We've all heard of the Dagenham dustbin – at what point does it become a diamond?
By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, November 26, 2021 / Loading comments
If, back in 1971, you’d told Shed that the two-door Ford Escort he was driving and cursing in equal measure would be worth a lot of money, he would have guffawed in your face. He’s not alone in this. Many of those who are old enough to remember blue oval motoring half a century ago scratch their heads in disbelief at the values of everyday munters that they routinely referred to as Dagenham dustbins.
Here we are now though, goggling at a transformation in the perception of Ford UK products that has been nothing short of remarkable and that has given rise to a new sport, viz, identifying the next Fords to make the quantum leap from Dagenham dustbin to Dagenham diamond so that we can all rush off to auctions and bid the bejeesus out of them.
What will be next, then? Gen-two Fiesta XR2s have been big money for a long time, so surely the 1989-85 gen-three Fiestas will eventually go the same way? Hmm. Maybe, or maybe not. You might not remember them but there was a gen-three Fiesta XR2 and even an Mk3 Fiesta RS1800. Given long enough, either or both might accumulate some real worth, but it’s harder to imagine that because the Mk3 Fiesta was very different to the Mk2.
It was more grown-up, not just in size but also in philosophy. It was the first Fiesta to come with the option of five doors and the first small car to get ABS as a braking aid rather than as some weird abdominal muscle development thing. Safety and more doors are not the kind of features that you’d bung onto a small car to cement its name in history. What you want for that are pepperpot alloys, black wheelarch protectors, red badging and an affinity for hedgerows, as the Mk 2 XR2 had.
The 1.4 engine in this particular Mk 3 Fiesta Ghia is the famous, or infamous, CVH lump. CVH stood for compound valve angle. If you were the driver, you had to stand for something too, namely a lot of noise, vibration and harshness if you wanted to explore the upper reaches of performance. Shed can’t confirm the rumour that the CVH’s designers misheard an instruction and mistakenly engineered NVH into the unit rather than out of it. Nor can he confirm a different rumour that Volkswagen sent over double-agent engineers to get jobs at Dagenham and then deliberately mess them up.
Whatever, if you thought Des O’Connor was a good singer and that a buffalo’s dying groans were melodious you would most probably like the sound of a CVH at full chat. Some say CVHs were easy to tune but Shed is pleased to say that he has never met anyone with the lack of mechanical sympathy required to do it. This Fiesta 1.4 definitely won’t thank you for revving its nuts off but it was sweet and torquey enough at lower rpm to make it a lovely little thing to pootle about town in. Hence the popularity of things like this 1.4 Ghia whose MOT history is littered with ‘high CO2 content’ advisories, a dead giveaway to a life spent in the slow lane and at the front of very long traffic queues.
On the subject of MOTs, you might think this Fiesta isn’t eligible for Sheddery as it hasn’t got one. The last pass (with no advisories) was in March 2019, However, it does actually qualify as the vendor is promising to put a fresh ticket on it, which we can all agree is the very best type of MOT. This is not something they’d be doing if they didn’t think it was going to be easy. There’s a good chance it will be solid in fact as it’s already come through its not-solid phase. In 2017 its owner stumped up for rust restitution work in the seatbelt anchorage and suspension mounting areas. That was a followup to more extensive rust repairs carried out three years (but only 2,000 miles) prior.
Because it’s a Ghia it’s got the classic whirly-wheel sunroof, leccy windows, nice alloys with locking wheelnuts and premium non-Lingalonga tyres. Along with the low mileage, this stuff is pure catnip for those who find their cars by combing through the Births & Deaths columns. People like Shed.
Folk like old Fords now because they can be retro-engineered into the fine vehicles they would have been back when they were new, if only they hadn’t been built down to a price to make them affordable and short-lived. This Fiesta isn’t ever going to be a £100k Cossie or a £50k RS2000, but for youngsters with a little imagination and the right insurance company it could be a great first car, a great first classic and something a bit different all at the same time. Plus it’s in Tortworth, a tiny Gloucestershire village with a very nice pub called The Old Spot just up the road. Perfect for that post-purchase tincture.
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