Hello, and welcome to the 1st of March! I can’t believe how quickly the year is flying by, and on reflection, how fast life seems to be travelling! Normally I would use the first of the month to tell you what the upcoming month has in store in terms of the blog, but today, the date is a bit more significant. My blog has the tagline ‘Travels with and without a Lotus’, and although I have driven three-hundred miles in the Elise today, it is my other car that I want to talk about. The car in question is my silver Ford Focus and unfortunately, today is the day I had to SORN it because of a major MOT failure. Well, four major failures if I’m honest.
The Focus was my first car and I bought it from Stanways of Lytham back in August, 2008. At the time it was six years old with only 27,000 miles on the clock for a grand total of £4,000. From the choices I’d narrowed down, the Focus won due to its large boot and that it had a CD player. I even liked the colour.
When I bought the Focus, the woman from Stanways told me that the car would be ready in a few days and that they would clean it and put some fuel in, ready for me to take away. As she was telling me this, she noticed I was looking at a patch of rust underneath the driver’s wing-mirror.
“Oh, we can get that sorted out for you” she said; “It’s only a bit of rust.” I told her that I would like it sorted because I wouldn’t want it getting any worse. “It’s only a small bit” she went on, “it’s happened because the water has got in around the mirror and underneath the paintwork.” At this point I stopped her and explained that I was a materials engineer and I too knew a thing about rust. “Oh” she mumbled. “We’ll get it sorted for you.”
That wasn’t the only problem I’ve had with the Focus over the years, although to be fair, it has been a great car and nothing serious has ever gone wrong with it. It has always started and it has never stopped on the side of the road. The only things I’ve had to change are the battery and a coil pack, as well as the usual light bulbs, tyres and brakes. (Incidentally, changing a light bulb in a Mk1 Focus is a right pain).
One problem I did encounter with it was that the heat shield fell off. It’s a piece of flimsy aluminium underneath the car that, as the name suggests, acts as a heat shield and also protects the underside. Due to the thinness of the aluminium and the smaller than adequate fastener, the part fatigued and fell off. I was alerted to this whilst driving down the A66 by a clanging sound every time I went over a bump in the road. I soon fixed it with a bungee cord, and the fix has held ever since. Several mechanics have commented on it over the years; one told me that it was the best fix of a heat shield he’d ever seen – “People tend to use tie-wraps”, whilst another one asked me “Did you know your heat shield is held on by a bungee?” to which my response was: “Yes, who do you think put it there?”
Looking back, I do remember a time when the brake pads fell off – that’s never a fun thing. Luckily, I had only pulled away from my parking space. There was a clunk, the wheel rolled over something and it took me longer than usual to stop. I found the escapee brake pad on the floor and gingerly drove to the nearest garage to get it sorted.
There was one thing with the Focus, although not a problem in terms of driveability, it was novel and gave the car a bit of character. To put it simply, the odometer/speedometer didn’t work. Well, it did when it wanted to. Some would call it ‘intermittent’.
I first noticed it when my travel counter told me that my journey home from work that day was only twelve miles. ‘That’s strange’ I thought, as I had driven twenty-four miles in the morning to get there. As the years went by, the problem got worse. As the speedo cut out, the volume on the CD player dropped too and there was a loss of power in the lower gears. On the plus side, when the car wasn’t telling me what speed we were doing, it also neglected to add up the miles we were travelling. I was beginning to see why the car had been sold to me with ‘low mileage’.
Sometimes, the speedo did the opposite and told me that we were doing over 120 miles per hour (sometimes whilst stationary). This also caused the CD player to become really loud. Thankfully, this didn’t happen very often! I’d taken it into several garages but no-one could figure out what the problem was. I eventually solved it and got a garage to fix it last year. Up until that point, sometimes the only way to tell what speed I was doing was to get the car to 2,000 revs, check what gear I was in and multiply that by ten. As it only had five gears, 60mph was 2,500 revs in fifth, and 70mph has 3,000 revs.
I could go on much longer about my car (like how the windscreen wipers didn’t return to centre), but I think I’ll stop. I will finish on these points.
Together, we travelled over 100,000 miles in eight and a half years (that’s more than four times around the earth!) In that time, we visited a lot of the UK, from Cornwall to Edinburgh, Snowdon to Ben Nevis and everywhere in between. Numerous festivals, gigs, road trips, rugby matches – the list goes on.
I never gave the car a name, but I shall miss it when it gets towed away next week for scrap. As I mentioned, the car failed its MOT on some major issues, all corrosion related. A little bit ironic seeing as I am a metallurgist. I know a thing or two about rust…