I'm Andy, I'm a 24 year old East Anglian guy. My dream is to be a writer, so I hope you like my reviews. I have a penchant for cars, especially "bangers" so generally this is what I review! Enjoy!
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The Best Out Of Every Fiesta, In My Own Opinion!
Cheap, Simple to Maintain, erm Cheap
Getting older, Body Rot, Not A Great Drive for A New Driver
Value for Money
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Without a doubt, out of all my Fiesta's, the mk3 1.1 is my favourite, and I can hear people screaming WHY?
I've owned two identical mk3 1.1 Popular Pluses, (only difference is one is about six weeks older than the other, and one has a more groovy number plate!) Now, lets not forget these are cars of the eighties, so don't expect too many toys, don't expect super refined 80+ BHP small capacity engines, don't expect sporty gearboxes, don't expect a car adorned with electric gadgetry. What you do get is cheap motoring, at its best, in comfort. You also get a manual choke and a four speed gearbox to boot.
Turning the key, and after a few attempts, you'll be greeted with an horrific rattle as the 1118cc HCS engine wakes up and begins to shake and rattle away to itself. These are true "tappet monsters," and even after adjustment, (luckily, being OHV engines, there are no shims involved, and with miles I've found trial and error the best method of setting the valve clearances.) The HCS engine is older than time its self, its so simple a monkey could have designed it in about a quarter of an hour, but with simplicity, you get ease of maintenance, the ability to "tinker" and fun.
Maintaining the HCS is about as simple as it gets, (except one slight niggle, the oil filter is in about the least accessible place in the engine.) Being chain driven means that there is no need to worry about changing the timing belts, the chain can be changed, (I've driven 130k HCS's on the original chain!) When the chain starts rattling like shaking ball five ball bearings in a large biscuit tin, their due changing, but to be honest, its not a simple job, requiring removal of the sump, so its easier just to chop the engine, or scrap the car and give up! A great tribute to these engines is the fact that most where used as second "school run" cars, and many went 10's of thousands of miles without having the oil level checked, let alone serviced, and yet they keep rattling on happily to themselves.
Armed with a Haynes™ manual, even a relative novice can change a head gasket, (something which was an incredibly rare failure on the HCS, more on this later!) Change the clutch, or decoke it. Simple engineering, pure brilliance. The HCS is a rare engine in the fact that its not really fussy what petrol you put in it, well that's not a big deal I hear you say, well I found it out to be an advantage….
During the summers faux fuel depot strike, my local petrol stations where being bled dry, however there really is little demand for four-star/LRP petrol, so whilst everyone else was watching as the unleaded and diesel pumps where being closed due to empty tanks, I simply filled up on LRP, she rattled even sweeter than ever for that 500 miles! The simple, early ECU cleverly retimes the engine, and away she runs, on slightly retarded timing, brilliant. (PS. Don't try this on post "K" plate models, or the catalytic converter will be wrecked, very expensive!) Not a hint of pinging, or detonation, run on, or hot running. I smiled all day!
Parts are cheap, dirt cheap, even dealer parts are cheap, as there is still demand, but stocks are being run down, so when I paid £6 inc VAT for a new thermostat housing from Ford, I definitely didn't feel hard done by, however the younger guys at Ford don't seem quite so up to speed on the HCS, and may do a bit of headscrathing if you ask for a strange part!
I changed the headgasket (in one hour flat!) on one of the Fiestas due to a vast amount of "clotted cream," under the filler cap and in the rocker cover. Later speaking to a colleague who is a mechanic he pointed out that head gaskets seldom give way on HCS's and in fact the thin rocker cover, coupled with cold air creates the emulsified oil, and its completely harmless. £18 for a complete set of gaskets and bolts wasted, never mind! The thin rocker was replaced with a double skinned one on the CFi HCS, and this reduced the problem a lot!
The mk3 bodyshell was radical for its time, one of the first "small cars," available in the five door body plan, I own two five doors, and they can fit three grown adults in the back, not very comfortably, but its not a mega crush. The seats are VERY comfortable, (probably due to being old and worn in!) The interior is functional, and easy to live with, (none of the sticky velour coatings from its stablemate the Astra!) The dash is well laid out, although basic its clear and everything makes sense. The clocks on the earlier model 1.1's didn't have a rev counter, (to be honest, I think this would depress drivers!) But everything, despite its age looks modern, and more up to date than a lot of cars from that era!
To drive, well, its purgatory, in the early days of the mk3, unless you upgraded, the four speed gearbox was standard with the one litre, and 1.1 HCS. This takes some getting used to after driving a five speed for many years, and at motorway speeds the little HCS is screaming for an extra "overdrive" gear, although the ratios are more than adequate for town driving. (What the car was designed to do anyway!)The HCS struggles to reach 55BHP at the flywheel on paper, and with all practically having spun the clock over, they probably are a few horses behind Ford's original estimations. Optimax or the like offer very little benefit to these old engines, except in my estimation, about another 2MPG. They are slow, don't ever buy one expecting a nippy run around, but these engines stand up well to abuse, and don't seem to worry to much about being "over-revved" occasionally when need be. The gearboxes seem to run on forever, and despite stain at motorway speeds, they don't seem to mind too much!
Fuel return is great for an old engine, they manage a good 45MPG on a good run, and they are clean burning little engine. (HCS standing for High-Compression-Swirl, meaning they are designed for efficient running on lean mixtures.) The carburettor version delivers a slightly lower MPG, but performs slightly better, these cars did not respond well to catalysation, and cat models drive even slower.
With skinny tyres, and dubious steering links, the mk3 is "fun" in the corners, its was seriously outhandled by its rivals, (remember it was pitted against the famed Peugeot 205!) The 155/65/R 13 tyres are cheap however, and if you're a bit hard on them, a new set won't cost you a second mortgage.
Once you've got your little darling up to speed, (about 80MPH is your limit on a good day) the brake system is now important, and on the mk3 Fiesta, its worse than useless, be warned if you drive one briskly, these brakes will not stop you in a hurry!
Body rot is an issue, the fuel cap was resolved on "mk 3 ½'s" but sills, anchorage points, and body panels are all susceptible to rust, and quickly, which sadly Mr. MOT Tester man has condemned many mk3's to the scrap heap for!
So in all, why do I love them, their bland, common, slow, and rusty. They rattle like no other engine, and noise at speed can drive you crazy! Well, it takes all sorts doesn't it!