Ford Scorpio Cosworth Ultima Estate
Running the Scorpio was not cheap for the first year, but after that initial expense it has proved to be a reliable and satisfying car to own, with fantastic performance, even heavily loaded, and effortless cruising on long motorway journeys the length of the UK and Europe.
This cost-sheet does not include the oil and filter changes that I do every six months, using Magnatec oil. Still no timing chain rattle on a cold start! Aside from a slight oil leak from the front crankshaft oil seal that I will not bother with yet, the car loses no fluid at all.
Apart from petrol, (24.9 mpg overall) there were no other costs until July 1999.
Yes, we had been very unlucky. The front radius arms needed replacing (at £95 each) because the ball joint which connects it to the bottom of the front stub axle carrier is not a serviceable item. There was a time when you could unbolt a bottom ball joint and fit another, but not anymore. A second n/s radius arm was changed under Ford warranty.
The blown exhaust gasket was the one which connects the exhaust manifold to the downpipe on the cat. Unfortunately, because a bolt had snapped off, they had to remove the manifold from the offside cylinder head and true the face before they could fit another gasket (which cost about £3!)
To coin a phrase, bugger, bugger, bugger! I have run Cortinas and Triumph 2000s and Sierras and Granadas and when do I ever hit a broken bottle? Yes of course - when I am driving tyres worth £180 each!
My Ford source confirms that an early batch of catalysts were prone to premature failure and have since been redesigned. If I had known that I would have protested the bill with Ford! The hydraulic pipe between the steering rack and the power steering pump has since been redesigned because it causes a heavy vibration at parking speeds. This may have been why it leaked - and no, Ford personnel didn't tell me. See Identified Faults
These are ventilated like the front, but use the same brake pads as the rest of the range. The brake assembly looks as if it is unchanged from the Granada, and I used a tool to press-turn the piston back into the caliper - this is a boon, as you will know if you have ever tried it! (Sykes Pykevant brake piston retractor £17.99 purchased last year.) See Changing Rear Disks
The car battery needed changing, and this is common with Pb batteries at probably 5 years old. The battery rack is drilled for two sizes, and interestingly I found that the smaller size (lower amperage) battery had been fitted. The Ultima should have the larger battery because of the greater electrical demand, so I bought the larger one from KwikFit and fitted it myself.
The yearly service in 2001 was a little late this year - pressure of work. But I finally got round to it in October 2001, when I booked it in with my Ford source. While he was at it, I asked him to rectify the power steering vibration (caused by an incorrect hydraulic pipe). He said it was a pig of a job, but it has cured the vibration felt at parking speeds. I also asked him to check the EEC V with the FDS 2000 for a later version of the software and he obliged with the latest mapping. He said that the injection and ignition timings, the torque converter clutch and the gearbox scheduling had all been changed, and on the drive home it certainly seemed smoother changing up, while the idle is so smooth that I thought the engine had stalled! We'll see what it does for the mpg and I'll report back. The exhaust needs changing now, and I have obtained a quote from FordFit of between £450 and £495 for the complete system back from the catalysts.
I took it back a few days later for a new Ford exhaust system, supplied by my Ford man, who fitted it at a very keen discount price. Now the car is very quiet - the old system must have had a pinhole or was becoming very thin because a raucous note on acceleration has completely gone.
The Vehicle Explorer, although primarily for US cars, works on the Ford Scorpio through the diagnostic port. See OBD-2. This will not only read the DTCs (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) but will also read data direct from the sensors on the engine and autobox and log them while the car is being driven - but has found no problems so far.
The alternator was charging fine - or so it seemed. However, the red charge warning light started to glow dimly at odd times, duration increasing as time passed. Rather than wait until it failed altogether on a long run, I changed it myself. The replacement was a Ford re-engineered item.
The MAF and it's influence on the auto gearbox and on engine fuelling had been discussed at some length on the Confidential List. Owners reported that cleaning the MAF sensor had cleared some errors, and although I had none reported, I thought I should do it, too. Result? Noticeably smoother idling, keener mid range power, and less sooty exhaust. See MAF
Passed the MOT, but advisory on emissions. Absolutely borderline on CO2, which is probably due to the nearside Catalyst. This had been noisy years ago and then cleared itself, and in the meantime the offside catalyst had broken up and been replaced. Ah well, a year to fix it before the next MOT.
I carried out the usual checks on my tyres and noticed that the front tyres were now on the TWI's. In addition, I had a slow puncture on the rear offside, and so I shopped round for a new set. Initially quoting 4 new Michelin Pilot Primacy in 225X50 W16R at £598, Kwikfit matched a quote of £528 fitted from Hi-Q, and charged me £500 for the four fitted and new valves!! This saved nearly £200 from the last time I bought a set of Z rated tyres! The Primacy are even quieter than the older MXM's with only a gentle soothing hiss at 40 mph in town. The front tyres had lasted for 2 years and 5 months and about 34,000 miles and would have been longer, except ...
While it was up on the ramp I wondered why the outside of the N/S tyre had worn so quickly - then I found about 3mm play on the inside track rod - excessive wear! Did I need a new expensive Sensotronic steering rack? No, despite what the FMD said - the inner rack bushes unscrew from the rack complete with the Track Rods, new ones screwed in and tracking adjusted - a doddle. See Rack
Also spotted while it was on the ramp in March - the new Ford exhaust system was blowing. The n/s large square expansion box had a perforated seam and black exhaust stain was plain to see. This would not do - I contacted Ford and my local FMD replaced half the Ford system with a new one. FOC - under Ford warranty.
This was a blow. One morning I started the car to be met with the most horrendous rattle from the front of the car. Inspection revealed that the Power Steering reservoir had emptied itself onto the garage floor via the offside front steering arm bellows - the outer rack seals had gone and filled the steering bellows with fluid until it burst. While I had replaced the n/s track arm because the inner joint had worn, the offside seals were wearing through. Undetectable though - and I have to use full steering lock to enter and leave my garage, so I can't complain. The noise was the power steering pump spinning dry. Reconditioned rack sourced and fitted.
On one of the first hot days I found the climate control struggling to drop the interior temperature. I then realised it was four years since the last recharge! I found Aircon Direct who came out and checked the system over and regassed it. See our page of recommended AC Dealers.
It's amazing how quickly this MOT came round again. No, I never got round to changing the Bank 2 catalyst, and yes, CO was borderline again! A fail on the front flexible brake pipes - they were starting to crack. New ones fitted, and the brake system flushed and refilled with new fluid, since that was due anyway. (This is important - brake fluid is hygroscopic - absorbs water - and left too long the water content will cause the internals to corrode. This effects the brake adjusters in the rear calipers as well as the pistons and seals throughout the system).
Apart from that, no other concerns or advisories at all. This is the longest that I have ever owned the same car. As well as being the fastest and the most comfortable, this Scorpio has also been the most reliable.
My Scorpio Cosworth Estate pictured in Summer, 2003 after a wash and tidy up. It is kept in a locked garage where a dehumidifier runs for four to six hours every day. Left in the garage after a run in the pouring rain, by the next day the car is bone dry again.
Out of the rain, sun and frost, the paintwork is in good order, although the front bonnet is susceptible to annoying stone chips.
The aircon once again struggled to keep cool. At the Scorpington Meet John Alford checked out the system and found an unusual problem - the high pressure pipe from the dryer to the evaporator was leaking through the crimp near the bulkhead - and UV showed the tiniest leak from a seal on the condenser/radiator. New pipe ordered, fitted and system refilled - thanks John and Mark, Cost £90
Well I never! While touring in the Peak District I noticed the front offside tyre was looking a bit flat - and no wonder with a rusty nail stuck into the sidewall. Damn. Had to put the virgin spare on and drive on it until a new Michelin Primacy could be obtained. Looked strange with the steel wheel, but apart from a slight 'woolly' feeling it steered okay. I noticed that the spare has a Michelin Pilot HX tyre on - Michelin was the standard fit for the car in October 1995! Fortunately I had spotted the tyre before it became flat, so there was no damage at all to the alloy wheel.
Despite having no time to service the car prior to the MOT - not even the air filter was changed - the car passed. Not bad for a 9 year old car. Absolutely on the limit for emissions - the offside Catalyst is still keeping the fuel control on the limit. Must change the nearside one this year. An advisory on the nearside radius arm ball joint, so I shall see to that.
I carried out the full service for the car. New air filter, pollen filters, oil filter, new front brake disks and pads, rear brake pads, spark plugs and a new nearside radius arm and rear bush. Most of the parts purchased from FordPartsUK with their usual excellent service. Brake pads (front and rear) from Halfords - Forodo front and Halfords own rear. (Radius arm and oil change not done yet, see next.)
The front brake disks were getting a bit thin, (in use since November 1998 and 66K miles) so I changed them while I was at it - I never scimp on the braking system. The rear disks were fine, but they had been changed later than the front ones and only contribute 30% to the braking effort so they have not been subject to the same wear. PCM tested for Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC)s - absolutely none, not even for the nearside catalyst.
The compressor has always been noisy - it has been clattering away on the engine for 6 years and through several leaks, so I could not really complain. It had lasted 60,000 miles since one aircon 'specialist' told me that it was knackered and that he would have to fit a new one ...
What a difference! The autobox dipstick was a bit gungy when I last checked it, so I reckoned that the sump filter was blocking up - and so it proved. Now a whine from the ATF pump has gone, the drive is smoother and more willing for lower revs, and the car drives like new. Well worth the money - thanks Church Hill Garage !
First I noticed that the gearbox took some time to engage D or R. The change of fluid and filter above helped for a while, but by May the same thing was happening. Then the autobox started to hold out of first when cold, then engaging first gear with a hard thump. I checked for DTC's, but none yet. Finally, on a drive to Oldham the gearbox missed a gear changing up - I felt it - and the OD light started to flash. The gearbox then refused to select 3rd or OD top - the EECV PCM can lock out gears to prevent damage to the transmission. I tried coming off the motorway, coming to a stop and switching off the engine, and this cleared the OD light flashing. The box behaved itself all the way there and back, but on every cold start the sudden loss of drive and banging into gear was very alarming. When I got home I found 2 DTCs - P0734 and P1761. These were the biggies!
P0734 is a generic OBD code for detecting an incorrect ratio error when 4th is selected, while P1761 is the Ford-specific code recording the fact that the Solenoid C had not worked correctly. Something was very wrong and the box was getting worse daily.
At this point an owner has to make a hard choice - keep the car and pay a large repair bill/buy a recon box, or buy another similar car and swop the gearbox over, or scrap it and forget it. I was not too keen on having a recon box fitted - you just don't know how well the work has been done, or even if the correct 'box has been fitted (there are different 'boxes for the 2.0L, 2.3L and the 24V models). Swopping with a secondhand 'box is unlikely to give many years of service before faults start to appear again. Neither did I wish to scrap the car - it is true that my Scorpio is worth more as secondhand components than trade value - but the engine is sweet and sound, brakes, steering rack and front suspension have all been replaced, there is even a new AC compressor fitted to the climate control, and there is no trace of any corrosion on the underside. The car can still cruise quietly and effortlessly at 100 mph and uses no oil at all - so why change it?
So I bit the bullet and took the car to the Guru of the Automatic Transmission - Mick at Stanton Automatics. He is much sought after by owners of classic cars, including Jaguar and Rolls Royce. He is not cheap, or quick, but he is expert and thorough. He removes the autobox, dismantles it completely and rebuilds it with every part checked and replaced as necessary. This work was delayed by difficulty removing the n/s catalyst (a flange stud had to be drilled out and replaced) and by waiting for parts - but after 12 days I collected the car. What an excellent job, Mick, thanks - and you even kept my leather seats clean !
The proof of the pudding - fluid check on lint-free cloth. Yes - it really is that pink.
The failure of the 'box was not down to mileage, in Mick's opinion. He found traces of water in the autobox - the internal parts were rusty and the fluid foul. Any water contamination of the fluid results in rapid deterioration in the brake bands and seals inside the 'box, and there was only one way in which water could have got in - the coolant radiator, a section of which is used by the autobox fluid to provide rapid warm up. Rather than risk all his work being undone again in a few weeks, I agreed to have the coolant radiator changed as well - this was a further £300. So I made the right decision to recon the box - if I had simply swopped the gearbox for another I would have been unaware of the coolant issue and the replaced box would have failed just as quickly.
Happy birthday to you ... my Cosworth Ultima estate is ten years old this month. Routine service for another year. Because of a marked judder under hard braking and a squeal when almost at rest I changed the rear disks and pads. I found corrosion on the the inner rim of the friction surface on the offside disk. This was snatching at the brake pad I replaced last year and caused the judder and the squeal. Brake disks £150 from FordPartsUK, very quick service as usual - thanks guys - pads £15 from Halfords. No other driving concerns, but one of the instrument bulbs has expired - damn!
Yes, a failed MOT - but it was entirely my fault. For years the tester had struggled to get the emissions below the MAX for the test, and this year no matter how hard he tried the CO level would just not dip low enough for a pass. I can't complain, and my OBD lead told me that the nearside catalyst (the one that had been noisy years before) had finally expired. This was replaced and the emissions passed straight away. The engine is now much more smooth and willing - no longer strangled by the emissions monitor. The old catalyst was a completely empty shell - no ceramic element left at all!
This summer I had been very busy and I didn't have any time to investigate a rattle from the nearside front suspension, or a shimmy on the steering. I suspected that some bushes had failed, and so it proved. It was the nearside ones where the ball joint was okay. On the offside, the ball joint was worn and this meant that the whole radius arm had to be replaced. While it was up on the full lift, I got them to change the brake fluid since it was two years since the last change. All this work carried out by Church Hill Garage - usual top work guys, thanks.
During March the engine, normally smooth and silent started to idle badly, and stalled couple of times. I carried out an OBD scan and saw the MAF readings all over the place, so I was ready to change the MAF sensor. When I looked at it, I saw that the inlet trunking had pulled off the MAF sensor, so there was a huge unmetered leak into the inlet system - no wonder the idle running was poor. Obviously I hadn't tightened up the MAF trunking properly the last time I cleaned the MAF - doh! The inlet pipe restored the engine was back up to full power and the idle was as smooth as you can get. Flooring the accelerator now unleashed The Beast again, something that had been missing for a few weeks.
While I was there I saw that the power steering fluid level was low in the reservoir - the pipe from the reservoir was leaking at the union. I removed the pipe, cut a centimetre off the pipe, reconnected it and re tightened the clip - job done. No more leaks.
In May, I noticed that the gear changes were becoming very hard. In addition, the normally smooth idle had changed to surging and hunting. I ran an OBD scan and found the answer - the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) was out of synch, showing 4.7 instead of 16.1% at rest. This was clearly wrong, and since the TPS is one of the sensors that the EECV uses to determine fuelling and gear-changes, these were effected too. Easily fixed, though. A battery disconnect for 30 seconds - sorted. The car ran beautifully on its last journey with me, fast, eager and quiet. What a wonderful car it has been, on journeys across Europe as well as countless runs from Kent to Northumberland. The engine has never missed a beat in these eight years and 70,000 odd miles. In all this time it has never used a drop of oil.
On the 24th May 2006 I sold the Cosworth to a new owner who has promised to look after it as well as I have for the past eight years. It was a wrench to see it go, but I have another cruise machine - an S-Type Jaguar ...
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