Fords!

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AII good things come to an end eventually, we are told. It was so with the Ford Sierra XR 4×4 which I used until its odometer registered 42,988 miles, in which distance, as I have reminded regular readers to distraction, not an iota of trouble impaired its quite astonishing and highly commendable reliability. The only slight defect was some mild compliance which had developed in the front suspension. When I say ‘came to an end’, this applies only to my ownership. I expect E796 HHK is now in the care of another owner; it would be interesting to hear eventually how it continues its unblemished record of dependability. Remembering, as one of Punch‘s blinding glimpses of the obvious, that be it Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit or Citroen 2cv, if it won’t start or having done so, breaks down, it is as worthless as a horseless cart.

The end of this faithful V6 Sierra as far as I was concerned involved merely exchanging it for a new H-registration Ford. (I don’t pay any heed to the latest registration letters, but my daughters do). To do this I arose before daybreak one morning, drove out of Wales and along the M45 and M1 motorways, into the flatlands of Essex, to collect from Cleales of Haverhill, Ford Main Dealers, another Sierra XR 4×4, my fourth as it happens. It had just 26 miles on the clock. It was not that I disliked the easy power of the V6 version, but a car-hostile Government makes it more economical to run a car of less than 2-litres; also, I would stress, it starts company car tax at the unrealistic threshold of £8500.

Anyway, I was due for a change. The replacement is a 2.0 DOHC Tasman blue, Uniroyal-shod (tread depth 7.5mm) XR4x4, with the 1998cc four-cylinder 8-valve power pack. I was conscious that I was down 18 bhp on power, but that both 2.8 and 2.0 Ford engines peaked at roughly the same crankshaft speed. Obviously, you change gear a bit more frequently to keep the smaller engine happy, so it was good to find a more stubby gearlever controlling a change more in keeping with Ford’s once so-silky shifts. Parking for a quick lunch on ‘delivery day’, which was nearly 500 miles of lorry and fog frustration, I discovered that reverse gear position is on the opposite side of the gate to that of the V6, and that you lift a ring-catch to engage it. Even this gear now has synchromesh!

Otherwise, not much had changed. I cannot condone too frequent a disruption of details or makers who contrive to make each of their models different, in this respect. I appreciated additional stowages, and had been shown how Ford has followed the Japanese ploy of remote control for boot lid and fuel filler flap locks. Only thrifty Ford sensibly use one lever with a two-way action, down by the driver’s right hand, to effect this. I welcomed two swivelling map lamps in the roof (the courtesy interior lamps are now low down near the floor) and a heated windscreen, which I didn’t have on the earlier V6 Sierra. Otherwise I was pleased to find the interior layout was virtually unchanged. Looking round, I was relieved to see that I still had Ford’s manual sunroof, central door-locking, electric window-lifts (now on all four doors) and electric adjustment of the external rearview mirrors. You see, many years ago I took over a Rover 3500 V8 which I thought had a sliding roof, manual gearbox and electric windows. But getting into it I felt for the window switches only to encounter winding handles, glanced upwards to see a solid roof, and downwards to find I had automatic transmission! That sort of experience scars you for life…

As for those ‘faults on delivery’ which the road testers on the weekly motor papers find so frequently, the only ones on this Ford were a slightly reluctant to close driver’s door, a mild ‘pip’ from the horn as the central locking was operated to lock all the doors and a rear roof lamp which was falling off.

Then a worry intruded. I am a believer in anti-lock brakes and anyway, if you have become accustomed to them, it seems a retrograde, even maybe a potentially dangerous, step to go without them. I expected the Sierra 2.0 EFi to have the same effective anti-lockers as I had on the V6. But I could not see on the instrument panel the warning light which denotes that they are fitted. Nor does the handbook help. Short of crawling beneath the car, how can one be sure; even then, what exactly does one look for? If in saying this I am being naive and too honest a journalist, so be it! And had my sparkling new car the catalytic convertor the handbook spoke of? (I was to find that it had the anti-lock brakes but not the catalytic convertor).

On that first journey homewards I liked the car’s taut feel (unworn dampers?) and the easy running of the engine, which I tried to keep to below 3000 rpm out of unnecessarily diehard running in prejudices, but thought it rather noisy if given its head. The area of the windscreen seemed most commendable, uncluttered as it was by out of date paddock passes and the like — and so clean! The headlamps too, seemed to emit splendid beams. A label reminded me of Ford’s conscientious anti-theft precautions but the steady reading fuel gauge needle dropped so slowly that I was unable to accept that in 230 miles only half the unleaded contents of the 10.3 gallons tank had been consumed. Later a rough check suggested nearer 27 mpg.

The only external changes between old and new Sierra are a rear spoiler ‘divorced’ from the body on the latter, so that air flows under as well as over it. The older type of spoiler was so useful for placing cups and other picnic items on that I shall occasionally miss it, and I wonder whether either type does much for the roadholding even at motorway speeds, unless at the licence losing end of the scale? It will be interesting to see how these two similar Fords compare — one with its notably parsimonious fuel demands from lazy pushrod power on which the last set of Michelin tyres, in an average mileage of 21,750 still had between them tread depths of 5, 4, 3 and 2mm with a still usable Uniroyal spare (incidentally, on this surefooted, ice-defeating 4WD car, the front tyres wear the quicker), the other with an efficient ‘racing type’ 2-litre power unit.

Later perhaps I shall have some more thoughts and figures, but for the present, favourable impressions. Apart from one horrid innovation — open a door with the lights on and a bell chimes — and if you do not know you have left your lamps on, or a door open, (as a graphic information module on this Sierra reminds you) surely you should not be in charge of one of these lethal weapons? I must see if it can be disconnected, the chiming part I mean, at the first service.

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