All-Rounders. It’s a terribly primitive turn of phrase when you dissect it. It’s unflattering, unattractive and probably unfair on those whose talents are wider and more brilliant than mine. To take it further, it’s one step short of the famous insult ‘Jack of All Trades – Master of None’. Any cricket fan would cite Botham, Flintoff and Stokes as some of the most brilliant students of the game – so why the flippancy?

All-Rounders aren’t a compromise. They don’t discredit you – they are the best of both worlds. Take Sophie Ellis – Bextor. There’s a girl who you can take to the staff party as your +1 in confident pride, to a black tie ball knowing she can hold her own, and on a naughty weekend knowing she can hold yours. The sort of woman you’d happily introduce to your mother and your football mates with equal delight.

Nervously, I put my Ford Sierra in that category. This little lady just keeps on doing her thing, whatever situation and environment she finds herself in. In our two happy years together, we’ve been to 5* hotels and to trading estates. We’ve availed ourselves of Sunday dinner in leafy Cambridgeshire, followed immediately by the weekly duties of discount supermarkets. Just like the aforementioned Ian and Sophie, always coping admirably.

Only, I’d never expect either of them to excel at the ‘indoor refuse and recycling centre’. On that front, the Sierra just comes out on top. Granted, you wouldn’t buy it naughty underwear for a weekend away – or ask it to wag the tail when you’re 72-7. But as an all-rounder, surely she’s worthy of a review?



The Return of Cardinal Red

The bASe has been in the naughty corner for a couple of weeks now.  After the disappointment of our absence at Festival of the Unexceptional, it’s been losing quite a bit of coolant into a mysterious vortex – and has been tricky to start.  Despite this, I pushed it out of the garage yesterday to make a bit of progress with the paintwork.  The plan is to make the entire car as good as possible all over, before letting it all settle down in a uniform pattern.  Initially, I was going to replace the two nearside doors and take it back to the guy who did the offside.  However, I’m really struggling to find any MK1 doors that are reasonably nearby and that are in decent condition.  Also, finances dictate that I do a bit of polishing myself.  It’s something I’m perfectly capable of, just don’t particularly enjoy!  Being disciplined, these are the things I should do  – leaving money for those jobs for which I just don’t have the talent.

QUESTION: Do P100 doors fit the front of a MK1 Sierra?  I’ve got a good lead on some of these.

Anyway, things are progressing quite nicely.  I don’t trust myself with a full blown machine polisher, so this is just a cheap Argos random orbital poliser, some T Cut, a small amount of G3 and a bit of Turtle Wax I’ve had lying around for about 3 years!  No doubt much more impressive results could be achieved with more expensive equipment and products, but for now this is just fine.






The one thing you don’t appreciate about Cardinal Red, until it’s clean, is just how much of a pink tinge it has.  This isn’t due to a lack of skill with my polishing, as the side that’s been completely resprayed in “Ford R1” really shows it off.  I’ll endeavour to capture it in a picture for next time.

The next job is to get the coolant leak identified and remedied.  Naturally, I’m hoping it’s not the headgasket (and not just for financial reasons).  Right now, both Chris (friendly spanner juggler) and I are both time poor too – so let’s hope it’s just another leaky hose.


After much soul searching, I decided to spend some hard earned money on the Sierra’s bodywork. The appearance of the car has been subject of much discussion; many believing it should be left in the same way the previous owner did – others mooting a full blown refurbishment. I’ve decided to head between the two buoys and make informed choices that will lead to the car’s long term survival.

With that in mind, the rear quarter panel that was crowdfunded and a new front wing have been fitted to the bASe already this month. It was always going to be difficult to colour match on a car with such contaminated and faded paint, so we decided to give the whole side a blow over.

And here she is, all done.

Life’s not all gravy though. We do have a mystery coolant leak at the moment, probably in the region of half a litre to every 100 miles. It for well be that the top hose that we had to shorten is leaking, but I’m cynical. I really hope it’s not the head gasket and it’s just a perished hose, but I can’t see anything right now. #PrayForDan pls.


I am so deflated right now. 

All improvements on the Sierra over the last few months have been with one solitary purpose – the very popular and much celebrated ‘Festival of the Unexceptional’.  Each year, the unsung heroes of a generation congregate at a salubrious venue, with thousands of visitors marvelling at their obscurity and near extinction.  Really, the Sierra ought to be the mascot of the event.  Yet, this year we will be absent.

The car went in for some bodywork earlier this week in order to secure its future. I was nervous about timescales, but the guy was keen to do it now so it looked its best for the adoring public. Sadly, for whatever reason, it just hasn’t happened. Late morning we were roughly on track for an evening finish, but the phone has just rung and all bets are now off.

With nothing else suitable to take, I’m now forced to do something more constructive with my time. You have no idea how sad the very notion of this actually makes me. I guess, as with all love affairs, cars too have the propensity to break your heart. 

Please leave an oil stained chalk outline for us at Stowe House tomorrow.



Really, there are only two things that differentiate the base model of Sierra from its luxuriously appointed stable mate ‘L’. Firstly, the iconic and short lived grey grille and, secondly, the wonderfully simple and semi naked wheels. Only a small wheel cap protects its modesty, and 12 square shaped holes circle the rim like the numbers on a timepiece.

The utterly frugal methods the previous owner employed to keep the car functioning were both honourable and amusing. However, it’s time to move attentions from inside the bonnet to outside and to return some originality to the Sierra. I’ve managed to collect four of the base spec wheels and, for £120 fitted, have today added them to the car.

Oh. And before you start shouting “You’ve changed” at me, calling me “Champagne Charlie” etc, my inner Heath Robinson did make an appearance once home.

See, the wheel caps are very difficult to find in excellent working order. Most have very worn or missing teeth on the inside, meaning they just fall off. Channeling the previous owner psychically lead to this perfectly acceptable and awful bodge.

My 1 year old had his first ride out in it earlier on. Genuinely, he laughed all the way home. 

The Sierra is off for some final work before The Festival of the Unexceptional at the weekend.

Mirror Mirror on the Base…

…Your loyal owner’s on the case

No longer will your mirrors fold

Wobble, close or be covered in mould.


“I want to see where I’m going, not where I’ve been”.  These were the exact words a school friend’s Dad said to the police who caught him riding a bicycle with no back light.  25 years later, this still makes me laugh – as it’s a fair point well made.  It’s for this very reason that the Sierra has trundled on for the last 3000 miles with a gaffa taped offside mirror.  However, there’s a small progress update to be made.

A huge thanks goes to the generous and utterly lovely Martin for the donation of two NOS dangly mirrors to #ProjectbASe.  Whilst the existing passenger side unit was fine, the drivers side one was beyond what even I deem acceptable; folding in at speeds above 30 mph and wobbling like someone who’d just spent their entire Giro in Wetherspoons.

Removal of both suggests that the drivers mirror was, in fact, the original (with foam still in tact beneath) where as the passenger side had no such insulation and a missing washer.

It was a simple job, but very satisfying.  There was part of me that thought “Hey – these are wasted on this car” but meh.  The car needs to be usable, and these will help greatly.


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The Autobiography of the Sierra Base

Last night I took the Sierra along to the Classic Car Meet at Earls Barton.  It’s my final week working with Connect FM in Kettering, so it made sense to bring the car along on the way home towards Cambridge.

Last time I took the car along, I think people were more puzzled by its presence than pleased.  I never wanted to put an information card on the car, because…err… in essence, I’m not “that sort” of owner.  However, I agreed a bit of context would help in this case so have written the following.



I know.

At first glance, it looks like I don’t belong here.

I’m acutely aware that I stand out like the proverbial Fart in a Lift, and that my best days are probably behind me.  I know my wheels are small and my appeal smaller – that my rear bumper is from a Nissan and that the dent in my side makes you wince.  I’ve heard it all before.

However, as the most unremarkable car here, my story is anything but.  I think it’s worthy of being told.

Far from being a cherished garage queen, I’ve spent the majority of my life ‘earning my keep’.  Among other things, I’ve been a taxi, a decorators van and transport to an evangelical church on a Sunday.  My previous owner didn’t maintain me, more ‘sustain’ me.  (My windscreen wiper mechanism used to feature a dishcloth from the kitchen, and I’ve only got two matching wheels.)  What is miraculous though, is that I still exist.

A bit like the demise of “The Corrs”, nobody can quite put their finger on the exact moment that all Ford Sierras disappeared from the roadside. Gradually though, they did – only to reappear years later as callously ‘improved’ Cosworth replicas or as Rumbelows Fridge Freezers.

However, something extraordinary happened to me.


I just kept on being used.  Driven as intended.  I’ve aged gracefully without interference or improvement, and have been ‘just a car’ for nearly 35 years now.

As I gently slipped from middle to old age, something else happened.  People would come to see me.  Not at shows or in museums, but at the side of an anonymous looking road in Clapton, North London.  People would travel miles – just to see ME!  I know right?! Madness.

If this is the first time you’ve seen one like me, here’s my Curriculum Vitae:

  • 1.6 pinto with (count them) 4 gears
  • No radio
  • No cigarette lighter
  • No headrests
  • No rear windscreen wiper
  • No intermittent front wipers
  • No clock
  • No central locking
  • No electric windows
  • No rev counter
  • No wheel trims (just hub caps)
  • No body mouldings or rubbing strips
  • No rear seat belts

 And of course I have the iconic

  • Grey grille
  • Dangly mirrors

I am the absolute antithesis of the Ford Sierra Cosworth.  Everything IT is, I am not. In reality, the Ford Sierra Base had the accolade of being both unloved by the buying public AND the dealers who tried to sell us.  I was rare then, and I’m unheard of now.

In 2016 I was purchased by a consortium of masochists from the Autoshi*e car forum, in order to be saved from an uncertain future.  I have had considerable work done recently in order to secure my viability for the future, none of which has or ever will be cosmetic. Please rest assured that, whilst looking a bit worse for wear, I am loved dearly by my new owner.  You can follow my (lack of) progress at

I am now enjoying my retirement in leafy and salubrious Cambridgeshire, a far cry from the rough and tumble of North London.

As my owner always says, “I am what I am”.  A forgotten curiosity of the 1980s.  Think of me as white dog poo; just a bit more enjoyable to step into.  (Only by a fine margin).


Rubber belts and leaky boxes.

Following the success of the MOT, it was time to show a little more mechanical love and sympathy to the bASe. Whilst preventative maintenance was clearly never on the previous owner’s agenda, he wasn’t attempting to drive it on 170 mile round trips in all weathers. Once again, the amazing Alf892 climbed into his overalls and many improvements have been made.

  • Timing belt replacement. (Gifted)
  • Thermostat replaced (Funded)
  • Tappets adjusted.
  • Rocker gasket replacement (Again)

Have some multimedia content.

Airbox off


Rocker box off.


Isn’t she lobeley?


Lovely jaguar doubles up as workbench.


Bigger spanner is big.


Alf ruining perfectly good, high quality tools just to get to tappets on cylinder 3 (hampered access)


Rocker box has been leaking because the (excuse my pidgin) holes are protruding – meaning nothing was flush. MC Hammer time.


About 2.5 hours later, it’s all back together! Succe…


Oh. Operator error?


I stopped rolling just as I (and the neighbours) added new words to our vocabularies. Time I step in and actually so something useful then…


Eventually, after a little coercion, she started. As did the daleks…



It drives like an absolute rocketship now; I would say at least 20% up on power. The alternator belt has now shut up and it’s driving fantastically. I’ve never heard a Pinto sound this good, it’s beautiful.

I find myself saying this a lot at the moment, but heartfelt thanks to Alf and his talents. He even plied me with beer at the same time!

Festival of the Unexceptional is next month – hope to see some of you there.

Now what?

A week after I dropped off the Sierra, I’ve finally managed to find 10 minutes spare to pick it up from the garage.

There’s just the one advisory on there about mismatched tyres – frustrating really as I’ve been meaning to get the full set of base spec wheels on the car for some time now. Compared with where the car was 14 months ago, we’ve come a long long way. The frustrating thing is, despite a lot of love and a lot of money being thrown at it, it still looks as awful as it did. I’m poised to put a new rear quarter panel on, but am sat on my hands because I honestly think it’s a waste. It will still look shit, but I’ll be another £200 lighter. It still needs at least two doors and a wing – by which point you need to change the bumper too – and if you’re doing that you’d be stupid to ignore the hole in the boot.  On top of that, the driver’s mirror is close to becoming ‘decorative purposes only’.

Once you’ve done all this you’ve got

  1. A £1000 car that owes you double
  2. The necessity of a respray
  3. Trigger’s broom.

It’s a quandary. Have I gone as far as I can justify, or is this just the beginning??  It’s one of those situations where you need to do everything, or nothing; the middle is just one huge trap.  Evidently, Leroy (the previous owner) picked his path – and I’m minded to follow his example.  I just want the car to look like it’s loved. Even just a bit.

You can see how “Mission Creep” happens.

In other news, my friend Emma who helped collect the car is still stable (she has stage 4 cancer) and is being threatened with a journey out in the Sierra soon!

Ps. Here’s some hidden chod at the garage.

Back in the Game

Great news! With minimum fuss, the Sierra’s future is secured for another year.

The car was collected by ‘Ken the Weld’ and returned to the MOT station a couple of hours later all complete.  There was a 5″ area to the nearside suspension mounting that needed cutting out and replacing, and a smaller patch hidden right under the washer bottle.  (Being honest, I knew about the latter).

The car’s been retested and now has 12 months ticket to ride!


Confession time.  I never noticed the variety in tyre sizes fitted.  Neither did the previous tester (!)