by John Lonergan
In 2010 the only Classic car meet I attended was "Cars in the Park" in September as I wanted to see what the classic car club scene was like and this was held on the Shafto estate near Spennymoor Co Durham only about 7 miles from home.
As I pulled through the gate there was quite a bit of head turning (who's this? never seen him before) I was a total stranger on their club meet which was open to all . I did feel a little conspicuous but needn't have worried as Cath and I were made very welcome by all. I was asked a bit about the car and gladly told my tale and within minutes the word had spread. I heard one guy saying "Have you seen that Escort? It's only got 3,000 on the clock!". His mates reply "Aye they're still popping up now and again" . One guy made me smile as he popped his head inside and said "you've dun a cracking job on this interior and only 30,000 miles". His face was a picture when I told him to look more closely at the odometer and that the car had not been restored at all but genuine original condition . We had such a good time there we joined the club and are still members to this day .
The car was given the Zeibart treatment from new and although good protection it looked quite ugly especially under the bonnet, so in 2011 Cath and I removed all the Zeibart visible topside and under the bonnet - that is front and rear valances, sills, doors and inner wings - using white spirit, rags and a plastic spatula. It was left intact on the underside, this improved it's appearance greatly though there is still a little bit under the bonnet still to do.
There was another minor niggle; on opening the NSF door it caught the wing, this was due to badly fitted replacement wing when Keith the original owner had a minor scrape with a gate. As it was not an original part I had no qualms about removing it and having it replaced and correctly fitted.
We continued to take the car to shows and meets and it was at one show (the Durham MG show at Houghall College Durham in 2013) again the little Escort was getting loads of attention when at about 12.30 pm two guys in particular were very interested in its history and supporting paperwork. They asked loads of questions and seemed to go away two happy chappies .
By this time I was quite in need of a loo as I had been drinking heavily (tea) and Cath was in a similar situation so off we went - it was a few hundred yards and the queues were massive. On returning to the car I could see something on the windscreen and with a bit of a scowl I said "somebody's stuck something on our windscreen - cheeky sods " but as I got closer and my eyes focused better my scowl turned into a very large grin as it turned out to be a red rosette awarding the Escort "Best classic car". The two guys who were so interested in the Escort and it's history turned out to be judges.
This was my first MG show and hadn't realised that the car would be judged or indeed that there were prizes . So at 3 pm I was at the presentation to be presented with the Escort's very first trophy. I didn't stop smiling all the way home.
Since then the little Escort Popular has won quite a few trophies with many more 2nd & 3rd places and has brought much pleasure driving it around. It's also been the subject of several magazine articles. My greatest pleasure though is not trophies, but interacting with people who like to see it and relaying it's history. On the one hand I quite often get nods of approval or congratulated for keeping it in original spec, on the other I get people telling me what mods they think I should do. Hmmmm... I know which way I'm leaning!
One funny moment was when Cath and I were travelling to an event one Sunday morning when we found ourselves surrounded by motorcycles on the dual carriageway heading north past Newcastle. They all slowed down giving the car the once over - nodded, gave the thumbs up and sped on. Marvellous, the reaction this little car provokes.
And on more than one occasion has caused someone to shed a tear bringing back fond memories. For me this is what it's all about. I know Keith the original owner often looks at it with approval and sometimes comes over if I'm washing or polishing it just to see it and I'm pleased he is happy with my treatment of his lovely old car to which he still has a sentimental attachment.
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