The ’90s are back! From mild to wild, here are 10 great 1990s Ford project cars from the classic era you can buy and put your mark on.
Years produced: 1997 to 2002
For: Sexy-looking coupé with feline grace
Against: dodgy comments from your mates
Price when new: £14,550
Price now (condition C): £300
Fancy a cheap track hack? A firm Blue Oval investment? Maybe just an entertaining everyday driver? The original Puma can do it all without breaking a sweat — or, indeed, the bank. Famed for its glorious handling, the Puma was launched in August 1997 with a rev-happy 1679cc, Yamaha-developed Zetec SE powerplant, pushing out 123 bhp and hitting 60 mph in 8.8 seconds. Later Pumas were offered with the weaker 1.4 and 1.6-litre engines, so opt for an original 1.7 if you can find a non-rusty one, or a leather-clad limited-edition like the Millennium and Thunder. November 1999’s Racing Puma is rare and pricey, but its wide-arch bodywork is perfect for any Puma project.
Years produced: 1992 to 1996
For: So good, Tony Blair named Mondeo Man in its honour
Against:Tony Blair named Mondeo Man in its honour
Price when new: £11,448
Price now (condition C): £200
Where did all the Mk1 Mondeos go? Once found abandoned on every A1 lay-by, the first-generation Mondeo has suddenly become rare on UK roads. And it’s gradually becoming cool. Why? Because in 1992 the Mondeo was a revolutionary car for Ford. Although we today bemoan the switch from rear-wheel-drive Sierra to wrong-wheel-drive Mondeo, the truth is the Mondeo was better than its predecessor in every respect – from its sublime handling and Zetec engines to its impressive standard equipment. Hatchbacks and estates are handy, but find an Si saloon, slam the suspension, stick on 18s and imagine you’re in the BTCC.
Years produced: 1998 to 2005
For: Arguably the best Ford since the first Escort
Against:You’ll be arguing about what justifies classic Ford status
Price when new: £12,855
Price now (condition C): £200
The first-generation Focus is the epitome of a classic: it rose above the crowd, revolutionised a brand and stayed fresh
for decades. Indeed, a Mk1 Focus doesn’t only look modern – 23 years after it was launched – but even a well-used example can still be more fun to hustle along a B-road than most current econoboxes. It doesn’t matter whether you pick a basic 1.4-litre version or the final ST170 (from 2002), the Focus’s sublime driver-focused chassis is begging for more grunt. Us? We’d drop a 300 bhp 1.6 EcoBoost into a boggo three-door, fit coil-overs and enjoy some Q-car kicks.
Years produced: 1985 to 1993
For: The best Sierra for sensible money — and values are set to rocket
Against:Your investment will be lost to fuel bills
Price when new: £17,574
Price now (condition C): £2000
It’s no secret that Sierras improved with age — and by the 1990s, Ford’s family-sized repmobile could keep up with its rivals. But better than any other contender was the all-wheel-drive XR4x4, a five-door hatchback with roadholding good enough to earn it a place in Ford’s international rally team. In 1990, the regular XR4x4 – with 2.9-litre Cologne V6 (148 bhp and 127 mph) and tough MT75 gearbox – was joined by a 124 bhp four-cylinder (119 mph), but it’s the V6 you want. The Scorpio 24V BOA (195 bhp) fits so sweetly into a Sierra, and with a pair of turbos can create a Cossie-destroying
Escort Mk4 Bonus 90
Years produced: 1989 to 1990
For: A perfect blank canvas for old-school mods
Against: Overdo the add-ons, and it’s just another RS replica
Price when new: £6320
Price now (condition C): £750
RS Turbos and XR3is are reaching collectors’ car values, which means all the ropey examples are receiving restorations. But what about lesser-model Mk4s? They’re not just ripe for modification, they’re generally in better bodily condition. A Bonus 90 (from October 1989) makes an ideal buy, being a three-door hatch, typically owned by an old dear – meaning low mileage and little rust. Swap the 1.1/1.3 HCS for a Zetec on throttle bodies, lower the ride height, stick on some Peugeot 17 inch steelies and leave the bumpers grey plastic. You’ll need to ditch the grotty Popular-spec seats, so go Clubsport-spec with buckets and cage.
Words Dan Williamson
See five more 1990s Ford project cars in the December 2021 issue available here
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