From Zero to Hero: the joy (and abject misery) of Ford's 1990 ICE range

10 months ago


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These days even an £8600 Dacia Sandero comes with touch-screen nav, and kit like Bluetooth is expected on all mainstream metal.

But things weren’t quite so egalitarian back in the late 1980s. Take the entry-level Fiesta Popular pictured above. It didn’t even have a radio. Or almost anything else beyond seats and a steering wheel.

The nearest the spec rundown gets to techy kit is a heated rear window, the rest of the list comprising of stuff like ‘moulded panel door trim’ and ‘integrated door lock and handle’.

You can almost hear the copywriters tearing their hair out, sending stressy faxes over to Ford asking 'isn't there anything else?'.

There was no 12v socket, no intermittent wipers, not even a glovebox lid or a clock. Mind you, that space where the radio should be would be pretty useful for stashing a harmonica.

‘Key optional feature’, it says at the bottom, offering you a glimpse of salvation from three years of utter misery, 'available at extra cost is an Electronic Self-Seek AM/FM mono radio'. Without a cassette player. Was this really 1990? Or 1970.

But it was better than whistling, and much like a jukebox, the more money you fished out of your pocket, the more music you got to hear. Ford’s audio range was pretty expansive compared to its rivals, ranging from the silence of that Fiesta Popular to the Scorpio’s double-DIN din-maker.

Many surviving cars will have had their original kit ripped out years ago, but here’s what you could have had back in 1990:

Model: 2001 Electronic AM/FM Mono Radio

To save your blushes (at least until your passenger tried to load a tape), this basic radio at least looked like a radio cassette player, and unlike Vauxhall’s Philips-built DN272 radio, this one delivered FM as well as medium wave.

Hardly seemed much point though, given its feeble 5w was delivered in mono through just one channel. The 2001 was reserved for skinflints buying bottom-rung Fiestas and Escorts.

Model: 2005 Electronic AM/FM Stereo Radio Cassette

This was a decent step up, and fitted to every Ford until you got to Ghia money. On top of the 2001’s 16-station memory FM/MW/LW functionality you got a full auto-reverse cassette deck and a (presumably not Dolby) noise reduction system, delivering 4x6 watts of ear-bleeding stereo sound to four-speakers (six on the Orion).

Model: 2007 Electronic Stereo Sound System

You had to order a Ghia, or option up a GL/XR model to get this beast, but what a difference. The head unit looked similar to the 2005’s but came with proper Dolby NR, a chrome tape setting (remember them?) and separate bass and treble controls.

The showpiece though, was the amplifier slung underneath, which offered 4x15 watts of musical muscle and dials to tweak the fade and balance.

But if you really wanted to show off, you’d fork out extra to swap that amp for the graphic equaliser. It offered the same 4x15w amplification, but with five sliders plus a joystick to direct the sound it offered drivers more distraction than Wonderbra’s Hello Boys! ad.

Model: 2008 Premium Sound System

Proper audio buffs with their brutally expensive Nakamichi ICE might have sneered, but for your average bloke this setup offered by Ford for the first time in 1990 was pretty serious kit.

The spec included 80w of power, dynamic noise reduction for the radio, music search for the cassette deck and the 2018 seven-channel equaliser with a triple-frequency digital spectrum display that looked like it had come straight out of KITT from Knight Rider.

Sadly, if you wanted Ford’s first CD player (model 2028), which also arrived that year (six years after Pioneer introduced the first aftermarket unit, the CDX-1), you had to give the equaliser a miss.

This 2008 kit was optional on the Sierra and Granada Ghia, but really only likely to be seen on the Granada Scorpio – where it was probably wasted on a bunch of old gimmers who used it to listen to Test Match Special on medium wave, before it was all stolen and wedged into the dash of some toe-rag’s Mk2 RS2000.

Tags: #ford #hifi #hifi #retro #ICE #vintage #tunes #sounds #music #cd-player #amplifier #equaliser #equalizer #option #ghia #GL #sierra #granada #scorpio #escort #fiesta #XR3i #XR3 #XR2i#XR4x4

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Comments (1)
  • i had model 2008 in a mk2 fiesta 1.4s was expensive at the time, looked and sounded good but blew up after a few weeks.

    10 months ago


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