A ‘wide mouthed frog’, ‘village idiot features’ and ‘designed by Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder’: just some of the comments from the UK motoring press in reaction to the new Ford Scorpio on its release in 1994. To say its looks were a shock is something of an understatement.
Much of the initial surprise stemmed from styling so radically different from its predecessor, the Mk3 Ford Granada, with which it shared a platform and much of its running gear. The Scorpio scared buyers away not only because of its pained face, but because of the desperate depreciation - and at times, suspect reliability - associated with it.
While it is still unlikely to ever to transform into a paradigm of beauty, the years which have passed since the Scorpio’s release have helped to take the edge off that face. Approach it from any angle other than the front today, and there is very little to complain about. It could even be argued that the Scorpio has aged better than the Vauxhall Omega and equivalent Volvos of the era.
Values for the Scorpio remain low, which makes it a cheap way of getting your hands on a spacious, comfortable, V6-powered executive saloon. Take one look at the leather-lined interior, and you are invited in to sink into the hugely comfortable seats. The wood-effect trim that is glued to the dashboard of some models looks dated, although for many it adds to the 1990s period charm.
It’s important to find one in good working order though, because at such low prices any major repairs or restoration are not going to be financially worthwhile. Fewer than 200 are estimated to still be in a taxed and tested state today, so finding a tidy example requires a degree of patience.
Which one to buy?
From launch, the Scorpio was offered with a choice of four engines, three trim levels, and in either saloon or estate body styles. While the 2.0 petrol and 2.5-litre diesel options are the more frugal, the 2.9-litre V6 units are the more sought after. In particular, the Cosworth-tuned lump which sits at the top of the range gives the Scorpio smooth yet reasonably rapid performance, with an 8.5-second 0-60mph time and a top speed of 140mph. The most potent 2.9 was only available with an automatic gearbox, while other units were offered with a manual. Regardless of engine size, the majority of Scorpios were paired with the auto.
The range started with the Executive trim level. Signified by ‘Scorpio’ badging on the C pillar (higher sec models added the name of the trim level below the Scorpio script), equipment levels were still fairly generous for the time, with electric windows, ABS, power steering and an alarm/immobiliser all offered as standard.
Ghia models added air conditioning, alloy wheels, front fog lights and electric door mirrors, while top spec Ultima versions are the most generously kitted of all. In addition to the Ghia’s kit list, it added a boot-mounted CD autochanger, climate control, leather upholstery, cruise control, electrically adjustable seats and an auto-dimming mirror. Today, it’s perfectly reasonable to find a Ghia or Ultima for a similar price to the Executive, so it’s worth finding the highest spec example possible.
Later models were treated to a facelift. This mainly consisted of smoked headlights and a slimmer front grille, both of which intended to take the edge off the looks. These later models also featured ‘Cosworth’ badging on the boot on top spec models.
Performance and spec
Engine 2935cc V6
Power 204bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 207lb ft @ 4200rpm
Top speed 140mph
Fuel consumption 24mpg
Gearbox Four-speed automatic
Insurance group 32 (24v Ghia)
Dimensions and weight
● Ideally search for examples with a full service history, better still those with additional receipts documenting major work
● At the likely mileage of most examples, many components are likely to be failing due to wear and tear. Search for any evidence of items like major components replaced recently is a bonus
● Fords of the late nineties have issues with rust. Facelifted models are likely to be worse, so check around the rear arches and around the fuel tank (and all of the exterior body panels) for any signs of rot
● The EGR valves in Cosworth units are known to have issues. If the engine is running poorly - either at idle or under load - it will be one of the most likely culprits
● The self-levelling suspension fitted to the estate is expensive to fix should anything go wrong. Make sure it seems to work as it should
● A vague, wondering feeling from the steering can be a result of worn front radius arm bushes
● The timing chains shouldn't rattle, if there is any noticeable noise at any other time than at startup, there could be serious problems
● Check the quality of the automatic gearbox fluid. If it smells off and isn't cherryade-like in colour, the gearbox is likely on its way out, and is unlikely to be an economical repair due to expensive parts and difficult to source spares
● The electric sunroofs can jam so be sure to check to see if it works
1994: Ford Scorpio released, replacing the Mk3 Granada
1996: Range gains minor styling updates; a slimmer front grille trimmed in less chrome and smoked head and tail lights are the main changes
1998: Production ceases
Key clubs and websites
● www.spikiesscorpios.co.uk - Scorpio specialists based in Essex
● www.fordscorpio.co.uk - forum dedicated to the Scorpio
● www.fordgranada1234club.co.uk - owners’ club for all generations of the Ford Granada and Scorpio
Summary and prices
Given the general motorway use most Scorpios were subjected to in their youth, it'll be tricky to find any that have covered fewer than 100,000 miles. Even if you find an example with a five-figure mileage, don’t expect to pay more than £2000 for a very clean Ultima. Slightly tatty, high mileage examples can quite reasonably bought for less than £1000.
Words: Alex Ingram