Blog : The Rover reviver becomes Mondeo Man

Our man in the south waves farewell to Project HHR, the car that’s quite possibly been the cheapest and most dependable of the bangers we have brought you.

In a strange twist of fate, Mike hasn’t got a new project, but he is making good use of the ratty Mondeo we recently purchased.

Andy Widdows is now the owner of Project HHR – we wish him all the best!

Well, that really was an emotional drive. Project HHR has moved on to pastures new… Actually, that’s not strictly true as the pastures are barely two miles from my old residence of some years back. The journey to the new owner’s place not only took me along a road that I had veered off into bushes and fences in two Ford Cortinas as a pup, but right past what was once the very same MG Rover dealer I used to work for.

That plucky little Rover 414iE blitzed up the M1 to Northamptonshire with me behind the wheel for the last time – as has been the case for a while now, the car performed without any fuss, problems or drama. I really did feel a little sad when I signed off the V5.

The 400’s off to Andy Widdows!

I wish Andy Widdows every happiness with the 400. It’s far from being a concours car, and nor will it ever be, but what he has bought is a tidy and honest old banger with plenty of life left in it and, of course, a useful slice of MoT to keep him soldiering on until next winter.

Andy had been looking to pop his BMC>MGR cherry for quite a while now and jumping into a HHR makes perfect sense as there’s plenty of spares around, they are quite simple to glue back together if things fall apart and they are roomy and comfortable. If she gives him half the enjoyment I had from her then Andy’s done okay… All the best mate and keep us informed of your progress.

And what’s in store for Mr Humble?

So, what about my new wheels then? Erm, technically, I don’t have any at the moment. I was looking at another R8-flavoured Rover 216 and even one of the last Swindon-produced Honda Accords (different eh, folks?), but some cash which was due to come through didn’t materialise as promised, and then I was asked if I would be interested in running a long-term test car in the near future.

This, of course, meant a change of tack – I didn’t really need to own a car as such, so I decided not to. Enter problem number one – the test car is still a week or three away and my commute to work is not exactly doable by foot, bike or bus… That’s when Keith Adams came to the rescue.

Mondeo Man: Some air in the front tyres along with two-litres of engine oil in its tummy and the car was decreed fit for purpose to get me back home to leafy Horsham. Despite a glowing engine management warning light (one to sort out hopefully) and hilariously high mileage, it managed 43.2mpg – incredible!

Sitting in a small corner of a big and lonely car park in Peterborough is the £760 Ford Mondeo he recently liberated from Oxfordshire. Did I want to borrow it for a little while and would I be happy to iron out a few of the problems it possesses? Not being one to shirk an old sh*tter of a car, I gladly accepted the offer with gutso and the new owner of the HHR happily ran me eastbound to Cambridgeshire to collect the car.

Secretly, I had been looking forward to this – one thing had been rattling around in my head, I was about to become Mondeo Man. Not metaphorically speaking, but actually a bona fide one hundred per cent living, breathing Mondeo Man!

Behold, it’s Mondeo Man!

Even the missus had been teasing me once or twice. So what? It’s no big deal as, all around where I live the driveways are full of this type of car. We live in a commuter-land of middle and upper management folk and already have a brand-new Passat on the front so the Mondeo simply blends in to its surroundings – just, in fact, as it has done everywhere since 1993.

But I will be frank, I’m out of touch with Fords these days. The last one owned was an 2004 Focus and, before that, the last medium family Ford in my stewardship was the last of three Sierras I owned – an ex-police CID twin-cam Sapphire – I must add that was a damn fine machine to storm along the M1 with.

So here I am, Mondeo Man… How am I finding this so far? Am I feeling the difference?

The smell inside of 210,000 miles of backside was pretty savage. My local valeting chaps threw more chemicals into the cabin than I’d ever seen – seems to have done the trick, though…

One thing is evident, I can see exactly why these machines have sold in such incredible numbers. Despite the fact it’s covered the thick end of 210,000 miles, there really isn’t much to give the game away if you were to apply a strip of black tape over the odometer – however, I do stress the use of the word much.

It certainly belies its age!

Knock it out of gear at speed on stretch of new tarmac and you can make out the distant distress of a wailing rear wheel bearing. Slog it in the gears and the famous Ford chatter emits from the gearbox as you power up while the front discs are more warped than Frankie Boyle’s humour. Mind you, none of these issues are really worth worrying about.

This is what bangernomics is all about – making the best of an old clunker. However, I will say most sincerely folks that the £760 Mondeo is the very best old nail I have driven. Spool it up to 70mph and tap the cruise button (yes folks, it still works) and the car glides with all the serenity and comfort of an ocean liner. No squeaks, rattles, thunks or clunks from anywhere – it’s arrow straight and on the button.

For sure all the most used knobs and switches are bald where the identification has worn away from untold jabbing and the odour inside was akin to a welder’s boot but my local valeting chap has just done a session inside which was tantamount to chemical warfare.

The reason for Ford’s domination of the fleet sector is there for all to see. I might not be feeling the difference just yet but, after this afternoon’s full and thorough valet…

I can certainly smell it!

Mike Humble


  1. Not a bad car at all for under £800, I’ve always liked the Mondeo and still hanker after a good mk1 saloon, but they are now like the preverbial needle in a haystack.

    It will be interesting to see how it compares againt the nearest BLARG model which I suppose would be a late Rover 75, but I’m suspecting the Mondeo might outclass most BLARG offerings.

  2. I’ve long wanted to get into a rover and all things slotted into place at the right time. So after 24 hours ownership of my first ever BLARG car what do I think? A k series seems to be surprisingly flexible, the ride comfort is like nothing I have driven so far, and it’s a nice place to sit too. There’s 1 or 2 minor jobs to tackle (as you would expect with a car at at this age and price point) nothing serious. i’m hoping to keep a good rover going for a long while yet.

  3. Hi Mike.

    You mention middle and upper management in your part of Leafy Horsham. Do you have any minor royalty too?

  4. Nothing wrong with modern Fords( except Arnold Shark owning the main dealership locally), they seem to be good looking, well made cars that go well and are still cheap and easy to fix. I drove a 2003 Mondeo 1.8 Zetec as a hire car and was surprised at how refined, powerful and comfortable it was compared with the old Pinto Sierras.

  5. One thing in your favor and bangernomics is that I bet the local scrapper has a bunch in stock for all kinds of parts cheap, including a nicer smelling front seat, good brake rotors and better condition dash knobs. Likely this was a M/major A road runner, so it’s 200+K is likely better that if a 50K ‘pensioner’s’ special driven only to market on Saturdays and church on Sundays.

  6. Still can’t get over how a cracking looking Mondeo like this, which still looks recent given that the new model has a similar shape with the new corporate grille, is well sub-£1k, even at the mileage.

    Last I looked used examples were still in the “new Dacia Sandero” region.

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