MARCH 1991

David Brown goes car spot­ting in the sub­ur­ban streets he pounded in his days as a cub reporter

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

In those magic days be­fore the whole­sale spread of yel­low lines, clamps and park­ing ticket ma­chines, why leave your car in an of­fi­cial car park when you could park down a side street at no cost and stroll to the nearby rail­way sta­tion?

That looks to be the case in this view of the junc­tion of Ma­sons Hill in Wool­wich, just around the cor­ner from Wool­wich Ar­se­nal sta­tion. The Royal Ar­se­nal, Wool­wich, was an Army and Royal Naval ord­nance de­pot that closed in 1994. In 1886 Wool­wich mu­ni­tions work­ers founded a foot­ball club that in 1913 moved to the other side of the River Thames to Ar­se­nal sta­dium in High­gate. I un­der­stand that the team has done quite well in the in­ter­ven­ing years, but the only time I have been to its cur­rent Emi­rates Sta­dium was to see Bruce Spring­steen.

Wool­wich Ar­se­nal sta­tion opened in 1849 and was re­built in 1906. To­day’s sta­tion was built in 1996 and, from 2009, pas­sen­gers were able to travel on an ex­ten­sion of the Dock­lands Light Rail­way in ad­di­tion to trains be­tween Lon­don and north Kent. There is now talk of a Cross­rail sta­tion nearby too.

It is cer­tainly prime com­muter ter­ri­tory and de­mand for spa­ces close to the sta­tion must be even more pre­cious than when our 1991 view was taken.

There’s an in­ter­est­ing mix of UK, Euro­pean and Ja­panese ve­hi­cles to be seen with a June 1990 Nis­san Blue­bird GS 1796cc four-door saloon in your face in the right fore­ground. They are quite a rar­ity on UK roads to­day and it is doubt­ful this one is a sur­vivor as records show its last MoT ex­pired in July 2006 and its tax was due the fol­low­ing month.

Just vis­i­ble on the op­po­site side of the road (bot­tom left) parked within the dot­ted white lines, is an­other Ja­panese car, a Hyundai Stel­lar in fa­mil­iar cab form. With its big boot and spa­cious rear legroom, the rear-wheel drive Stel­lar was pop­u­lar with the sub­ur­ban cab­bies, be­fore giv­ing way to Skoda cabs in the ‘90s. Wav­ing the flag for the UK cars is a ubiq­ui­tous Metro, and there is an­other ex­am­ple parked in Ash­lar Place, the first turn­ing on the left. Met­ros were still a very pop­u­lar choice and the re­cently in­tro­duced Rover Metro (see sep­a­rate piece on the right) had a great year in 1991.

A po­ten­tial con­tender for the Brown col­lec­tion is the 1969 Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle though the script on the en­gine lid is too in­dis­tinct in this view to de­ter­mine if it is a 1300 or a 1500. The driver might have hoped for a bit more space be­tween its neigh­bours when it comes to de­part­ing its tight slot, while that run­ning board looks over­due for at­ten­tion.

Just as the Bee­tle rep­re­sents Volk­swa­gen’s tra­di­tional rear-en­gined era, the Scirocco in the back­ground rep­re­sents the com­pany’s newer front-wheel drive gen­er­a­tion.

As you might ex­pect, there are a fair few Fords dot­ted through­out this scene with a pair of MkV Corti­nas parked on op­po­site sides of the street. Fur­ther back you will see Es­corts, an Orion and a Sierra, while a light brown Cortina with a darker vinyl roof sug­gests some­thing up­mar­ket like a Ghia.

You would also ex­pect to see – and not be dis­ap­pointed – that fam­ily and fleet favourite at the time, the Vaux­hall Cav­a­lier hatch­back. A lady is ei­ther get­ting in or out her com­pact Nova on the right, while the car be­yond the Blue­bird looks to be a Mercedes-Benz W115. A Rover SD1 adds a touch of class with its very pres­ence, while a first gen­er­a­tion Re­nault first gen­er­a­tion Master van and a de­light­ful Citroën Visa re­mind us of France. Be­cause of Re­nault vans’ later links with Nis­san, it is ap­pro­pri­ate that be­yond it is parked a Mi­cra K10.

To some­one of my ad­vanced years, 1991 seems like just a few years ago but then I re­mem­ber that I have a 25-year-old son!

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