Memories inspired when reacquainted with Ford Fiesta XR2
The year was 1988 and I was in my second year of senior school. Not many of my teachers stick in my mind, apart from one, my Chemistry teacher, Mr Grant. Not because I was much good at mixing chemicals but more because of his choice of car.
Mr Grant was an active teacher, running the school canoe club and his usual transport was a rather cool, heavily modified long-wheelbase Land Rover. But at the start of one Autumn term, he surprised me by turning up to school in a brand new, white Mk2 Ford Fiesta XR2.
The warmed-up version of Ford's popular supermini wasn't everyone's idea of subtle motoring, even in 1988, but with its chunky wheel arches, spots and those distinctive pepper pot alloys, it made me like it more than its rivals such as the MG Metro and Vauxhall Nova SR.
I wanted a go and I wasn't alone; as this generation of XR2s came before the times of standard alarms and immobilisers, plenty of Mk2 XR2s were crashed and written off by joyriders who easily got past the usual weak Ford locks.
So it was great to see - and more importantly drive - this well-kept 1988 Fiesta XR2 at a recent Ford event.
Inside, it's typical '80s fast Ford with the grey cloth trim for the sport seats wearing the cars 92,000 miles usually well. The Fiesta Mk2's dashboard may be angular compared to current cars, but the ergonomics are sound and the XR2's two-spoke steering wheel is nice to hold.
Look closer at the dash and the square instruments are surprisingly easy to read even if the offset steering column makes for an uncomfortable driving position. The original '80s Ford tape player is still fitted and works, but I can't believe how light the doors and switchgear feels.
Even after 23 years and 90,000-plus miles, this well-kept example surprised by how willing the 1597 four-cylinder CVH petrol engine felt; the majority of its 95bhp was still intact.
Not particularly quick even by 1988 standards, the gearbox has a long throw, but it works well enough with the characteristic bark urging you to work it harder. The steering is also precise, grip from the Pirelli tyres is good and body roll is kept well in check.
In fact, the biggest let down of the whole driving experience has to be the brakes. They lack feel, power and cannot really be compared to modern rivals.
So, the XR2, like the Fiesta Mk2 has to be a modern classic. There can't be many left that haven't rusted away or have been crashed and if I had the chance and space I'd be sorely tempted.