To great fanfare, the Ford Mondeo arrived back in 1993. Jackie Stewart was roped in to extol its virtues and the majority of motoring journalists were waxing lyrical about this front-wheel drive ‘BMW beater’.
It was a so-called ‘world car’: a step on the way to a globalised car market, with different parts of the Ford family doing their bit – the Americans designed the auto transmission and V6 engine, with Ford Europe supplying the 16-valve Zetec units.
Now, in 2016, the Mk1 Ford Mondeo languishes in the shadows of the car world. PetrolBlog readers probably notice the odd one here and there, but they are stuck in that twilight zone between bangerdom and classic status. Will the Mondeo become a classic? Absolutely, but it might take a while yet.
With a semi-intentional slip of the finger on the mouse button, I managed to buy a March 1993 car for £215. Well, what else can you do on a cold January evening?
What I got was a very original, almost rust-free, 56,000 mile, effectively one owner car. I say ‘effectively’ as I believe it started life as a dealer demonstrator, but the previous owner had certainly driven it since September 1993.
I was attracted – not only by its early registration and total originality – but also by its poverty spec. This was a 1.6-litre base model with ‘keep fit’ windows and no sunroof – I almost certainly saved it from the banger oval. There’s probably fewer than 100 of these lovelies on the road, partly because the base model soon became re-branded as the ‘Aspen’, which was far more aspirational New-Labour-Mondeo-Man-Cool-Britannia and all that.
This particular car had barely gone anywhere for years and, to be honest, I could have bought better. The shell was sound but its originality came at a cost. I entered into a rolling six-month re-commissioning plan, which included timing belt, full service, new suspension arms, rebuilding half the heating system and replacing all manner of deteriorating rubber parts.
The good news is that Ford dealers still have parts if you wish to go the OEM route. Don’t ask me how much I spent. And as ever, there is much more to do (isn’t there always? – Ed.).
Why did I buy it? For a start, the Mk1 Ford Mondeo is very capable and highly likeable: this old car has virtually no trim rattles and – unusually for a Ford — road noise is also fairly muted. In both departments the ‘Mondy’ puts my more recent Ford Fusion to shame.
This is probably helped by the relatively small 14-inch wheels, which stem from the days before the UK became obsessed with massive rims and low profile tyres. At the start of project Mondeo (snappily called CDW27 in the design phase) Ford used a 1989 Honda Accord as the car to beat.
Lofty ambitions, but the result is a car that feels just that little bit better engineered than other 90s Fords I have experienced. For example, it is in an entirely different class to the hugely disappointing Mk5 Escort. I’ve also grown to admire the elegant and unfussy look of the thing – that ‘cab-forward’ design holds up well.
The low specification of my car doesn’t really hurt too much either: there is still central locking, power steering, a (non-functioning) airbag, seven-speed intermittent wipers and a four-speaker stereo.
The wide comfy seats are a pleasure to spend time in, although the rear seats are surprisingly cramped for a relatively large family car, which perhaps reveals how the driver (i.e. the salesman or woman with their car phone the size of a laptop) was the main concern.
Even with a lowly 90bhp on tap – the 115bhp 1.8-litre Mondeo had to be the default choice for the rep – it is an enjoyable steer. Applying just a bit more throttle on even slow corners feels secure and tight, but even today the motorway remains its natural habitat.
Prices for Mk1 Ford Mondeos won’t get any lower, so now is the time to get one. If you want exclusivity, search out a Mondeo Citrine – the holy grail for the small group of Mondeo fanciers, as only 211 were ever made.
But in my view, any of the four-cylinder Mondeos are able to provide solid daily transport. According to Ford literature, one of the 13 parameters of the design specification was that ‘perfection feeling – the car should not become unreliable or lose its feeling of build strength over the years’. You know, I think Ford achieved just that.