Ford of the 90s: My favourite generation
Ask any petrol head to name a couple of their most favourite cars and it won't be long before they mention a model prefixed with the name 'Ford'.
It's been over 5 years since I last owned a Ford. I often look back on it with fond memories. For many petrol heads like me, Ford holds a special place within our nostalgia memory banks.
I grew up in a relatively poor working class area during the 90's. A place where BMWs and Mercedes simply didn't exist. But what was not so rare in my neighbourhood were Fords. An abundance of them infact. I had a next-door neighbour (Reginald) who owned a pastel blue Ford Sierra hatchback that was religiously cleaned and kept locked away in his backyard garage. I remember the day he finally traded it in for yet another Ford Sierra, only this time an identically coloured estate. I did a double take when I saw it. What had happened to the back of his car??!!. Those Sierra estates sure were funny looking tube shaped things to a seven year old kid.
The neighbour to the left owned a bright red Fiesta XR2, left un-used on his driveway for months at a time. That car looked great; almost as good as the sporty MK2 Golf GTI that I always remembered seeing in my school car park.
Perhaps best of all though, was the jet black Escort RS 2000 parked outside the house across the street, a 1995 model. A car which I assumed must have been the best and most fastest Escort ever, cause '2000' was huge number! Oh how little I knew back then.
Family members also owned numerous different Fords during my childhood. My Dad owned a couple of old Ford Transits from his failed furniture removals business. A 1970's MK1 Luton Box van with a fading red paint job that sat rusting away on the driveway at my Mum's house for many years. Funnily enough, this was eventually deemed an eyesore by the neighbours and local council and was orderd to be taken away. My stubborn father soon replaced it immediately with a 1980's Ford Transit minibus, which also then sat on the driveway un-used for many moons!
Elsewhere in my family, my Aunties and Uncles had a mixture of Ford Mondeos, Fiestas and even an Orion (which I seem to remember having a very nice dashboard, lots of curvy buttons and switches).
The cars (and vans) of my childhood...
Despite growing up around so many Fords, my mum never actually owned a car until I was 16 years old. Until then we took plenty of taxis which, low and behold were always Ford Mondeos, without fail.
Interestingly however, the first car that my mum bought wasn't a Ford, rather a small Fiat Punto with a headgasket issue.
So yes, quite a few Fords were there in my early years to influence what I thought a car should be like. However, it is not those vehicles which I consider to be my favourite generation of Fords. Nope, not even the XR2 can swing it. The generation that takes this personal accolade emerged at the end of 1996, the same year that England nearly brought football home and also my debut year of Junior School. But most importantly to me, it was the year in which Ford revealed it's striking 'New Edge Design' philosophy, leading to the release of one of the most successful cars ever sold in the United Kingdom; the revolutionary Ford Focus.
Britain's most popular car between 1998 and 2004.
'New Edge Design'
So, what was this 'New Edge Design' I hear you ask? Well, to quote Wikipedia:
"New Edge distinctively combined intersecting arcs and other features, creating surface tension by adding creases to soft aerodynamic shapes."
Essentially it meant that in the space of two years, Ford went from making boring old cars like the Escort, to thoroughly modern, curvaceous new machines like this:
The quirky UK model range of New Edge Fords, spearheaded by the Focus.
I was instantly drawn to the original Ford Focus from the moment I saw it. What an unusual yet handsomely styled car. The general public loved it to. Throughout the MK1's entire production run, it remained the highest selling car in the UK, with the record breaking sales torch being passed over the MK2 in 2004.
However for me, the icing on the 'New Edge' cake came from their use in Motorsport.
The Mondeo went track racing in the form of the British Touring Car championship, whilst the Ford Focus was the big star for Ford Rallye Sport in the FIA World Rally Championship, with the smaller Puma Kit cars entering National Rally Championships with Privateer teams. Styled up for Motorsport, these New Edge Fords absolutely looked the business. As a kid I was inspired enough to try drawing a picture of the Mondeo BTCC car by copying from the motorsport section the Fast Ford Magazine.
And here it is! Motorsport artwork from a 10 year old.
Finely tuned competitive machines.
Fortunately, the strong styling and body kits were retained for the road-going versions of these cars, ensuring they looked the part for those die hard Ford Fanatics.
The Mondeo ST200 looked incredibly slick with it's full body kit and multi-spoke alloy wheels, retaining that touring car look and going against everything that comes with the "Mondeo Man" image. The Ford Imperial blue paintwork looking great from every angle. Even the lesser powered ST24 models were sharp on the eye.
The Mondeo ST200 produced 202bhp from it's 2.5-litre V6 engine.
The much smaller Ford Racing Puma was a serious looking, limited edition machine, with a noticeably fat stance from it's pumped up wheel arches and it still looks mean today. I can count on 1 finger the number of times I've seen one on the road though. They really are a very rare sight indeed, and much like a Renault Clio V6, used prices for the Tickford assembled Racing Puma have shot up in the last few years.
500 Racing Pumas were made exclusively for the UK Market.
However, as you've probably guessed by now, my absolute favourite of the three is the Focus RS. It's always been a great looking car, but in RS form its a contender for the best looking Ford ever made. Retaining all the curvaceousness of shopping model, but adding the stance of the Rally Car, with the most perfectly matched OZ Racing wheels and the subtlest of subtle single pipe exhausts. However yes, even I will admit the colour co-ordination of the interior is really bad. The lesser performing Focus ST170 has the classier interior. I'm not quite sure what Ford were thinking when designing that part blue steering wheel, or the two tone Sparco Racing seats, but I can forgive them simply for the beauty found on the outside.
One of the best looking hot hatches of all time?
So it's clear that I love the Ford Focus, however despite all this I categorically refuse to own one, unless it's an RS. Why? Simple. The Focus is absolutely everywhere. It's just too common. The moment of feeling special behind the wheel disappeared soon after 1998 as sales spiralled out of control. Only an RS badged Focus is rare enough for me to consider and I'd want to drive it as a daily, which is not a good idea with car this rare. So it's completely off the cards right now.
So which 'New Edge' Ford did I own?
Since obtaining my driving license, I have always avoided owning highly popular cars. It makes perfect sense to me. If you truly love cars, why drive around in something that everyone else already has? And this was my biggest problem with New Edge Fords. They all sold in huge numbers, they were literally everywhere, jamming up our roads, filling our car parks and driveways. It was 90's Ford pandemonium for every model...except one:
The Ford Cougar. My 'New Edge' model of choice.
It sold poorly in the UK, but despite this I've always fancied owning one. In metallic silver, they looked particularly good, though it's a shame that the other colours didn't age so well. The Puma was perhaps sharper to look at, but it's bigger brother was still very handsome and extremely practical, being based on the Mondeo. Park it next to the old Ford Probe and the Cougar becomes the best looking car in the world.
After running a Peugeot 406 as a cheap banger for 6 months back in 2012 (See my article The Worst Car I've ever owned) I knew I had to switch to something a bit special and so for a mere £550, I acquired a 1998 2.5 V6 model in X-pack specification with 128,000 miles on the clock. What a bargain. It handled very smoothly indeed and was in great condition. That V6 engine had a particularly distinctive growl when pushing towards the limiter and certainly felt quicker than the numbers suggested. In the end, I only kept hold of it for a year as issues began to crop up and I knew it wasn't going to be a long termer. I do miss it though and I could only imagine how good it must have been as a brand new car back in the 90s.
The only Ford I've ever owned.
And whilst I couldn't own a Ford Focus for the reasons mentioned earlier, the Cougar ticked all the boxes and finally gave me my "New Edge" fix some 12 years after they were first released. It's a shame that the Cougar was never officially replaced, leaving a large coupe shaped void at the top end of Ford's line-up over the last decade.
I will admit that my childhood passion for Fords slowly faded away towards the end of the noughties. The MK2 Focus RS was certainly very interesting, but Ford's regular model range had sinced moved onto the next generation "Kinetic Design" language which lacked the same boldness as their late 90's siblings, so my attention eventually turned elsewhere.
The latest and greatest V8 Ford Mustang.
However, all hope is not lost. I think that latest Ford Mustang (finally available in right-hand drive in the UK!) is one of the prettiest new cars out there right now and with a massive 5.0 V8 on tap it's everything a petrol head could ever want. My dormant passion for Ford has been suitably rekindled and I just can't wait to see what Ford will come up with next.
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