Beauty and The Beast
'Beauty' is a 2005 Ford Mondeo ST220 Estate. She started life serving with the Norfolk Constabulary, then spent a year with another private owner before we acquired her in 2012 (via ebay and for a good price). We were looking for a big practical family car but as both Myself and my wife Sheila are keen motorists we like a car with a bit of get-up-and-go. The ST Estate was made for people like us!
It is very spacious and comfortable, and is fully loaded. It has the same spec as the saloon version - 225bhp 3.0L four-cam V6 coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox with 'sports' suspension. 0-60 takes 6.5 seconds and it will top 150mph, and for a big front-wheel-drive car the handling is very good.
If there is a negative side to this car, it is that it is too quiet (modern sophistication...or legislation?) and is perhaps not as involving to drive as I would like - it is so smooth that you really don't get enough sense of urgency when you are pushing her. However it is not a Sports Car, and if you accept it for what it is, a Grand Tourer, it is excellent.
She had a few minor niggles when we bought her, all sorted out now.
The side repeaters didn't work due to them being full of water and therefore they had corroded. A new pair fixed that.
The gearlever had lost the spring for the reverse-gear interlock. I assume the Police had removed it so they could slam her into reverse quickly when needed. I found a suitable spring in my 'box of bits' for that.
There was a little bit of rust developing around the repaired holes in the roof (for the Police lightbar cables and antenae), which just needed grinding out and re-painting.
The reversing lights were not working, and this was tracked down to an internal gearbox fault - the actuator was not operating the switch properly. Being reluctant to remove the gearbox, I eventually re-wired the lights to a self-returning switch operated by the gear lever which I fitted in the tunnel console. This arrangement works perfectly and has proved very reliable.
The only other niggle is that the Police had to replace the windscreen twice, and presumably to save money have replaced the original 'quickclear' item with an un-heated screen.
I contacted Norfolk Constabulary shortly after we bought the car, and they were extremely helpful, sending me full details of the car's service/repair history and this rather nice picture of her 'in uniform'.
'The Beast' is a 1982 Ford Capri 2.8i which I've owned for 27 of its 30 years. It has been modified extensively, to enhance the sporting nature of the car.
The original (cologne V6) engine has been extensively re-worked, and has been dyno tested at 200bhp at the flywheel.
The capacity has been kept at 2.8L. The whole engine has been lightened and balanced, with big valves and polished and ported heads. A "fast road" cam has been fitted (Kent Cams V6T21), and a high capacity oil pump and all-steel timing gear fitted.
The brakes have been improved with cross-drilled discs fitted at the front, and heavy duty pads and shoes.
The suspension is stiffer and lowered by 1" all round. Leda adjustable dampers and a rear-axle A-frame complete the picture.
A Capri Club front air-dam, and a Ford RS biplane rear spoiler help to keep it on the ground.
The net result is a car that looks the part, goes very well indeed (creamy smooth acceleration that just seems to go on for ever) and handles beautifully.
Built in Cologne, Germany in December 1981, this car was first registered in the UK in February 1982.
I bought it in February 1985 with around 30 000 miles on the clock in immaculate condition.
Over the next five years the modifications were carried out by myself (except for the engine rebuild which was carried out by Specialised Engines in Grays, Essex.
The car proved very reliable (and enormous fun) for many years, and was a regular at various car shows in and around Sussex where I lived at the time, and nationally.
In 1998, due to lack of funds, "Beastie" was taken off the road and garaged, initially for 6 months. For all sorts of reasons (most of them being pathetic and lame) she stayed in the garage for nearly 10 years.
However as a result of some major changes in my life, which included a 200 mile move to a new home, the situation arose where the car had to either be disposed of or returned to the road.
No Contest! After two weeks of frantic activity, a fair bit of cash and with a new radiator, exhausts, (replacement second-hand) gearbox and several minor components, she emerged from her hibernation and breathed again.
We took her to the local MOT centre a week before the move, not at all sure what the verdict would be. I'd done all I could bearing in mind the short time available.
It turned out that things weren't too bad. All she needed were a couple of brake calipers and a new wiper blade, so we left the car at the garage to have this work done.
The only real drawback was that it wouldn't be ready untill after we moved!
Not actually a big problem as we were planning to pop back within a week or so of the move to tie up some loose ends.
So the weekend after we moved we came back to Sussex and Beastie hit the road again on 8th March, 2008.
So, she was legal and 'roadworthy'. But after 10 years idle, and with a hastily installed exhaust and lots of un-tried new parts, was she up to a 200 mile journey?
I was quite confident, although my Wife thought I was mad to even consider this trip.
Anyway, we picked the car up from the MOT station, stopped off at the local Post Office to Tax her, and off we went!
And in all fairness things went OK. Yes I was nervous to start with, particularly as she wasn't running too smoothly. I put this down to the mix of about a gallon each of 10-year-old leaded and (fresh) regular unleaded fuel in the tank (the timing had been re-set for unleaded), so I filled her up with super-unleaded added some lead-replacement additive, and chucked in a bottle of injector cleaner for good measure.
This did the trick and after about 10 miles she settled down very nicely.
Then the speedo stopped working after about 20 miles! I eventually tracked this problem down to a worn pinion in the replacement gearbox. On the day, luckily, we were travelling in convoy, so Sheila took the lead in the family Mondeo for the rest of the trip and acted as 'speedo' for both of us, keeping me safe through the M25 variable speed limits and the 50 zone at the M1 roadworks.
The right rear exhaust section also worked loose, but was never going to be a problem, just rattling on the bodywork annoyingly.
About four and a half hours after leaving Sussex, and to everyone's relief, we arrived at our new home in Nottingham.
A testament to the dedication and foolhardiness af Capri owners, but much more to the rugged reliability and stamina of the Capri injection. This car will out-live me, I'm sure!
There is still a lot of work to do to bring the car up to the condition I want.
Both doors need replacing, and I have donor doors which I am refurbishing. These have been restored and now need paint and all the fixtures and fittings moved over from the original doors before they can be fitted.
Also, the heater blower is not currently working and must be sorted before the winter.
There is a minor bit of touching up to do around the bodywork...nothing too serious.
The bonnet needs tidying and re-spraying, and the car really needs a new tailgate as one of the brackets for the hydraulic struts has broken off. The tailgate is a bit rusty along the bottom edge, too.
The second-hand gearbox is OK but a bit rough, and the original is in bits in a couple of boxes in the shed. I'll try to get this re-built soon. And there is a severe vibration when moving away which needs looking at. Could be engine mounts, gearbox, prop-shaft or rear axle. Don't know yet.
Also planned are some changes to the suspension. The set-up on this car is excellent for smooth roads like the A-class roads in Sussex where the car has previously lived, but up here in Nottinghamshire the country roads (which are the ones I love to drive on) are a little rougher, and the town has some horrendous speed-humps.
The plan is to revert to original ride-hight (up an inch), and to slightly soften the suspension.
I am hoping to achieve this without big compromises to the handling, but accepting that there will be some trade off.
I will be detailing how these improvements and changes go over the next few weeks/months, so feel free to drop in from time to time to see how it's going. I am hoping to document some of this work photographically, as it may be interesting and useful to others.
The suspension work has now been carried out. This took a leisurely day and a half over last weekend (9th/10th August).
The original front springs have been re-fitted. These have softened the suspension and raised the ride height at the front by an inch. The Leda adjustable MacPherson struts have been retained.
At the rear, the Leda dampers have been replaced with a pair of Monroe Gasmatic units. These have softened the ride a bit, and because they are gas-filled (rather than oil) they tend to 'lift' the car, adding about an inch which nicely balances the front.
The overall effect is pretty much what I was looking for. The ride is still well-balanced but more compliant (comfortable), and the increase in ride-height has made rough roads and speed humps less daunting. The steering is marginally less sharp but still very good, and body roll is still well controlled and quite acceptable.
Overall then, quite a successful exercise.
Work is proceeding well. The original gearbox has now been re-built by Tickover and is ready to re-install in the car. I also have the heater assembly out for replacement. It turns out that the fan motor had failed, so I am currently watching a couple of heaters on ebay to source a replacement.
I think I've also solved the mystery of an annoying vibration when moving away. There is a constant-velocity joint in the 2-piece prop-shaft on these cars, and this seems worn and 'clonkey', so as I have a second prop-shaft, I'll be fitting that when the gearbox goes back in.
I've also removed the exhausts (to give more space under the car for the gearbox swap), and hopefully I'll be able to spend a bit of time aligning them properly on the refit to avoid any knocks on the bodywork. It was never quite right since installing it hurriedly last year in the 'panic' to get the car ready for our move to Nottingham.
Despite inches of snow on the ground, things are moving on. The gearbox has now been installed along with the 'good' prop-shaft, and the exhausts are now fitted. I managed to source a replacement heater box via ebay and that is also now back in the car. All I need to do now is re-fit much of the interior (removed to get the heater out), and adjust the clutch, and I'll be mobile again.
All done, for now at least. The heater is working fine, the interior trim is all back in place and the car's running well. The exhausts needed a further tweak to avoid a slight knock on the bodywork, and I still haven't sorted the problem with the reversing lights (broken switch) but otherwise all is good. The replacement prop-shaft has cured the vibration and the re-built gearbox is as good as new, so I'm more than happy, and mobile again.
I'm still 'tweaking' the exhaust to get maximum ground clearance while avoiding any contact with the bodywork. This can be a time consuming job...you get it right, then it just seems to move a tiny bit, perhaps just expansion as it warms up, and there is a slight knock again. The main problem is a joint between the front and centre sections which is extremely close to a couple of bolts under the car. The exhaust clamp has to sit within about 5mm of the bolt, so if you don't get it dead right, there is a problem.
I finally tracked down a reverse light switch on ebay, but was outbid. New, this would normally have cost no more than £10.00, but the one on offer actually went for £21.00! Far too much. I'm attempting to fix one of the old broken ones I have, and we'll see how that works out.
With the car now being 'fully reliable' I took the opportunity of a run down to Sussex (visiting friends and relatives - 200 miles both ways) to give her a good 'shakedown'. Halfway down one of the exhaust manifold gaskets blew, leaving the car sounding more like a dragster than a road car. No choice but to struggle on, getting quite a few sideways glances from other motorists, and having to be Oh-so-gentle on the gas to keep the noise down. Not much fun at all!
Once there, I got some exhaust putty from a car-spares shop, and once it'd cooled down, spent a while very carefully plugging the joint. Thankfully it worked, and all was well. The drive back was a pleasure, and I hope that the 'running repair' will hold for a while. Coincidentally I'd been looking at the headers a few days previously, and thought they were looking a bit old ant tired, so the plan now is to replace these soon, fitting new gaskets at the same time.
I have now sourced the replacement exhaust manifolds and gaskets, but as the 'running repair' is holding well I will not be fitting these for a while as it's a pig of a job. The other good news is that I did find a good reverse light switch on ebay at a sensible price, so the car now has working reverse lights again.
With the weather being so bad recently work on the car has halted for now, and unfortunately the car is not even really useable at the moment. With impeccable timing, the heater has got stuck in the 'Cold' position. My fault I suspect, as the control cable has come arift, presumably because I hadn't secured it properly when I re-fitted the heater earlier in the year. And to make things worse both the rear demister and rear wiper have decided to malfunction (relay and motor respectively). All fairly easy to sort out, but as it's been freezing for weeks, I have not done anything about it yet, except to start looking for the parts.
I am hoping for a warmer and dryer spell of weather in the near future, so that I can fix these problems soon.
I have now fitted the new exhaust manifolds. The job actually went fairly smoothly although the new ones needed a bit of persuasion to go on. Still, all done. The car's also been treated to a new set of tyres. The old ones were cracking around the side-walls, due to their age, so although the tread was good, they had to go.
No progress yet on the rear heater and wiper, but I'm hoping to look at these soon.
I've now got the required parts as Tickover were breaking a 2.8 special. They were able to supply the relay I needed for the rear demister, the rear wiper motor and the rear washer pump, so they are now waitng to be fitted, which should happen over the next week or so.
I've finally been forced to get on with the next tranche of work on the car as winter is approaching. The heater box is out again and this time I'll secure the cables properly. I'm also taking the oportunity to fit a brand new Bosch motor as the old second-hand one I fitted earlier is very old although still working. The rear demister is OK now (the relay was the problem, solved by fitting the new one), and as well as the heater, I should get the wash/wipe parts replaced at the same time.
A few months of winter later and the heater is fine, which is good as it has been very cold since early December. The rear wiper is also OK now although it does need a new rubber. The rear screen washer still needs fixing. I have two which between them have enough good parts to make one working one, so when I get some time...
After a fairly hassle-free summer, things have gone downhill, sadly. The thermostat stuck causing the car to overheat a bit. This did not do any serious damage, although she has eaten a valve-stem oil seal which is not good news. Also, the thermostat housing was well and truly stuck - it hadn't been touched for some 25 years! Short story - all three bolts were stuck and two sheared upon removal, and the thermostat housing also fractured when I prised it off. I need to remove the rear casting now as the 'ends' of the sheared bolts are stuck in it, so a 'small, simple' job has become a real project.
I'll let you all know how I get on with it....
Sadly still no progress on the thermostat housing. Life has been getting in the way, and the bolts are still stuck! I'm thinking I might need to remove the timing cover and remove the whole problem from the car. Access is not great at the moment, but with the troublesome parts removed I stand a better chance of sorting this out. Ho-hum!
A year on and still very little progress on the thermostat housing problem. With the arrival of 'Beauty' earlier in the year most of my spare time has been taken up sorting out the minor problems she came with. However I have now sourced all the parts to fix Beastie - replacement timing cover, new water pump, new thermostat and both sides of the thermostat housing. I've also removed the radiator for better access. All I need now is a couple of days of decent weather to proceed, but the chances of that in soggy Nottingham in November are slight. Still, with a bit of luck and dedication I'm hoping to get this sorted before the New Year. Fingers crossed.
More updates soon...