Friday March 15, 2019
Some us older types have sometimes mused on how there seem to be more XR2 Mk. Is on the road than actually left the factory and today you are far less likely to encounter an early base model Fiesta.
Jack Daniel Ford is the proud owner of this incredibly rare 950cc-powered 1981 Popular, and every detail coveys a lost world of Ghost Town and Stand and Deliver blaring from every branch of HMV.
The Popular name has been associated with entry-level British Fords since the 1953 103E and 13 years after the demise of its 100E successor in 1962, the brand was revived for the base speciation Escort Mk. II. The Fiesta version debuted in late 1980 and this commercial stars a smug-looking Jeff Rawle at the wheel of £2,849 worth of new Ford –
‘How much?’ exclaims a startled Mini 850 driver in a not so subtle reference to one of the Fiesta’s principal rivals. N.B. The advert also contains equally understated digs at the VW Polo Mk. I and a jaw-dropping reference to the Datsun Cherry N10.
Meanwhile, the brochure listed ‘diagonally split dual line braking system’, ‘self-adjusting clutch’, ‘Electric engine fan’ and, best of all, ‘Printed circuit instrument wiring’ amongst its sales features. The Fiesta Popular was also devoid of a passenger sun visor, a dipping rear-view mirror, a heated rear screen, a rear parcel shelf, reversing lights and fresh air vents.
However, to countless motorists, this was of less importance than the fact it was versatile, reliable, more contemporary in looks than a Lada or Škoda– and £300 cheaper than the previous “Standard” model.
In short, the latest Ford to bear the “Popular” badge was the perfect vehicle for fleet managers and private motorists on a restricted budget. Furthermore, having the windscreen washers operated by a floor-mounted manual pump both helped to develop character and act as an incentive to climb the corporate ladder so to finally gain the keys of a company Fiesta Ghia.
Sadly, as with so many economy cars, the Popular often suffered the fate of being regarded as a disposable tool. Today they are now less frequently encountered than an episode of East Enders where the cast does not sound like Anthony Newley and/or Dick Van Dyke. Jack’s handsome blue Fiesta goes by the Nom-de-Ford of “Bert”, and he was purchased ‘in 2009 for £400’.
At that time Bert was ‘in a bit of a state. I was 16 and had just begun my apprenticeship and set on to weld the sills, floors, remove the engine and get him on the road ready for when I'd pass my driving test’.
Jack points out that the work was ‘done to a very tight budget’ – ‘he was on the road in 2010 and ever since I have stuck to keeping him running and insured doing whatever I need to do to keep him alive’.
Two years ago, Bert was’ handed over to a friend to respray, I fitted some 13'' steel wheels of a Sierra with XR2 tyres and made him look like new again. I have moved house several times over the years, and he's followed me everywhere I've gone.’
Naturally, Bert attracts a great deal of attention whenever he is taken for a spin, and Jack regards him as ‘one of the family’. Indeed, the gentleman sporting the natty Sid James style flat hat is a one-year-old Ford junior - ‘My son has always been obsessed’. After all, classic enthusiasm may commence at any age.