YouÕd be go­ing nowhere fast in the south­bound lane of the mo­tor­way

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

Peer closely enough at the photo on the op­po­site page and chances are you’ll be able to pick out the faces of frus­trated driv­ers who have been crawl­ing past Pre­ston for a quite some time. There will be added con­ster­na­tion with those who have just been over­taken by two peo­ple on as many wheels zip­ping through the con­ges­tion.

Traf­fic jams in this neck of the woods were part of my child­hood, be­cause I’d in­evitably end up in them en route to fam­ily hol­i­days in slate-clad cot­tages in the Lake Dis­trict. Even now there’s a part of me that calls the stretch of M6 slith­er­ing north through Lan­cashire the high­way of dreams be­cause it con­nects the wider Bri­tish pop­u­la­tion with all sorts of won­der­ful places to go away for the week­end. In the early 1990s, Simis­ter out­ings in­vari­ably ended not only in the Lakes, but the York­shire Dales, More­cambe and the Trough of Bow­land. Judg­ing by the coach, car­a­van and odd mo­torhome join­ing the fam­ily cars in this mo­tor­way melee, I can’t have been the only one putting up with the traf­fic dur­ing a few days off.

Sneak­ing into the out­side lane be­hind the Mini – ei­ther a late 1980s May­fair or a City, judg­ing by the cos­met­ics – is a 1982 Ford Es­cort MkIII 1.6L. Look­ing at the amount of clob­ber and young­sters in the back, it’s ex­actly the sort of hard-work­ing fam­ily char­iot buy­ers would have ex­pected of the na­tion’s best-sell­ing car. We sus­pect years of hard use took their toll on this one, as it hasn’t been reg­is­tered since 1996.

The cou­ple in the Rover 800 seem ut­terly un­flus­tered about be­ing cut up by the Es­cort – re­lax­ing its oc­cu­pants on a long mo­tor­way jour­ney was the 800’s forté, af­ter all. By the time this shot was taken, work was un­der­way on the new model, and it’s worth re­mem­ber­ing that Rover was on a roll at the time, with the smaller 200/400 se­ries pulling in plenty of praise when it was launched the pre­vi­ous year. Mean­while, col­leagues over at Land Rover would have been plough­ing through a back­log of or­ders for the Dis­cov­ery.

Rover’s tech­ni­cal part­ner is keep­ing a fel­low mo­torist along­side en­ter­tained – a 1986 Honda In­te­gra LX, which de­spite be­ing sold over here un­der the Ja­panese man­u­fac­turer’s moniker made it onto the Aus­tralian mar­ket as the Rover 416i.

Then there’s a trio of Vaux­halls ply­ing their trade: a mid-1980s Carl­ton MkI, a Cava­lier MkIII and Lu­ton’s boy racer favourite, the As­tra GTE MkII.

An­other Es­cort MkIII in the mid­dle lane is be­ing closely fol­lowed by the pop-up head­lamped Volvo 480ES – like the Rover 800, it’ll be mark­ing its 30th an­niver­sary in 2016 – and a Cash­mere Gold Austin Mon­tego, plus what ap­pears to be a base-spec Citroën AX. Even fur­ther back past the VW Golf MkII is some­thing firmly in clas­sic ter­ri­tory now – a Vaux­hall Viva HC, which even in the era of The Stone Roses was be­ing used by plenty of com­muters.

Crawl­ing through the traf­fic queue on the inside lane are a Tal­bot Sun­beam, a very late Vaux­hall Cava­lier MkI and a Toy­ota Corolla, fol­lowed by a quar­tet of more mod­ern hatch­backs, be­ing led by an­other As­tra MkII.

Keep­ing its dis­tance is an MG Midget 1500. The oc­cu­pants of this Da­mask Red model have opted to leave the al-fresco fun for when they get off the mo­tor­way, but we can’t help won­der­ing whether they’ve left the big gap to pre­vent its en­gine get­ting all hot and both­ered in the stop-start con­di­tions. Ei­ther that or its driver is feel­ing a bit fright­ened by the White Van Man loom­ing large in their rear-view mir­ror, driv­ing a Bed­ford CF2.

Al­though the CF2 had gone out of pro­duc­tion three years ear­lier, plenty of them were still be­ing used by the na­tion’s small busi­nesses as their de­liv­ery wheels of choice. It’s was in the process of be­ing over­taken – lit­er­ally, in this photo – by the Ford Tran­sit MkIII. By 1990, the one-box shape was a familiar sight on the na­tion’s mo­tor­ways, so the stan­dard-size ver­sion at the rear and the raised roof model wouldn’t have bat­ted many eye­lids in this traf­fic jam. Save for a 1994 facelift, it would con­tinue for an­other decade as the na­tion’s best-sell­ing van, be­fore be­ing pen­sioned off.

There’s also a MkII right at the front of our traf­fic jam, which we sus­pect from the enor­mous roof rack might have been a win­dow cleaner’s set of wheels.

The car tow­ing the car­a­van is too ob­scured to ac­cu­rately de­ter­mine its make, al­though it looks like it might be a Ford Scor­pio. Be­hind that, there’s a Tri­umph Toledo try­ing to glimpse ahead, pre­sum­ably hop­ing the road ahead’s go­ing to clear up.

If only they could be on the other car­riage­way, where there are just two ve­hi­cles whizzing home some­what faster than our Lan­cas­trian as­sort­ment of rep­mo­biles, hot hatches and the odd sports car and van. The own­ers of the Bed­ford CF mo­torhome and the Hyundai Pony that’s in the process of over­tak­ing it re­ally are rev­el­ling in the idea of the M6 be­ing the high­way of dreams – the dream, that is, of go­ing places and not get­ting caught up in rush hour traf­fic just out­side Pre­ston.

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