The Apprentice Escort Cosworth

You’re hired: retro Fords were real stars of The Apprentice

The Apprentice Escort Cosworth

“Oh. My. God,” trumpeted Apprentice candidate Elizabeth McKenna as she strutted into a room containing a selection of Ford heritage vehicles.

The sight of an immaculate classic Ford is enough to send anyone weak at the knees, just ask our very own Tim Pitt, who hasn’t quite recovered from getting up close and personal with Ford’s ‘secret’ car collection.

For motoring fans, episode seven of The Apprentice promised to be the best yet, with the hopeless and hopeful remainers tasked with advertising a new car to avoid being given a hard exit.

“I’m giving each of the teams a brand new car out of the factory, and what you have to is come up with a campaign to launch it,” said Lord Sugar. Simple enough, when the car in question is the UK’s best-selling vehicle.

Only it proved to be anything but simple. The chosen names were terrible: ‘Expando’ sounds like a pair of elasticated slacks, while ‘Miami’ sounds like… well, a city in Florida.

It got worse. A terrible slice of misfortune (read: poor planning) led to one team arriving at a Norman settlement to shoot a TV ad for the all-new Expando (a de-badged Ford Fiesta).

“They’ve gone medieval. They didn’t even have cars then, did they?” questioned a deadpan Harrison Jones. Well, duh. Time to get on your packhorse and ride out of this medieval town.

What has this got to do with Motoring Research? Truth be told, not a great deal, we just thought it would be an opportunity to relive (shamelessly plug) our time at the Ford heritage warehouse and share a couple of old Retro Road Tests.

Still, if brazen piggybacking is good enough for Mike Brewer…

Here’s Tim Pitt’s pick of the cars hidden away in the Dagenham warehouse, displayed in less salubrious surroundings than a well-lit room in Dunton. But wait, because here’s a video of even more classic Fords – created by Bradley Lawrence. There’s no way Tim or Bradley would ever face the wrath of Lord Sugar in the boardroom.

Did you spot the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth on television? Tim drove it and managed to include a reference to Shakin’ Stevens in his Retro Road Test. But don’t let Cardiff’s ‘Shaky’ put you off, because it’s a good read.

Not to be left out, here’s our editor of all things Retro falling in love with a Mk1 Ford Expando. There’s a disappointing lack of Shakin’ Stevens in this Retro Road Test, but you’ll be pleased to know that Andrew resisted the temptation to drop in on his local Norman settlement.

NEXT> More retro content at Retro MR

The Apprentice Series 13

The Apprentice says ‘you’re hired’ to the Volkswagen Caravelle

The Apprentice VW Caravelle

Tonight, Volkswagen takes a break from playing pirates with Greenpeace and dealing with the continued fallout from dieselgate, when it appears in the new series of BBC’s The Apprentice.

The beleaguered firm has once again supplied a fleet of five sixth-generation Volkswagen Caravelles, all finished in Deep Black pearl effect paint and powered by a – whisper this – 2.0-litre diesel engine.

Volkswagen seized the opportunity to provide transport for the hapless and often hopeless hopefuls – otherwise known as the candidates – when Chrysler was famously fired from the UK. Goodbye Grand Voyager, hello Volkswagen Caravelle.

The Executive model – which costs from £43,219 – is certainly well-appointed and large enough to house even the biggest of egos. And with seats trimmed in Alcantara and leather, it provides adequate comfort for a hard day spent backstabbing your fellow candidates.

Much like Volkswagen, The Apprentice is suffering from a decline in popularity, but continues to soldier on in the face of adversity. While the rest of the world has turned its back on the show, the BBC stays loyal to the programme which has its roots in the US and a certain Donald Trump.

In the first US series, Trump chose Bill Rancic as his apprentice, netting him a one-year, $250,000 contract and a Chrysler Crossfire.

Bill Rancic Chrysler Crossfire

The American auto giant was a primary sponsor of the NBC show, with viewers asked to select one of four Chrysler vehicles for the winner. Some 291,000 people voted for the Crossfire, failing to see the potential of giving a PT Cruiser to the Apprentice champ. A missed opportunity.

As a BBC show, the producers are unable to capitalise on sponsorship deals in the UK, but that doesn’t stop Volkswagen benefiting from a prime product placement on BBC One.

It might not be the TV powerhouse of old, but seven million viewers have tuned in to watch the finals of the three most recent seasons. For Volkswagen, it’s a welcome relief from scandals, pirates and arrests.

For the candidates, everybody is hoping to avoid an early ride in the back of an LTI TXII taxi and to make it through to the final for an opportunity to win a £250,000 investment and a chance to go into business with Lord Sugar.

Who knows, by the end of series, the businessman formerly known as ‘Sir Alan’ might be rocking a new Rolls-Royce Phantom VIII and every fired candidate might be presented with an ageing Chrysler PT Cruiser Cabrio. That should keep them on their toes.

7 retro car videos from the BBC Archive

7 retro car videos from the BBC Archive

The BBC archives are a treasure trove of clips showing a nostalgic view of the world gone by. Its official Facebook page is well worth a visit. We hunted out some of the wittiest car-related clips of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

1961: Panorama previews the sat-nav

With today’s modern sat-nav systems providing instant traffic updates and providing route guidance as detailed as showing you the best way through a junction, this early sat-nav of 1961 feels an age ago. Back then, it would have seemed incredibly futuristic – a huge computer showing the best route between two destinations.

It’s interesting to see that traffic going into London was just as much of an issue in the early 60s, especially over bank holiday weekends. “About 40,000 cars an hour are converging on London,” the presenter informs us.

1983: The wheel clamp arrives in London

Ah, wheel clamps. Imagine a time when you could leave your car anywhere in London without worrying about returning to find one of these attached with a hefty fine on the windscreen. That changed in 1983 when the ‘Denver Shoe’ was introduced – and motorists caught with it had to pay £19.50 to have their car released.

The clips shows the Metropolitan Police wheel clamp unit patrolling in a Mk3 Ford Escort van, after clamping a lovely Renault 12.

1996: Launch of the original Grand Theft Auto

With 11 titles under its belt, Grand Theft Auto is one of the most successful video games ever. But this BBC journalist visiting developer DMA Design in 1996 didn’t seem entirely convinced. “Gordon and Fiona here just get to play Grand Theft Auto all day,” he informs the viewer, before questioning the kind of ‘nerds’ who get jobs creating video games.

1981: Top Gear ponders the phenomenon of ‘hatchbacks’

Top Gear in 1981, and Chris Goffey is looking at the new Ford Escort. It’s fitted with a hatchback boot, something that was still fairly new in the early 80s.

“There’s a great controversy raging,” he explains, “over exactly what sort of car the public really wants… a three-box saloon… that’s a ‘normal’ car with a central seating area and a separate boot at the back, or a hatchback.”

Ford is convinced that buyers want ‘the flexibility a hatchback can offer’, but Goffey doesn’t seem quite so sure.

1972: Blue Peter looks at motor homes

Blue Peter 1972, and presenters are looking at the latest, luxurious motor home launched in America. “It’s got a V8 engine which means the driver can go at about 100mph… not of course that he could do 100mph in this country,” explains Valerie Singleton.

It’s also got hot and cold running water, an oven, and even a ‘fabulous’ shower room.

1982: A man attempts to jump a Morris Oxford over a river

Today, if you really want to jump a car over a river, you’ll be pleased to know technology has made it fairly simple. Computers can be used to calculate ramp angles and required speeds, but there was more than an element of trial and error when this man tried to jump his Morris Oxford in 1982.

“He’s already tried three times to jump across a river near Tewkesbury,” explains the presenter. But 28-year-old Steve, a lorry driver from Leicester, is confident he’ll make it this time. Watch the clip to find out how it went…

1986: Top Gear asks what makes a car a ‘classic’

It’s a question that still comes up regularly today… how do you define a ‘classic’ car? Attempting to answer in 1986, Tony Dron explains “it’s essentially a post-war car… we don’t really want any fixed years in which it has to fit, because that’s not the name of the game.”

When asked whether Anglias, Cortinas and Imps could be classed as classics, Dron answers with a smirk on his face, “we shouldn’t be snobs about it, should we?”

10 things we know about the final episode of Top Gear


In authentic Jeremy Clarkson meets excitable puppy style – THEY’RE BACK! Well, almost. By releasing a 30-second video clip of the lost – and indeed, last – episode of Top Gear in its current format, the BBC has put the internet in serious danger of collapse. Quite simply, the world can’t get enough of Messrs Clarkson, Hammond and May.

So what do we know the one-off special episode? Read on to find out.

Hang on, weren’t there two lost episodes?


Top marks for paying attention. Yes, there were two unaired episodes waiting in the wings, but the BBC has decided to edit these into one final film. Which kind of makes sense, as the news and Star In A Reasonably Priced Car did account for a fair proportion of each episode. And these are unlikely to feature in the final episode.

So we won’t be seeing Gary Lineker’s flying lap?


Nope, there’s little chance of seeing Leicester’s favourite son taking a Vauxhall Astra to the limit on the Top Gear Track. When news broke of Jeremy Clarkson’s fracas with a producer, Lineker – who was scheduled to appear as a Star In A Reasonably Priced Car – tweeted: “I don’t think I’m ever meant to appear on Top Gear.” But don’t worry, we’re sure it won’t be long before you see him advertising crisps again.

Right, so what about that final episode?


A BBC spokesperson said: “In the first film, Jeremy, Richard and James immerse themselves in the lifestyle of the traditional classic car enthusiast. Armed with affordable classics including a Fiat 124 Spider, a Peugeot 304 Cabriolet and an MGB GT, the trio set off on an adventure that includes brown beer, breakdowns and a hair raising classic car show.”

The BBC spokesperson goes on to say…


“In the second film, Clarkson, Hammond and May try to become lifestyle leisure enthusiasts with the help of some incredibly cheap lifestyle leisure vehicles. Restricted to a maximum budget of £250, the trio buy three massive mileage SUVs and then embark on a series of action-packed challenges that include battling with the Stig’s ‘Leisure Activity Cousin’ and a race with terrifying consequences for the loser.”

Last one back is an after dinner speaker


Turns out the ‘terrifying consequences’ involve doing a stint as an after dinner speaker. The 30-second clip shows the presenters, all suited and booted, with Clarkson reading out details of the challenge. He says: “The last to arrive will be doing the after dinner speech.” At which point, they run through the mud and climb into their £250 SUVs.

What do we know about the SUVs?


Hammond appears to be doing things right, as he jumps aboard a camouflaged Jeep Cherokee. We hope it’s the 4.0-litre version, Richard. May appears to opt for sense and reliability by driving a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin. And Clarkson? Well it looks like he’s gone for a Vauxhall Frontera.

Not one, but two Vauxhall Fronteras?


The clip begins with Clarkson stood in front of a white Vauxhall Frontera, with what appears to be a homemade pick-up conversion. Later on in the film, footage from earlier in the episode shows what appears to be the same Vauxhall Frontera in its original blue paintwork. No doubt they cued the A-Team music and set to work in the garage to create the pick-up.

What could possibly go wrong?


Three close-to-death SUVs, lots of mud and a trio of caravans – it can only lead to mayhem and destruction. As James May says during the film: “I think we might have lost sight of the rules of this race slightly.” So what else is new?

What do we know about the affordable classics?


Very little. The film finishes with a voiceover saying: “Top Gear Special – only on BBC Two.” Behind the graphics you can see a blue MGB GT, a delightful Fiat 124 Sport Spider and a Peugeot 304 Cabriolet with authentic yellow headlights. We’re not sure who drives what car, but kudos to whoever’s behind the wheel of the Fiat. It looks like they’ve done it up to look like a 124 Abarth Rally. Unless, of course, it’s the real thing.

When do we get to see the final Top Gear episode?


No date has been given, but we understand it will air on BBC in the next few weeks. Hammond and May returned to the studio to piece together the final film, but this will be the last time the three presenters appear on the show together. The future of Top Gear remains unclear. Who knows, perhaps Clarkson, Hammond and May will indeed launch their own Netflix show…

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