London to Germany in an original, 45bhp Ford Fiesta


Pedalling around the M25, evening rush hour is over and traffic is moving pretty briskly. The Fiesta's engine is hoarse, its performance negligible. Reaching 70mph feels like a distant dream. I can oscillate the steering-wheel rim a couple of inches either side of straight-ahead without the car's path deviating at all, which means I've no control as it wanders around its lane like it's had a drink too many. There's an agonising interval between my pressing the centre pedal and the non-servo brakes waking up. The bodywork might as well be eggshell. Oh, and I have to be in Cologne by tomorrow afternoon.

Never mind. I'm pretty confident I'll enjoy the drive. Because it's always the way with old cars that they feel ropey to begin with, and then you adapt. For the first few miles, I keep telling myself that in 1976, people thought the Fiesta was vastly capable. It's engineering was as on-trend as its groovy-baby orange houndstooth seat trim.

Up to that point, Ford's engineering had always been unyieldingly orthodox, but with the Fiesta it threw itself with abandon onto the new bandwagon of transverse-engined front-drive hatchback superminis. A lot else was changing in the mid-Seventies, not least '76, when punk became a thing and the Sex Pistols brashly elbowed aside the overproof prog rock of ?Bohemian Rhapsody'. Apple launched out of a garage; Concorde began scheduled flights.

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