SUM­MER 1996

It’s changed lit­tle since Tu­dor times... al­though trans­port has moved on a bit

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - The Way We Were -

It’s the sum­mer of 1996 and most of my school-aged chums are on their hol­i­days. Many are writ­ing post­cards home from EuroDis­ney, while the ones with par­tic­u­larly gen­er­ous par­ents got to jet off to Florida.

The Simis­ter brand of pack­age hol­i­day was a bit sim­pler: walk­ing boots, sun cream and a long, stuffy jour­ney in the back of a Land Rover One Ten. Not that I minded, be­cause af­ter lis­ten­ing to What’s The Story (Morn­ing Glory) on my Sony Dis­c­man, we’d inevitably end up some­where like Bur­ford – quiet mar­ket towns with a Middle Earth qual­ity to them, en­veloped by a gen­tle green swathe of rolling coun­try­side.

If you could some­how step into this won­der­ful shot of Bur­ford’s High Street you’d be right along­side me on one of those child­hood hol­i­days in Bri­tain’s more pic­turesque parts – right down to hear­ing the clank of cut­lery in the tea shops and the buzz of wasps hunt­ing a child with a 99 Flake.

It might be 1996, but the 17th-cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture makes this feel like a ru­ral Bri­tain from a very dif­fer­ent era, as do the al­ready age­ing mo­tors oc­cu­pied by the tourists search­ing for some­where to stop and lap up the sun­shine.

Lead­ing the charge is a Mercedes-Benz 230TE es­tate which, judg­ing by the grubby wheels and miss­ing tri-star mas­cot atop the ra­di­a­tor grille, has led a very tough decade lug­ging things around. No records ex­ist for the car, so for all the in­de­struc­tibil­ity Stuttgart stuffed into the W123, this one has long since gone to the great car park in the sky.

The BMW 318iS be­hind it looks in bet­ter nick (al­though it’s also van­ished from the DVLA’s records). It’s weird to think now that E30s at this point were ac­tu­ally fall­ing out of favour as buy­ers clam­oured for the E36 model. Had this car’s owner held onto it and looked af­ter it, he’d now be fend­ing off queues of Mod­ern Clas­sics read­ers fight­ing to get their hands on the ‘baby M3’. It was fit­ted with BMW’s M42 en­gine, a 16-valve gem that that gave the straight­six of­fer­ings a run for their money.

Trundling along be­hind it is a 1991 Ford Fi­esta – a Pop­u­lar Plus that looks like it’s been cher­ished by its owner. Bear in mind that 1996 was the year the Fi­esta sneaked past the Es­cort to the top spot in the car sales charts, thanks largely to a restyle and re­vised sus­pen­sion to cre­ate the MkIV model.

Be­hind that there’s a Citroën XM – most likely the base ver­sion, on ac­count of its nar­row tyres – then what look like a cou­ple of Toy­ota Hi­Ace vans, and a Peu­geot 205.

Head­ing down the hill into town is a trio of 1980s hatch­backs: an­other 205, fol­lowed by an Austin Metro and a Ford Fi­esta MkII. Bring­ing up the rear is a Mit­subishi Sigma, noted for its ar­mada of elec­tronic trick­ery (in­clud­ing one of the first ac­tive trac­tion con­trol sys­tems) but largely for­got­ten now.

Those lucky enough to have bagged a Bur­ford park­ing space have an equally mem­o­rable cast of 1990s mo­tors, in­clud­ing a pair of Golf MkIIs parked up at the bot­tom of the hill. Be­hind that there’s a Cortina MkIV es­tate (firmly in clas­sic ter­ri­tory now, but even as re­cently as the 1990s I re­mem­ber see­ing them tucked up in su­per­mar­ket car parks) and a cou­ple of Ford Scor­pios. There’s also an­other Austin Metro – pos­si­bly the May­fair model, due to its Hen­ley Blue paint­work ex­tend­ing to the ra­di­a­tor grille – and be­hind that a Mercedes-Benz W124 es­tate. Nei­ther will have out­lasted that bit of en­gi­neer­ing right at the back: the mag­nif­i­cent clock at the front of the town’s Tolsey Mu­seum, which nor­mally has an English flag flap­ping above it.

Try­ing to sneak past the beer gar­den sign in front of the The Cotswolds Arms and out into the hol­i­day traf­fic is a 1989 Rover Mon­tego, but of far more in­ter­est is the trio of cars parked out­side the town’s Cook Shop – still go­ing strong to this day. There’s an ad­dled-look­ing Volk­swa­gen T3, sadly cropped off at the ex­act point where we’d be able to es­tab­lish if it was a con­verted camper or one of the shop’s de­liv­ery ve­hi­cles, and a sa­loon ver­sion of the Vaux­hall Cava­lier MkII, whose own­ers have man­aged to re­sist the charms of the sleeker MkIII and the Clark­son­si­lenc­ing Vec­tra as fam­ily trans­port.

Yet in the midst of all th­ese 1990s su­per­mi­nis, 1980s fleet favourites and tired look­ing load-lug­gers, there is a 1974 MGB, distin­guish­able as a 1973 model by its mesh/hon­ey­comb ra­di­a­tor grille. Its chrome adorn­ments, Rostyle wheels and Teal Blue paint­work make it stick out like a sore thumb in this mid-1990s Glouces­ter­shire vil­lage.

Lke The Cotswold Arms it’s prob­a­bly still with us, keep­ing a real ale-sup­ping clas­sic fan happy. If it’s your MG, do let us know!

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