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03 Sep 2013
Rob Griffin Rob Griffin

The best and worst Ford cars ever made


Motoring journalist Rob Griffin takes a look back through the history books to pick out some of the best and worst cars to have carried the Ford badge.

ford collage

Ford has been a dominant force in the world of motoring ever since founder Henry Ford introduced the Model T. 

Millions of vehicles have subsequently rolled off the company's production lines with varying degrees of success. 

Here's our rundown of the best and worst Ford cars ever made.

The best Ford cars ever made - Ford Fiesta

old ford car

Few cars can hope to have even a tiny percentage of the popularity enjoyed by the Ford Fiesta, which has been the vehicle of choice for many drivers over the past five decades. 

First appearing back in the 1970s, it is currently the best-selling car in the UK.

One of the secrets of its success is its wide-ranging appeal. 

Not only is it perfect for first-time drivers to learn their road craft, it is roomy enough to work as a family car. 

Sportier versions such as the XR2, meanwhile, have found favour among those seeking performance. 

The best Ford cars ever made - Ford Mustang

old ford car

The Ford Mustang first arrived back in the 1960s and is one of the cars most synonymous with the brand. 

Sine its launch it has forged a place for itself in US automotive history, inspiring the so-called pony cars - affordable, compact machines with a sporty edge. 

Over the years it has undergone numerous facelifts but its fantastic styling and excellent performance have helped make the Mustang one of Ford's most popular ever cars. 

Its good looks have won awards, while it has also excelled on the racetrack.

The best Ford cars ever made - Ford S-Max

old ford car

The Ford S-Max has managed to solve the age-old problem of combining practicality and style. 

This lovely machine, which was unveiled in 2006, is compact enough not to look like a shed on wheels but still have plenty of room inside for passengers and their belongings.

Five adults can sit comfortably with all their baggage - although it is officially a seven-seater, even if the rear seats are a squeeze, which makes it even more practical. 

Unsurprisingly it has won plenty of rave reviews and awards. 

The worst Ford cars ever made - Ford Pinto 

old ford car

It had sleek good looks and laid claim to being one of the best-selling cars of the 1970s.

However, the Ford Pinto will forever be linked to safety concerns and legal actions surrounding the design of its gas tank. 

Giles Chapman, author of Cars We Loved In The 1970s, recalls the problem. 

He says: "They had a tendency to burst into flames if someone drove into the back of the car at high speed." 

As a result it has ended up being one of Ford's most controversial cars.

The worst Ford cars ever made - Ford Escort 1990

old ford car

The Ford Escort name has been on some of the greatest cars ever built – we are particularly thinking of the gorgeous MkI. 

But not all of them were a huge success, and arguably one of the most lacklustre appeared almost 25 years ago.

While not a bad looking car, the whole package just didn't really match up to others that had gone before and was criticised for both its build quality and dull design.

Chapman certainly wasn't a fan and believes it's one of the few times Ford brought out a car that was mediocre in every way.

"It was noisy and unrefined, with nothing exceptional in the equipment department, and with plain, forgettable styling," he says.

"None of these claims were ever levelled at its predecessor, and within just two years of launch the Escort required a comprehensive facelift and a new engine range."

The worst Ford cars ever made - Ford Explorer

old ford car

This is another name that will be forever mired in controversy due to a series of accidents during the 1990s.

These also triggered legal disputes between Ford and Firestone, the tyre manufacturer.

The dispute aside, the Explorer definitely had some failings, says Chapman. 

"It was based on a pick-up chassis design, whose high centre of gravity was said by some to contribute to wayward handling in a violent steering manoeuvre, such as when a tire blew."

Enjoyed this? Take a look at the history of the motor car decade by decade.

History of the car



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