Big Mike CD 186 Fiesta storyBig Mike CD 186 Fiesta story


Big Mike: How my collections job at hotel car parks became a full-on Fiesta fiasco

Our popular mystery columnist and car dealer recounts how blissful ignorance ended up with him being surrounded by police cars!

Time 7:30 am, August 26, 2023

Unless you’ve had your head buried under a rock for the past couple of months, then chances are you’ve heard about the sad demise of the Ford Fiesta.

The Fiesta is a car that the motor trade will very much miss, as it’s been a staple of our business for almost five decades.

I’d wager that there’s not a single car dealer reading this who hasn’t at some point sold a Fiesta or at least driven, delivered or valeted one.

Most of all though, the Fiesta has always been a nice little earner, the good thing about it being that as the very definition of automotive white goods it’s always been a very easy car to sell.

For people who aren’t interested in cars, the Fiesta was the default choice.

For people who are into cars, it has always been fun, cheap and inexpensive to work on. And that’s why they always fly off forecourts.

It’s no surprise, then, that everywhere you’ve looked in the motoring media in recent weeks there have been eulogies and tributes to Ford’s best seller.

But these pale into insignificance compared with my own most definitive Fiesta memory.

Back in the mid-1980s, before I moved into the main dealer world, I began my sales life working for a small independent in one of the less salubrious parts of Birmingham.

I can’t name names here because my former boss is still alive and is as terrifying now as he was back then, but let’s just say that he acquired cars from all sorts of sources and not all of them were 100 per cent above board.

Most of his stock was getting on a bit, but occasionally I’d be given some newer cars to sell, which my boss told me he’d picked up in deals he’d done with friends at main dealers.

While my default setting was to not believe a word he said, I could at least bury my head in the sand in possession of such information should I ever find myself being questioned about his business practices by the long arm of the law.

Big Mike CD 186 Car Keys 2

Have keys, will pick up cars boss wants to sell. A simple task? Not always, as Big Mike found out…

At least that was the case until the Fiestas came along…

I can’t remember exactly when this particular incident happened but it must have been around 1985 or 1986, as the Mk 2 Fiesta was relatively new and was as popular then as the current Fiesta is today.

I got to work on a Friday morning and was told that we had six Fiestas coming in, three of them in bathroom blue and three of them in barstool burgundy.

My job was to go and collect them, and this is where things got rather strange.

According to my boss, the vendor of the Fords was renting parking space at some of the hotels around Birmingham Airport and I’d be required to go and get the cars that evening, ready to sell at the weekend.

Two of them were at the Holiday Inn, a couple more were at the Hilton and the other two were at small independent hotels.

I took this not so much with a pinch of salt but with an entire cellar of sodium chloride.

My job, however, was my job and I needed the money, so that Friday night – with a bunch of Ford Fiesta keys with reg number tags attached – my mate Jed and I jumped into the company Transit and went for a drive around Birmingham’s eastern outskirts.

We located both the Fiestas in the Holiday Inn car park without trouble as well as the two at the Hilton.

With four of the cars back at base by 9pm we set off to look for the other two – and it was on Fiesta number five where things came unstuck.

We found it fine, in the car park of a small bed and breakfast in the Forest of Arden, but unlike the first four Fiestas, the fifth one came with a giant yellow frock dangling from a hanger in the rear window.

These were the days before mobile phones, so I wasn’t able to call the boss man and ask what this was about.


Big Mike found out the hard way that picking up some Ford Fiestas from hotel car parks on his boss’s orders wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been

The dress was the kind of thing that Widow Twankey would wear on stage in pantomime season, so I couldn’t imagine it was his.

Deciding the best course of action was to carry on regardless, I jumped into the little blue Ford and started it up, but as I pulled out of the car park, events took a rather dramatic turn – one that came in the form of a very large American lady barrelling her way across the car park in little more than her underwear, screaming obscenities and calling me a thief.

It’s a vision that has remained with me for almost 40 years and, alas, is one I shall never forget.

A few moments later, I found myself surrounded by police cars and the American lady found herself reunited with what she rather ambitiously described as her ‘ball gown’.

I, meanwhile, was arrested and driven to the local police station under suspicion of taking a car without the owner’s consent – the owner in question being one of the Birmingham Airport car rental desks.

Luckily, I did get to sleep in my own bed that night, but only after my boss was brought in for questioning and a rather ridiculous story unravelled.

My illustrious leader, being so driven by opportunities to earn a quick buck, had turned a blind eye to this particular source of cars offered to him – a car cleaning boy at the rental depot who’d got his hands on half a dozen spare keys, registration documents and details of where the hirers were staying.

I had been consigned as a completely oblivious car thief.

On that occasion, my blissful ignorance got me off the hook, but it did land my boss in a bit of hot water – at a temperature high enough to find me down the Jobcentre two weeks later.

It was there where I applied for a junior salesman’s job at a Citroen dealership, and a whole new world of trouble opened up for me…

This feature appears in the latest edition of Car Dealer – issue 186 – along with news, views, reviews, interviews and much more! Read and download it for FREE here!

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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