Gareth Jones: The Ford Cortina And Me

Cars People Culture

What car did your family own when you were growing up?

When we got asked to make this film, it had a working title of ‘Dad Had One’ and was always going to be a nostalgic look back at the cars of our youth.

Cortinas, Chevettes, Dolomites, Cavaliers, that sort of thing. Essentially, any of those mundane mass market motoring classics that were ubiquitous at the time but are as rare as rocking horse shit these days. Unexceptional motors that were part of the family and would feature on our sepia-tinted photographs from yesteryear, like a much-loved Labrador or Aunty Sheila from next door. The problem we had was that we actually had too much ground to cover. How were we going to deal with Fords, Vauxhalls, Triumphs and everything with a British Leyland badge in just over 5 minutes! The answer was we weren’t, so we needed to streamline it and have somebody tell us about their own personal motoring story, and we found the perfect man for that in the brilliant Gareth Jones.

Ford Cortina lineup Gaz Top

Many of you will remember Gareth Jones as presenter Gaz Top in the 1980s fronting shows such as ‘Get Fresh’, when his hair was jet black and he was supplying more mullet than Fleetwood docks. These days Gareth is a very fine broadcaster and highly respected motoring journalist, and when I spoke to him about the premise for the film, he explained that for him growing up it was all about the Ford Cortina. As Gareth rightly explains, it was quite tribal in those days. Brand loyalty was fiercely strong, and you had Vauxhall families or BL families or Ford families and both Gareth’s and mine by coincidence, were largely the latter.

We visited some owners, some dealers and the Ford Heritage Centre in Dagenham which is like an Aladdin’s cave of old Fords. Cameraman Matt and I often have focus issues when making these films, and that’s nothing to do with the camera or choice of lens. Being petrolheads first and film makers second, we regularly get distracted by cars, and in the case of the heritage centre at Dagenham, we had to employ additional self-control to make sure we actually got some work done.

From the first ever Fiestas to the last Transit to come off the production line at Southampton a few years ago, beautifully signed by everybody that worked on the assembly line. From Capris to Cosworths and from Orions to Mexicos, it’s a very special place, and the two Pauls and one Ivan that work there were fantastic. Admittedly living the dream and looking after cars they’ve worked on and been involved in all their life, they couldn’t have been more helpful, even when we insisted on filming every single Cortina from every possible angle!

The same could be said of Andrew Hebron who runs St Andrews Autos in Chelmsford, who happily left us with 3 beautiful cars to photograph and play with all afternoon. We actually only went to see the stunning blue 3.1 V6 Mk3 super speed that he has for sale, and as an added bonus discovered a bright orange 3.0 Capri lurking at the back of the garages, plus a Mk1 Cortina Estate which was the icing on the cake. We were thoroughly spoilt, and again suffered from attention deficit and focus issues throughout our time at Andrew’s beautiful car-filled barns.

Last but not least, Andrew Murton in Norfolk, the proud owner of an absolutely immaculate Mk2 Estate which made Gareth extremely emotional. It was the car that took him back 50 years to the days when he and his cousin Mark used to travel in the boot of his dad’s wagon, and the car that he’s enjoyed driving more than any other for deeply personal reasons. I’d earmarked a couple of Mk2 Estates for this film with Gareth, but none were in the right part of the world or in the right condition, and then a picture flashed up on Facebook of this car gleaming in the sunshine! Andrew hadn’t posted anything about the car for ages, so it must have been fate and being the gentleman that he is, Andrew kindly invited us to come and take the car out for a drive. It was a very special moment for Gareth that I know he’ll never forget, and one that’s become a highly emotive part of the film.

I learnt to drive in my dad’s Mk5 Cortina 27 years ago, and this project has been a hugely nostalgic and enjoyable experience for me personally. It was also my birthday on the shoot, when Gareth, Matt and myself went out for a couple of pints, followed by one of the best curries we’ve ever had, in the Punjabi Lounge in Ilford. Gareth was the consummate professional throughout and an absolute joy to work with for a couple of fun and Ford-filled days in the East of England.

I wouldn’t have predicted celebrating my 44th birthday with Matt and Gareth Jones in an East London curry house, but like the surname of Gaz’s alter ego in the ’80s… was top.