Review : The cars you always promised yourself

Although it’s not Steve Saxty’s first book, The Cars You Always Promised Yourself is certainly his first serious effort after penning a guide to the Ford Capri III back in the 1990s. And what a book, as it encompasses the Capri and other fast Fords right through to the current day.

If you end up buying this one, you won’t be disappointed, as it’s packed full of might-have beens, inside information never seen before and product information you’ll simply not find anywhere else.

The Cars You Always Promised Yourself, by Steve Saxty

Steve Saxty The Cars You Always Promised Yourself

If there’s anything positive to come out of the current situation, it’s that I’ve been able to catch-up with some much-needed reading. One of the books that’s been on my shelf in its wrapping for some time, itching to be read, is The Cars You Always Promised Yourself by Steve Saxty. It’s a doorstep of a tome, with more than 300 pages and 155,000 words – but this is a book that’s all about quality more than quantity, especially given the sheer abundance of new images, information and access that the author has had to the inner sanctums of Ford.

So, where to start with this book from an AROnline perspective? For one, it pretty much covers 50 years of Ford history end-to-end and, although it has a necessary performance car slant (in order to sell), there is lots of inside information about the development of the Capri, Escort III and Sierra – definitely enough to make this a book worth buying for those interested in more than just the halo models. Yes, the Sierra Cosworth story is told in great detail, as well as the Mustang, Ford Puma and all of the XRs, but there is so much more to this book than blind adulation of go-faster Fords you see everywhere else.

As someone who loves detail and learning new information, the book scratches that itch perfectly, summoning up a number of abandoned projects that had never previously seen the light of day. The book has significant input from a number of insiders and benefits from Saxty’s full access to Ford’s archives at Warley among other places (something us BMC/BL/Rover historians would love to have), and has forewords from Designer Patrick Le Quement, industry colossus Bob Lutz and motor sport legend Rod Mansfield. Be in no doubt, this is a product of the highest quality – helped in no small part by some deft editing skills from former CAR Editor Mel Nichols.

But Saxty’s CV is perfect for telling this story. As he said to me, ‘I’m an ex-Ford, Mazda, Porsche and finally Jaguar employee where I ended up running global advertising.’ With such industry insight, the story has been told realistically and with deep understanding.

Highlights include:

  • Original Escort and Focus RS design sketches
  • The struggles with the Sierra in its early days
  • Abandoned RS coupe
  • First Sierra Cosworth prototype
  • Cancelled 1975 Capri RS2800
  • Cancelled 2003 Ford Capri replacement
  • Ford Sierra design alternatives

As the development stories of the Ford Sierra and Mondeo are two of the most widely read articles of their type on AROnline, we figure there’s going to be some interest in this book from our readers. It’s been out for a while now, and Steve says there aren’t that many copies left to sell, but if you’re interested in picking up a copy, you can do so by following the link below.

To whet your appetite, here’s an image taken from the book of an abandoned Ford Sierra targa prototype, which would have extended the appeal of this highly-controversial car during the tough early years. You can see more of the same at Steve Saxty’s own website, too.

Ford Sierra Targa

Price in the UK is usually £44.95, and you can buy a copy by visiting the Porter Press website. However, you can get one of the last few hundred copies with £10 off using the code ‘TENOFF’ at checkout. At £35, for what is effectively two-books’ worth of reading, that is an absolute bargain.

Keith Adams


  1. Nothing against the book, but who is so devoid of imagination and passion, that their aspirations are owning a Ford, it is like growing up wanting to be an accountant!

    • You really are missing the point. It doesn’t have to be a Porsche to be worth owning. I’ve had plenty of worthwhile cars and apparently plenty of non worthwhile cars, what have I had the longest and still have, a non worthwhile car. I guess this just makes me a non aspirational human being……… or have I just grown up?

      • Whilst I very much respect your opinion, Jason, I tilt towards Graham’s point of view. I am quite certain that the average automobile enthusiasts out there DOESN’T view owning an older Capri, Sierra, or something like that from the ’70s, ’80s or 90’s, as his or her dream car. Most enthusiasts, with exceptions, tend to fantasise about an Aston Martin, E Type, Rolls, AC Cobra, and so on.

        I also think that the book’s title is misleading, because without saying “The FORD cars you Always Promised Yourself”, it implies that the ONLY dream cars out there are English Fords! A grandmother looking for a present for her grandson, for example, would assume it is a general book about all the fancy exotic marques out there, as opposed to a book about Capris, Escorts, Sierras etc. However, Jason, if owning one of these older Fords is happiness and bliss to you, then good for you! I believe in live and let live, as well as to each his own.

        • ERRATA: in my comment above in the second line down it should be “enthusiast” in the singular, as opposed to the plural.

        • I think you’re missing the point. The advertising strapline for the Mark 1 Capri was “The car you always promised yourself”. Evidently a very successful slogan. The Mark 1 Capri predated almost every European performance Ford; its success allowed them to be developed.

          • Not really, Ken. The first performance Fords were the Cortina GT in 1963 and of course the Lotus Cortina

    • Depends on the Ford. A mk 1 fiesta poplar plus no thanks. A mk 1 Ford Escort RS yes please. And if you see the price of these things today they go for serious cash. Fast Ford’s have had a massive following. I have to admit I am Ford junky but then my great grandfather, grandfather, dad, great uncle and several uncles all worked for the blue oval, from Dagenham to Dunston, body and engine production to design. The Puma has quite a back story to its development, my uncle worked on parts of the car. Both my brother in law, who owns a fast fiesta, and me will both want a copy.

    • Guess it depends how old you are. I certainly couldn’t see many people aspiring to a modern Ford but back in the pre-PCP days of the 70s and 80s Fords really were sought after. Mercs and BMW’s were a pipe dream for most whilst British “premium” brands like Rover were utter junk compared to the Blue Collar Fords

  2. I’ve bought the book, and I’m going to enjoy reading it, as I am a big Ford fan, myself and my family having owned virtually every model since the Anglia. However, I’d be keen to know if there is a similar book on AR from the 70s through to the 2000? I’d be just as keen to read this as the Ford book.

  3. Just ordered a copy, as although I am a Volvo and Saab guy these days, I was a huge Ford fan back in my youth; the company’s cars of the 1980s in particular struck a chord with me.

    • Thanks, I did my best so I’m glad you like it. Now, I need finish writing the next one….

  4. Two books worth of reading ??? At 300 pages for nearly fifty quid ??? Pull the other one

  5. Enjoyed reading the book so-far, particularly interested to know more about the 1964 Ford Special – a mid-engined 2+2 Cologne V4 proposal Ford of Germany were developing featuring a Europeanized Mustang-esque styling.

    Could easily imagine a properly-developed 2-seater version selling very well in the US had the Cardinal/Redwing project been approved there, whether with the Cologne V4 or the originally planned 20-degree V4 (the latter mentioned in the Curbside Classics article on the Cardinal project).

    While the rise of the Hot Hatch ended the Capri and hampered sales of the 3-door Sierra XR4/XR4i, it could be argued Ford dropped the ball by expecting the latter to replace the former without properly differentiating the 3-door Sierra from the Capri in terms of exterior styling (as well as model name). Believe it was possible to repurpose a Sierra-derived Capri successor as a more upmarket coupe that carries over the Scorpio’s Cosworth tuned Cologne V6s (and other Scorpio-related developments) before being replaced by either an (shortened X-Type sized) RWD Ford DEW-based or 4WD Ford C1-based replacement.

    • Ford tried the GT70 at the early 1970s as a Lancia Stratos style rally car, but it had too many teething troubles & as the Escort RS1600 was performing better so the project was dropped.

      Does it owe anything to the Ford Special?

      • The “Ford Special” by Ford of Germany’s design chief Hans Muth was very pretty but killed off by NVH. Ford engines were never the smoothest and so that killed it off. The car had no relationship to the GT70 that was a more specialized British rally machine vs an upmarket 2+2 for middle-class Germans. What intrigued me was that Ford of Germany persisted and moved to doing a second version that was front-engined, mirroring the Capri in layout and powertrain. Dearborn stopped that and so (almost out of spite) they passed it to OSI, the Italian coachbuilder who made 2,200 copies.

        • The OSI-Ford 20 M TS is definitely a looker, the Siva Sirio is another. Unfortunate things never worked out for the Ford GT70.

          Though Ford investigated a number of Escort-based coupes (the 2nd gen EXP looks like it could have been adapted for Europe), did they ever look at mk1/mk2 Escort-based hatchbacks similar to the Chevette? The closest appears to be the Cheetah supermini RWD proposal that was based on a cut-down Escort platform as a more conventional proposal during the Bobcat project for what became the mk1 Fiesta. –

          As far as smooth engines are concerned was never a fan of the V4s. Sure the side-effect of the development made the Cologne/Essex V6s possible yet Ford UK missed a trick in not producing a larger 1.7-2-litre inline-4 half-relation to the Kent/Crossflow (with displacements akin to the Cosworth BDA and LT/Lynx/etc diesels) in place of the Essex V4, which hampered the chances of the Corsair and others. Even Ford Germany were said to be developing a Glas-like 1.0-1.2-litre OHC engine that could have butterflied away the Taunus V4.

          It seems a shame Ford of Germany was not allowed to produce the front-engined RWD Anglia-sized Ford NPX-C5 (with the above Glas-like 1.0-1.2-litre OHC), given it together with the mk1 Cortina could have been the beginnings of a number of joint-projects between Ford UK and Ford Germany in terms of platforms. An earlier UK-built Kent-powered NPX-C5 with similar styling to Michelotti’s Anglia Torino could have preceded the Escort by some 5+ years, while German-built versions of the mk1/mk2 Cortina could have featured larger versions of the Glas-like OHC engines.

          It can be argued Dearborn’s actions by passing off the Cardinal/Redwing project to Ford Germany to became the Taunus P4 and the demand for UK/Germany to develop V4 engines delayed a more organic integration of its European divisions by almost a decade (as was happening at GM between Vauxhall and Opel via the Viva HA and Kadett A).

          That said in retrospect Dearborn were mistaken about the bad prospects of the Cardinal/Redwing project in the US, an exterior styling similar to the Corsair-like proposal below or even the “Ford Special” would have aided US sales even if it was burdened with a 60-degree V4 instead of the initial Lancia-like 20-degree V4 (that would have given the US its own Lancia Fulvia and related mid-engined sportscar). –

  6. Now if you are talking about older Fords, a Ford Cortina 2.3 Ghia has to be on my list, particularly in automatic form. Powered by the durable and refined Cologne V6, and looking at its best in metallic gold with a vinyl roof, this was a must have car 40 years ago. Then there’s the Granada 2.8 Ghia, a worthy alternative to a Mercedes 280 E for a lot less money, that was a fine luxury car and the Capri 3000 S, made popular by The Professionals For me the bigger Fords were always very nice and desirable cars.

    • Early 2.3 cortina lumps were a very tight squeeze and the radiators had to be fitted with a lump of wood and a Dagenham screwdriver

  7. The book sounds good but when you go to the web site and put your details in, the shipping is a hefty £7.50. Too much even when the book is £35. I’m out.

  8. In terms of smoothness, the Cologne V6 was always a quiet engine, particularly with automatic transmission. It might have been thirsty around town, but was one of the better Ford engines and in 2.8 injection form could power a Granada to 125 mph. As I’ve pointed out, a fuel injected Granada could do everything a Mercedes 280E could do for considerably less and was better equipped and more economical.

    • I’ll agree with Glenn. The Cortina 2.3 Ghia was a nice aspirational car back in the day (as was the 2.0 as well). The Granada’s had road presence too.

      My “must have but never did” cars include the Cavalier MK1 Coupe & Sportshatch and a Capri 2000 Ghia or S. Another useful book is called “My Dad had one of those” published by BBC Books which covers many day to day cars from the 1960s to 90s.

      • @ Hilton D, I think Ford saw the Ghia badge as being aspirational and cars with vinyl roofs, velour seats and wood dashboards were seen as a big deal in the late seventies. Also since Rover had moved away from wood and leather in the SD1 and the 2300 was a stark car inside, Ford probably stole sales from Rover as their cars looked a lot nicer inside.

      • I could tick one of your boxes. At various times I had two Opel Manta coupes (the Cavalier coupe with a different badge). Great cars with superb handling and performance for the day.

        • Thanks KC. Yes the Manta was a favourite too, it being the donor Cavalier car. From the launch of both Manta & Cav MK1 coupes in 1975 to the Sportshatch in 78, I loved them all and still like looking at pictures of them.

  9. When I drove around in a “B” reg Fiesta 1.1 Ghia I would have loved an XR2 or a Mk3 Granada.
    Sorry, but these days I can’t see any Fords in my fantasy garage, give me something like a Lynx Eventer, Rover SD1 Vitesse or TR8.

  10. Not seen much now, but I always like the Sierra XR 4i, which was way better looking than the four door Sierra and looked more radical than the Capri Injection, with which it shared the drivrtain. Always remember the very eighties advert of the affluent couple leaving their mews house in Chelsea to drive to the continent in their XR4i. It just showed how many bases Ford covered in 1983, as the same range of cars started with a 1.3 poverty model.

    • My old man loved the 2.8 xr4x4. He nearly bought one back in 92, but he winced at the mileage – 100k as a jockey owned drove all over. He eventually bought a 1.8 Ghia which was a disappointment in the performance stakes, but it was very comfy.

      • @ Daveh, the XR4X4 was even better, having four wheel drive and 130 mph performance. Not surprised the car belonged to a jockey, the performance, space and four wheel drive( useful for getting out of muddy racecourses in winter) would have appealed. Also the 2.8 V6 was a reliable and fairly refined unit that could achieve high mileages with ease. i wonder how many jockeys owned XR4X4s, as the car of choice for many before the Sierra was the Reliant Scimitar.

        • Yes he loved it but was replacing it with a Cavalier Sri 4×4 if I remember rightly. Funny how in the 80s and early 90s brands saw 4×4 as a premium way to sell cars, which seems to have died out. The 2.8 v6 was an excellent motor, just rather juicy round town, however the 2.3 although being smooth was hindered with similar fuel economy and was not exactly sparkling in the performance stakes when up against the smaller 2l pinto.

          • The SUV craze was still some years away, but I do recall four wheel drive versions of family cars becoming popular in the eighties. Subaru led the way, of course, with the 1800 GLF, but other manufacturers started offering 4X4 versions of their cars. I suppose people in rural areas who didn’t want a Land Rover and considered the SUVs on offer to be too big and thirsty opted for cars like the Cavalier 4X4. Also a four wheel drive Sierra would be a much more interesting drive the rwd version.

        • In the late 80’s I rode in the back of a white Sierra XR4x4, while filming a client driving up a motorway for a sequence. It was his company car. Seemed fast enough and comfy… A better looking car than the original XR4i

    • Re the affluent Chelsea couple in an XR4, thinking of the VW Paula Hamilton image, Ford had an inferioirity problem, trying to shake off the blue collar/sales rep image to seek buyers with a bit more money, I recall a 1980s documentary about Ford, fly on the wall filming of the marketing people devising a campaign to “retarget the Fiestas” just one of many inflictions upon the English language, the TV commercial produced the usual stock characters, self-entitled over-confident Sloanie girl with big hair and big shoulder pads shopping in Kensington, she demands the use of a car phone, then drove off in her miserable Fiesta loaded with hat boxes and new outfits. Ford bought up many other car makers, creating the Premier Auto Group, long disposed of, and today the upmarket Ford Vignale brand, has anyone ever bought a Ford car of the Vignale brand?

      • I think a lot of Ford Pensioners have! Here in Essex there is quite a few Fiesta, Focus Estates and Mondeo Vignale’s, probably getting a rather heafty discount (though not as good as it use to be, I know when I looked at a new Mondeo with my family discount that it was not as good as it use to be). What I don’t get is how Ford think they can charge quite a large premium for what is basically a top range model like the Ghia or E models were, especially as they are priced in BMW/Merc/Audi and Jag money.

      • The Ghia badged Granadas were aimed at managing directors and buyers who wanted a luxurious six cylinder car, but couldn’t afford a premium badged car like a BMW, but other Fords lacked image, mostly being seen as company cars or cheap family transport. Certainly a Sloane Ranger wouldn’t go near anything with a Ford badge and would rather take the bus than use a Fiesta Popular.
        However, taking over Jaguar and Volvo was a masterstroke for Ford, as they gained access to a more affluent and discerning buyer and hundreds of millions dollars more every year in sales. Also the Jaguar and Volvo influence seemed to rub off on cars like the Matk 3 Mondeo as they seemed better made, more upmarket inside and a lot quieter than Fords from the early nineties.

      • I regard the Vignale models as renamed modern equivalents of the Ghia & Titanium (though the Titanium still exist). The Fiesta Vignale is a very expensive car and probably not worth buying new, but a good secondhand option after depreciation has kicked in.

  11. I had a target of a Porsche 911 in my early 30s, in was not achieved, I did purchase a Suzuki Rg500 motorcycle, the Rg500 was the motorcycling equivalent of a 911 Turbo

  12. The car you deserve/promised yourself was a frequent hookline in television commercials for motor cars.
    I do not watch much television these days, but where are the car commercials on TV?
    Have the manufacturers abandoned TV commercials as an advertising medium for attracting customers, and when did the change occur

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