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Member Since 03 Oct 2013
Offline Last Active Jan 26 2014 11:32 AM

Topics I've Started

Highways Department Is A Drain On The Country's Economy . . .

20 October 2013 - 07:06 PM

This last month has been an eye-opener - I don't do many long journeys having retired in January this year, apart from the dash from Northumberland to Dover with the caravan in tow in June and now I'm on a fixed income I have to watch the pennies so we catch the 4 am ferry and travel down on the M1/M25/M20  overnight. However, for the last four weekends I have been taking 'stuff' like three canoes, a trailer full of tools, boot full of house plants etc down to Staffordshire as we are moving house at the end of the month – and driving down in the daytime I am horrified by the parlous state of our major highways and the extended journey times because of all the roadworks. The M1 has no less than 3 long sections of roadworks between Leeds and Sheffield with three lanes into two and 50 mph, the bottom of the A19 where it joins the A1M is two lanes into one, the M6 has a section of three lanes into two at Tebay and 40mph (why not 50??) and to cap it all next month the M18/M1 junction is due for roadworks up the end of 2105! So the North of England and Scotland is virtually cut off. I accept that the Motorways have to be maintained but what really gets under the skin is that in every one of these lengthy roadwork sections one only ever sees three blokes in yellow safety jackets, one of whom is laying out yet more cones while the other two stand around scratching their 'nads! Why can't these roadworks be done 24/7 under arc lights like they do in France and Germany?? 



Want To Make Smooooth Downshifts On A Manual 'box?

10 October 2013 - 11:24 AM

You don't have to be driving a Fiesta RS WRC on the RAC Rally to use a technique called 'heel and toe' to make smoother downshifts and increase safety by having better control of the car. A small 'blip' of the throttle between the gears helps to synchronise engine speed to the revs needed for the lower gear to engage more smoothly, and your passengers won't even realise you've gone down a cog as you approach the corner. With the toe of the right foot firmly on the brake, the clutch disengaged (important!) a touch on the accelerator with the heel of the foot brings the revs up and the lower gear slides in nicely. The problem on the Mondeo Mk 4 is that the accelerator pedal is too far away from the brake to be able to 'heel and toe' effectively. Ford can supply a nice set of 'race pedals', a snip at a mere £155 + VAT, but search the internet and one can buy a kit with all three pedals for £9.80 including P&P. You don't need the brake and clutch pedals, they can go in the recycle bin but the accelerator pedal which fits over the original does the job nicely, reducing the gap to the brake pedal, increasing the overall size and raising it towards the height of the brake pedal by 8mm so that one can now 'heel and toe' very effectively. The accessory pedal comes with two brackets which give a firm fit over the original accelerator pedal, but for added security I put in a 5mm No 4 self tapper which holds everything in place. Be sure to position the accessory pedal carefully so that at full travel it does not hit the carpet (ie make sure the accelerator can still hit the stop) and the gap between the brake and new, larger accelerator pedal is at least 40mm. 

A Rather Murky Past . . .

09 October 2013 - 01:08 PM

In a recent television documentary (Hitler's Rise - the Colour Films) Channel 4 'exposed' a number of today's well known brands who had collaborated with the Third Reich. Apart from learning that my favourite 'smellies' manufacturer, Hugo Boss made the SA's brown shirts, the one that made me listen up was the reference to Henry Ford's involvement with Adolf Hitler. However none of this is new and a little investigation can turn up some very interesting, if rather murky history.

Shortly after he was released from Landsberg prison in December 1924, Hitler received a copy of Henry Ford's Mein Leben und Werk (My Life and Work published 1920) whose anti-semitic viewpoint had a great influence on his own thinking. Hitler hung Ford's picture on the wall of his office and quoted extensively from Henry Ford's book in his own diatribe of vitriol, Mein Kampf. Henry Ford is known to have donated $78,000 to the NSDAP in 1928, equivalent to $1,065,000 in today's money and he continued to give large sums to Hitler every year, up to 35,000 RM, on his birthday. 'I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration' Adolf Hitler was quoted by the Detroit News in an interview on 31 Dec 1931 and to show his appreciation, he awarded Henry Ford the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, a citation reserved for foreigners of distinction, which was presented by the German Ambassador to Ford on his 75th birthday on 30th June 1938, in his Dearborn office.

It should be no surprise that the Ford Motor Company had direct dealings with the Third Reich prior to the Second World War, continuing on until the U.S. entered the war in Dec 1941. In 1936, a Ford executive visiting Germany was informed by a Party official that Ford's Cologne plant manager was a Jew, prompting discussions between Ford Germany and Dearborn. Heinrich Albert, Ford's German-U.S. liaison executive, insisted the man be fired and he was replaced by Robert Schmidt, a member of the NSDAP. Fordwerke, as well as Matford in occupied France contributed significantly in equipping Germany's armed forces with trucks and other important transportation such as half-tracks. Ford America also negotiated a resource-sharing agreement that allowed Germany access to scarce supplies, particularly rubber, and continued to ship CKD truck chassis to Fordwerke right up until Hitler declared war on the U.S.A in December 1941.


During this same period leading up to the American entry into the war, Ford was reluctant to participate in the Allied military effort. Even in June 1940 after the fall of France, Henry Ford personally vetoed a plan to build aero engines for the Allies, although having said that, Ford of Britain did produce over 30,000 Rolls Royce Merlin engines at a purpose-built factory at Urmston, Manchester from the time America entered the war. Although Dearborn could no longer communicate directly with Ford Germany, indirect links continued with senior managers such as Robert Schmidt travelling to neutral Portugal in order to consult with US Ford officials. Ford Dearborn continued throughout the war as the majority (52%) shareholder in Fordwerke which was one of the major suppliers of war materiel to the Heer throughout WW2 and saw profits of over 1.0 million RM in 1939 rise to 2.1 million RM by 1943, with Dearborn receiving dividends through neutral countries from its German subsidiary thought to be worth approximately $60,000 for each of the years 1941-43. At the cessation of hostilities the Ford Motor Company even submitted a claim on behalf of the German factories for compensation of $7 million from the American Government for bomb damage, including 'loss of stock'! The claim was eventually settled at $780,000 in recognition that Allied bombing had made a particular effort to avoid hitting the Ford factories: it was said in Cologne during the war that the Ford plant was safer than any air raid shelter! Ford GB also maintained links with Fordwerke; the Dagenham Advertising Manager, Clayton Young travelled to neutral Sweden in 1944 to attend a conference with his German counterparts, but unfortunately suffered from the extreme cold in the DH Mosquito and died shortly after arrival.

When the GIs landed on Utah and Omaha Beaches in June 1944, they did so in jeeps, trucks and tanks manufactured by Ford, Chrysler and GM. It came as a surprise to discover that the enemy was also driving identical trucks manufactured by Fordwerke and Opel (GM). When the U.S. Army liberated the Ford factories in Cologne and Berlin, they found destitute foreign workers confined behind barbed wire and company documents extolling the "genius of the Führer" according to reports filed by soldiers at the scene. Following a short detention for questioning by the occupying powers, Robert Schmidt and other senior Fordwerke managers who had been NSDAP members went back to work in the autumn of 1945. U.S. Army investigation by Henry Schneider in September 1945, reported that Ford Germany had served as "an arsenal of Nazism" with the expressed consent of the parent company in Dearborn. However to give the company due credit, in the 1990's FoMoCo commissioned Professor Simon Reich to investigate the company's involvement with the Third Reich, in particular the use of slave labour, and published the ensuing report in 2001. Neither has the Ford Motor Company sought to deny its involvement with the Third Reich and today makes original documents from the period available at the Henry Ford Archive for anyone who wishes to see them. Such an open minded attitude may yet prove costly but then perhaps by holding up its hand the Ford Motor Company feels it has more to gain by admitting the past and moving on? The class-action suit brought by Elsa Ivanova against Ford in March 2012, is typical of likely future cases. In October 1942, at the age of 16, she was abducted from her home in the southern Russian city of Rostov, together with hundreds of other young women by German soldiers to work as slave labourers at the Ford plant at Cologne. "The conditions were terrible, they put us in barracks, on three-tier bunks," she recalled "it was very cold, they did not pay us at all and scarcely fed us. The only reason that we survived was that we were young and fit."

In complete contrast to Ford's candid attitude is that of other American companies who also collaborated with the Third Reich – General Motors (Opel) try everything to keep their involvement secret although it is well documented that the du Pont family (American owners of GM) were as rabidly anti-semitic as Henry Ford and that Opel used slave labour in their factories like every other large enterprise operating in Germany from 1933-45. Other well known American brands who collaborated with the Third Reich were Coca Cola (WW2 slogan "Mach doch, mal Pause" which translates roughly as 'Do something, have a break' and whose advertising in Germany included a Coke bottle with swastika) and IBM who produced the Hollerith punch card systems with which the SS administered the concentration camps so efficiently. At least the Ford Motor Company is trying to make amends.

I'm not sure that any of this affects my enjoyment of the nice new Mondeo Titanium on my drive, any more than I'm going to stop taking my beta blockers because they're made by Bayer, or, come to that, stop using aftershave because Hugo Boss made uniforms for the Sturmabteilung! Its just that I am interested in C20th history in general and in the history of the Ford Motor Company in particular and its fun to know what lies behind the company that built my car. 




Fordwerke - Ford-Werke GmbH is the German car manufacturer subsidiary of Ford of Europe, itself a subsidiary of FoMoCo.


Heer - the land forces component of the Wehrmacht, or Armed Forces of the Third Reich


NSDAP - Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei commonly called the N*zi Party in English, although on the FOC Forum one can't write !Removed! Party


SA or Sturmabteilung - the NSDAP Stormtroopers (eg, thugs) or 'brown shirts' lead by Ernst Rohm.

Like A New Ford But Hate The Price? Read On . . .

04 October 2013 - 10:05 AM

Towing a 1250kg caravan behind a 1346kg Hyundai i30 to the south of France earlier this summer convinced me by the time I'd even left the outskirts of Calais that 113 tiny little Korean horses just weren't enough. The speed limit for towing a 'van sur le Continong is a reasonable 130 kph or 85mph in real money, but the i30 imposed its own speed limit of 62mph on a good day so by the time we'd reached the Dordogne a week later the decision was taken.


Now I am a great believer in learning from other peoples' real life experiences so on our return from France I spent a long time researching the reviews on what is termed 'family' or Class C sized cars and the general consensus is that the Mondeo bested everything else by a country mile. The problem is that I retired in January and my rather meagre pension arrangements had not planned for a new car for at least another five years - learning to live on a fixed (small) income is another hard lesson in this rich and exciting life. As well as a strong, heavy car with plenty of grunt to pull my caravan, another important factor in my buying decision is that this would have to be a 10-year car, so buying used was really not an option as one doesn't know how those first 20,000 miles have been covered by the previous owner. And then I came across Ford Direct.


Five-down on the left side of the Ford UK Home page is a little menu item which opens up with this http://www.ford.co.u.../VehicleLocator   and from there you reach the Holy Grail, a brand new Ford at used car price. There are basically three categories of vehicles handled by Ford Direct: ex-Motability which are 2-3 years old and can have 20,000+ miles on the clock, Ford's own employee company cars which are generally under a year old with around 7,000 recorded miles and lastly the type of vehicle in which I was interested, namely pre-registered and technically classed as used but in reality brand new. The reason all manufacturers pre-register cars is to try to gain market share in the all-important fleet sales league tables. Since introduction, the Vauxhall Insignia has consistently outsold the Mondeo, which only goes to prove fleet buyers have absolutely no idea about motor cars because they would only have to read AutoExpress, Honest John, What Car? etc to learn quite how bad the Vauxhall really is!

When you have decided on the engine, trim level, colour and price you want to pay (not necessarily connected as we will discuss later) the search begins in earnest – because wherever you might live, even if your postcode is from the dark side of the moon, the vehicle locator will tell you that your choice of car is in Preston, or Brighton or even Aberdeen but in reality it isn't there at all its in a field just outside Gillingham! Although you can order a car from Ford Direct for delivery to your very own front door, what Ford is trying to do is to send you to a Dealer and that is indeed the best option as we shall see later. The other problem with the vehicle locator is that within an engine type and size - I wanted a 2.0 TDCi - it doesn’t indicate power variants. For towing I had decided on the 163PS which has considerably more torque than the 140PS . . .  and its faster!

So, initial research completed my wife and I went to the local Ford Main Dealer to try out a Mondeo 2.0 TDCi 163, except we had to make do with the 140 as 163's are rarer than dogs which say more than just 'sausages'. As it happens, the final decision to invest in a new car was made by my bank as a 3.24% ISA had matured a few weeks previously and the thieving so-and-so's offered a paltry 0.9% to roll it over. The next hurdle to be overcome in the Ford Direct version of Monopoly was that you don't necessarily get to own the car of first choice, even if you throw a double six and its showing on the website as being available.

The Dealer version of the Ford Direct website is rather different from what us punters get, I can tell you. Remember the bit above when I said that the choice of trim, colour, engine etc had no real connection to the final price? Well my friendly Ford Main Dealer - and they genuinely were very professional, very friendly and very helpful without applying any pressure – were showing a choice of seven Mondeo Titanium 2.0 TDCi's with the 163PS engine on the Ford Direct screen when we arrived that morning, all with 25 recorded miles but at a range of prices from £16,998 all the way to £17,998. How does that work? its just one of life's mysteries! Anyway, the choice of colours was black, dark silver, light (moondust) silver, moondust silver, moondust silver etc etc. We didn't want black, especially with 'privacy glass' at the back it looks too much like those Co-Op cars which take the rellies up to the Crem although I can see it might appeal to some. We went outside to look at a 140 Titanium in the dark (metallic grey, really) silver which we fancied. Choice made, back inside to the Sales Manager to complete the deal . . . . . but in the five minutes we were looking at the colour of our choice, another Dealer had pressed the Order button and it had disappeared from the screen - so it was moondust silver after all!

Now comes the price bit; we desperately wanted that car, but made out all nonch and got up to walk out when offered it at £16,998. Eventually we settled for £16,500 cash for a car whose list price was £22,795! We were quoted a delivery time of 7 to 10 working days, but it actually arrived in 5 and when it came there were two nice surprises – it had option 5 spoke 18” alloys instead of the 10 spoke 17's at no extra cost, and there were just 13 delivery miles on the clock. The Sales Exec was as surprised as we were but the explanation is that Ford build cars with the most popular options in the hope that anything they pre-register will be more attractive and find a buyer quickly and also since the 2013 facelift doesn't offer 18” they wanted to get rid of surplus stock. My car was built in November 2012, registered on 31st. December 2012 and pdi'd by Fords on 13th. January 2013. The other advantage in buying through a Dealer apart from being able to haggle on the price, is that the car gets three pdi's, one by Ford, another one when it arrives at the Dealership and an inspection and certificate from the RAC. With the Ford full 2 year warranty is RAC membership with caravan recovery included which is a big plus, saving £160 on two years RAC Arrival membership.

We have now covered 1500 miles and the Mondeo is getting run-in in the old fashioned way – gently! The Ford Direct buying experience well exceeded all my expectations, apart from one niggle and that is the Owners' Manual which is quite appalling, but I'll have more to say on that when I write a review on the car itself in a few months time.

Usual disclaimers, I don't work for Fords, nor am I in any way connected with the motor industry, I'm actually a retired photographer. If you are interested in buying a Ford Direct pre-reg vehicle and want more info then do please Message me and I'll be happy to oblige.

Return To Ford

03 October 2013 - 08:08 AM

Hiya, just bought a brand new Mondeo Titanium 163 from Ford Direct after 20 miss-spent years with Toyota's, Hyundai's etc! So far just about run it in at 1300 miles and really appreciate the torquey motor, good economy and relaxed, easy drive. As a yoof I raced (Anglia with twink engine) and rallied (Mk1 GT Cortina and Mk2 Lotus Cortina) Fords.