed amps were shovelled back into the recipient’s 085 battery. Out of curiosity he turned the key and the damn thing kicked into life immediately and was driven back to Northampton without any further drama.

By now, all the purveyors of fine spicy cuisine in a carton were long closed and we were simply way too knackered to watch any TV. We laughed it off back then, though, just as we did a few weeks ago when recounting our many mayhem-filled motoring mishaps – over, of course, a well-earned Indian meal.

Oh, and by the way, it was the coil!



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