My father’s car was a Jaguar…
…And he drives it rather fast/Castles, farms and draughty barns/We go charging past.
Inspired by the recent article from our good friends at Gear Patrol about the cars our Dad’s drove and how it informed our own automotive opinions, we thought we’d do a quick tour of the office and see if there was any four wheeled pedigree in our parental midst.
What we found however was less a collection of cool motoring legends like the 1969 Mustang Fastback or 1987 Porsche 924s, but in the interests of nostalgia and transparency (cars say a lot about us you know) we share the results below:
Ford Escort RS Turbo/Lotus Esprit
My Dad is a bit of legend for many reasons, but one of the most important is because he made me the car enthusiast I am today. I can’t narrow it down to one particular motor, because throughout my childhood our driveway was graced with a variety of Lotuses, fast Fords… and vans. I was known at school for always getting dropped off in cool cars; my pals would stop and stare and point whilst I, ever so coolly, stepped out of Dad’s latest machine. And I bloody loved it.
My favourite fast Ford (still to this day) was Dad’s 1980s ‘Essex white’ B-reg Ford Escort RS Turbo; B497PLY was special. I remember standing on the front door step, lunch box in one hand and school bag in the other thinking: ‘This car looks fast just sat there’. It had grey velour Reccaro seats, a digital clock above the rear view mirror which glowed the time in green ‘Back to the Future’ digits and a spongey white rear spoiler (which we were NOT allowed to try and pick at). It was cool; Dad knew it, I knew it and my mates knew it. Unfortunately, so did the local car thief, who would attempt to nick it on what seemed like a monthly basis; they were never successful thanks to an ultra-sensitive alarm which would go off if you so much as farted within a 20 meter radius of it.
When I moved up to Grammar school, Dad’s fast Ford days were behind him and he was firmly a 90’s Lotus man. Getting dropped to school in the British Racing Green Esprit was a completely different experience; I felt too flashy and didn’t like the attention. I’d beg to be dropped off round the corner but the older boys at school thought differently and I became known as ‘that girl in year 8, you know the one, her dad’s got a supercar’, which made it OK. My favourite memory of the Esprit was arriving to school late (it happened a lot), and the caretaker not taking too kindly to Dad parking on his zig zags. My mornings would often start by watching him chase this odd, wedge-shaped car up the road wielding a broom.
Like I said, my Dad’s a legend. Jemma
1981 Renault 18 Turbo
I have mixed memories of my dads cars growing up. There was a Vauxhall Cavalier, an Orange Mini and a Renault 5. However the car that I first remember was an Electric Blue Renault 18 Turbo. The Renault 18 featured a “powerful” 1.6l engine, five-speed gearbox, negative offset front suspension, four-stud alloy wheels, rear spoiler, dashboard and interior fittings from the Renault Fuego. It was to be Renaults first ‘World market’ car and in my memory it was a sleek Gallic sports car that dad had imported from France making me the envy of school friends.
In reality it was a modest boxy typical French car that sounded (although I suspect didn’t drive) better than it looked. It had leather seats which I vividly remember burning the backs of my legs overtime dad dragged us over to France on our annual campaign holidays. In reality, the import from France was more accurately described as my fathers frugality in being able to buy it cheaper direct from the Renault factory in Paris necessitating what i imagine to be the equivalent of a booze cruise for cars! Still, better than the Renault 12 that preceded or the Laguna that followed! Andy
For me, my memory of the family car isn’t just about the car, it’s the memories of where I was or what I did. The type of car we had was related to the family finances: a maroon BMW 3 Series gave way to a bright orange Opal which was sold for a nice beige Volvo. However two memories prevail. The first is when I used to scavenge for John Player Special cigarette butts from the floor of my dad’s Mitsubishi Shogun, light them off the cigarette lighter (for younger readers, this is what used to be there before you could charge your mobile) and have a sneaky puff when everyone was inside. The other memory is of checking under the car for bombs – part of growing up in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. I never really knew what I was looking for but we did it every morning before we got in the car to go to school. Nowadays, I’m glad to say that both those things are in my past. Nicola
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
In more recent years, my father has been quite eclectic with his choices of motors but, when I was growing up, I remember a long line of Fords that graced our driveway. There was an absolute shitbox of a Cortina Estate that had rust holes so big you could put your fist in them and then a series of Sierras in the mid to late 1980s. The one I really remember was the D-reg Sierra RS Cosworth. Clearly, things were going rather well for my dad around this time, because our family ride went from being a bog-standard Sierra Ghia automatic to the sportier Sierra XR4i and then the car still considered the ultimate in the Sierra lineage – the RS Cosworth.
So fond are my memories of this car that I’ve always said that, if I had money to burn on a retro vehicle, this would be it. Rocking just over 200bhp, rear-wheel drive, and styling straight out of the Hot Wheels design studio with its dirty great twin air vents on the bonnet and, frankly, ridiculously oversized rear wing, as a 10-year old boy this thundering bolide was like travelling in a bona fide racing car. I relished the days when it would be my dad who dropped me off or picked me up from school and I remember very well the look of utter awe on my friends’ faces as they watched me climb into the bucket seat and purr out of the school car park.
In reality, it kind of was a racing car – conceived in order to give Ford Motorsport a car with which to tackle Group A racing across Europe, the Cossie became a dominant force in the British Touring Car Championship at the hands, famously, of Andy Rouse. My father’s previous life as an amateur rally driver and the abundance of country lanes around our home in Hampshire only added to that notion and I remember several tail-out moments as my dad relived his youth and I enjoyed mine.
But it wasn’t just the sporty nature of the Cosworth that cements its place in my memory; it was also the exclusivity that came with it. Ford was obliged to build 5,000 of them for racing homologation purposes but only some 1,600 of them were ever registered in the UK. You could only buy them in black, white or a colour called Moonstone Blue, which is what we had. Such was the selectness of owning one of these things that drivers would flash their lights at each other in a nod of unspoken camaraderie when they saw another example on the road – the automotive equivalent of the knowing wink.
The desirability of the car was brought home when our first Moonstone missile was thieved from our driveway for a joyride, before being torched in some woods. To this young boy, it was almost like losing a member of the family and, even now, the fact that so many of these wonderful machines fell victim to this kind of fate seems a dreadful waste.
Oddly, I don’t remember the Sierra RS Cosworth going; maybe I blocked it out of my mind but, as I gained more and more sisters, I can only assume that my father was forced to ‘go sensible’ with the family car choice again and we ended up with a Renault Espace.
That couldn’t attack the country lanes in the same way and it didn’t have a stupid rear wing. It was rubbish. Boff
As a former magazine road tester, I despair at my dad’s litany of terrible cars. A blue Mini was followed by Ford Sierra only to be replaced by a bird-dropping beige Austin Montego and Rover 800 – a Fastback without air conditioning, no less. A quirky Citroen XM followed that lot, but my overriding memory is of a Harvest Gold Morris Marina with vinyl seats that would administer third-degree burns to any exposed skin whenever the sun shone. For connoisseurs of crap cars this was no ordinary Marina – it was the top of the range TC Coupé. The chrome bumpers and painted steel wheels, which used to get laughed at by my mates, now attract admiring glances from middle-aged blokes who invariably say: “I haven’t seen one of those for ages, my dad used to have a Marina!”
Mine still has. Ross
Throughout my childhood my dad was a staunch Ford man. But unwilling to pay out a reasonable amount of money for a solid and reliable car we switched from dodgy Granadas to clapped-out Sierras on a regular basis. It was one of these cars that sticks forever in my mind.
The Sierra in question was bought for £100. The first problem was that the window mechanism had failed meaning that the glass constantly slipped down. Had it been the middle of summer it might not have mattered, but in January this was a problem. Being a carpenter, my dad solved this by cutting a small wedge to keep it up, problem solved.
However, even with the window in place it was still a cold place to be as the heating had also long given up. This is all came to a head one freezing January Sunday afternoon. After sliding around in the wet and mud playing for my junior football team in a village over an hour away I then faced a lengthy trip home in the freezing Ford. Cue numerous coats and layers of clothes to try and keep me from hypothermia. Only a long bath and cup of Bovril could get me back to the correct temperature, and I vividly remember telling my mum how much I hated that Sierra. Chris
There it was, top of his bucket list. Things to do before he passed away. ‘Own a Jag’. This was, after all, Birmingham in the late 90s, and the Jaguar was the pinnacle of success.
And so it was, one glorious summer of country roads – with my dad behind the wheel of an XJS. It was 1996, and my brother and I were by then pretty much too tall to fit in the back seats – but this was no family car, oh no, this was just for fun. It was like nothing that went before it, and nothing that we’ve driven since. A car for Sundays, a car for quality time with my dad, and a car that made the kids at school stare.
This car wasn’t built for ‘getting from A to B’, this car was built to remind you that you’re alive. Even if only for eight months. Lindsey
Ford Cortina Ghia
My dad was, and is, the undisputed king of bangernomics. In 1998, a T-registered gold Ford Cortina Ghia automatic joined our rusting fleet which already included a 1966 Austin 1100 saloon, a 1988 Volkswagen Polo Ranger (owned since new, which he still refuses to sell) and a 1982 Vauxhall Cavalier 1.3, complete with moss-encrusted orange upholstery and nicknamed ‘the Black Shadow’ by our neighbours.
The Cortina had belonged to my grandfather and after some years hidden away in their garage, it was decided that it would be sold for the minimal sum of £200. As a child, I had looked longingly at the BMWs and Mercs pulling up at the school gates with their leather pews, wood veneers and electric windows and wondered why none of these things were standard on a Polo Ranger. The Cortina on the other hand was now a (very) affordable stab at ‘luxury’ motoring, with its biscuit-coloured velour, wooden door cappings and showstopping rear seat armrest. It was a reflection of the middle-class aspirations championed by Thatcher before her election win in 1979 and thus was the most exciting shed we’d owned yet.
It seemed the local car thieves agreed; one morning I was woken to be told that GGK 655T had been pilfered. The night before my parents had witnessed the car being reversed the entire length of our street into the dark suburban abyss, and we were left with only three.
Happily, an early morning call from a police officer some days later informed us that a local resident had reported the mysterious appearance of a gold Cortina less than a mile away and the old Ford was reunited with its surrogate bangernomics siblings, totally undamaged by its captors. All was well, though some months later it leaked some sort of caustic fluid on to the road, burning a large hole about a foot in diameter in the tarmac.
Of course, by the late nineties the automotive world had moved on a bit/quite a lot. My classmates certainly didn’t see the automotive world through the same lens as my younger self and eventually the Cortina was only allowed within a certain radius of the school gates. Things changed in 2000 with the arrival of our first ever new car, a silver Polo Match MKIII facelift. With a five-strong fleet, something had to go and the Black Shadow was soon sold and the Polo Ranger promoted to second-in-command. The Cortina remained with us until 2003, and on the 28th of April that year it made way for a new Focus 1.6 (in Ghia spec, of course).
Afterwards, Dees Ford of Croydon reported that GGK 655T had been treated to one last nostalgic spin by sales staff who hadn’t seen one for a very long time and was subsequently sold for £50 at auction. I’ve no idea what happened to it after that, and when the road was resurfaced in 2009 all traces of Grandad’s Cortina were gone forever. Rob
VW Passat Estate
It’s not really the look and feel of the car I remember, more the journeys we went on. My formative years were spent with my parents shoving my twin brother and I in the back of the car, packing the car to the brim – boot and back seats – and heading off to France for a fortnight of Eurocamp.
We’d arrive, generally after a nice 12-hour journey and would unpack the car. Two weeks of bliss running around expansive campsites, spending hours in the pool. Then, a few days before returning home, our parents took the dreaded trip to the supermarché. Here, they would stock up with copious amounts of wine and cheese. Bargain prices, my dad always said. But where did it end up in the car on the way home? Yup, that’s right, piled into the back seat. The 12 hour journey back was even less fun than the start of our voyage. Simon
The early part of my childhood was spent in the third row of the Renault Savanna. I experienced the leg room comfort that only a four-year old could enjoy, not forgetting my arm rest – the plastic arch over the rear wheel. Having said that, I have fond memories of my time in the white Savanna and my parents still rave about it to this day.
However, the most memorable car from my childhood came when I was an older, wiser and slightly more aware seven-year old. It was a purple Fiat Multipla.
It’s a car that faces much abuse but I can say that it was by far my most enjoyable childhood ‘ride’. I loved the blue interior and the ability to fold down the middle seats to make it feel more exclusive. Family holidays were also made more exciting, with the pointing of fingers of other travellers on motorways scarring my older brothers but the camaraderie between other proud Multipla owners resulting in many a beep (unless that’s my memory distorting what was my dad’s poor driving).
Sadly, we faced much trouble with the electrics and, after just two years, it left us.
Looking back, I can laugh but now, as a mild car snob, I would be strongly against the purchase of either of these vehicles. Imogen
Jaguar MK II
He first bought a MK IX from a guy who used to race them – it came with a rebuilt engine, which is cool. He then bought the MK II from a deaf mute mechanic in 1982 for £200 – a good runner with a new mot. It was a 1962 auto with a 3.4ltr straight 6. The best model was the 3.8 manual/overdrive however, according to Dad. The MK II was probably the first production car with disc brakes all round and actually had a “disc brakes” badge on the rear bumper to warn other drivers.
I never got to ride in the MK II. It was being restored through my childhood and was a real labour of love for my old man who is an engineer. It lived in a scruffy lock up garage on a council estate in South London and sadly, in 1998/9 it got stolen after dad had just re-built and re-mounted the engine. The entire car had been restored and just needed the interior trim re-fitted and a re-spray. Dad reckons the thieves knew what they were doing as they cleared out the entire garage and boxes of fittings: at face-value the car looked like a wreck. Only thing we still have of it was the solid chrome leaping Jaguar from the bonnet, which was in dad’s shed. Symbolic.
Dad sadly lost a lot of money on his dream car as the specialist classic car insurance co. hadn’t signed off the restoration when it got nicked. The twist came a few years later when the same insurance co. sent him a letter explaining that they’d just re-insured the car they’d paid him peanuts out on. Letter came with a picture of the car too, fully gleaming and restored. Kick in the teeth.
Maybe, one day, he’ll own another MK II again, but old Betsy was pretty irreplaceable. Rebecca