25 MAY 1979

A host of clas­sics shel­ter in the shadow of the north Wales town’s cas­tle walls

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

Look­ing at this splen­did view of Caernarfon, I would sug­gest that the slide was taken just be­fore mid-day on 25 May 1979. No, I have not been cal­cu­lat­ing the an­gle of the sun and shad­ows cast, as the date and time that the pho­to­graph was taken is du­ti­fully recorded on the un­known pho­tog­ra­pher’s slide mount. As an avid col­lec­tor of old slides, this is a real bonus as it cuts out the guess­work.

While the na­tion reeled from the news that the price of milk was about to rise by 10 per cent to 15p a pint from the start of April, mo­torists were still re­cov­er­ing from other rises in­tro­duced since Mar­garet Thatcher’s Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment won power three weeks ear­lier. The price of bread, gas and elec­tric­ity had all risen, while petrol was up by 6p per gal­lon (it av­er­aged 79p per gal­lon that year).

How­ever, the cost of mo­tor­ing had ob­vi­ously not de­terred peo­ple from vis­it­ing Caernarfon, though there were still spa­ces avail­able on the Slate Quay car park. As the name sug­gests, the still-thriv­ing car park oc­cu­pies the old quay­side where slate was trans­ferred from rail­way wag­ons to boats. By 1979, the har­bour was mainly used by plea­sure craft though a cou­ple of Caernarfon (CO) reg­is­tered fish­ing boats can be found in this view.

The cur­rent cas­tle was built from 1283 by or­der of the English King Edward I and oc­cu­pies a strate­gic po­si­tion over­look­ing the south­ern end of the Me­nai Strait op­po­site the Isle of An­gle­sey. The cas­tle and me­dieval town walls are part of a World Her­itage Site and the investiture cer­e­mony for Charles, Prince of Wales was held at the lo­ca­tion on 1 July 1969. Though Caernarfon lost its last BR sta­tion in 1970 (there’s now a Mor­ri­son’s su­per­mar­ket on the site) the town has been the north­ern ter­mi­nus of the Welsh High­land Rail­way nar­row gauge line since Oc­to­ber 1997, with its sta­tion in St He­len’s Road (to the right of our pho­to­graph). So, there was – and is – plenty of her­itage on of­fer to at­tract tourists to the town and the de­mand for car park­ing for lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike re­mains a pri­or­ity.

Step­ping back into our pic­ture of May 1979 the Slate Quay car park cer­tainly of­fered a good va­ri­ety of cars. Need­less to say that while the Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle only just gets a look-in on the bot­tom right cor­ner of the im­age, it was one of the things that drew me to it among a pile of 35mm slides. This one is wear­ing a bon­net bra – a cover de­signed to keep some stone chips off the front of the car but which also tends to re­tain mois­ture and aid the rot process! Be­ing a com­plete Volk­swa­gen ‘divi’ I can also de­tect an orange and white T2 in the left dis­tance and a Scirocco lurk­ing among the back row of mo­tors.

Much more in-yer-face is a ‘Brenda’ two-door 1.3 Ford Es­cort MkII on stan­dard steels (cue Saxon’s Wheels of Steel heavy metal an­them from the fol­low­ing year). With its mod­ern square-cut lines, the MkII, a joint de­vel­op­ment be­tween Ford UK and Ger­many, of­fered a sim­plis­tic pu­rity when it came to driv­ing, but they just rot­ted away. There were up­dates in the mid- to late 1970s, such as square head­lights for L mod­els, with the third gen­er­a­tion ap­pear­ing in 1980, when there were more than 600,000 MkIIs on the roads.

You might ex­pect to find a Princess in such close prox­im­ity to a cas­tle so a four-cylin­der, twin head­light ex­am­ple does not look out of place. It is keep­ing a safe dis­tance from a Hill­man Imp, a two-door sa­loon that I did have some ex­pe­ri­ence of ear­lier in the 1970s. A friend had one and each time we went on hol­i­day it broke down and I had to con­trib­ute to run­ning re­pairs. Per­haps sur­pris­ingly, he is still a friend. We later toured parts of cen­tral and north Wales in his Maxi.

The Renault 12 is a re­minder of an­other good­look­ing, fast­back style mid-sized sa­loon – and an­other ab­so­lute rot­ter. Among the ve­hi­cles be­yond the Mini is seen a Bed­ford CF and its ear­lier com­peti­tor the MkI Ford Tran­sit.

Mov­ing to the mid­dle rows (with some subliminal ad­ver­tis­ing for the AA and a lifebelt in case the owner of the Mor­ris Trav­eller gets in dif­fi­culty), there’s a Vaux­hall Viva HC es­tate, a Bed­ford HA van, and a yel­low Capri. The HA van could pos­si­bly be a Post Of­fice Telecommunications ve­hi­cle as that com­pany used a lot of yel­low paint – many readers will doubt­less re­call their Buzby car­toon bird char­ac­ter used in their ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns from 1976 on­wards.

You’d ex­pect to find Ja­panese cars in the pic­ture by this time and there are at least three Dat­suns in the mix, with the blue car at the front of the next row be­ing a 1200 four-door sa­loon. The bright red Dat­sun Sunny 120Y stands out in the back row and there’s a 180B Blue­bird nearby.

Fur­ther along the back row you’ll find a Rover SD1, a typ­i­cal beige Maxi, a Citroën GS in Pal­las trim, a CX Safari, Rover P6, Mor­ris Mi­nor 1000, and a Har­vest Gold 1100/1300. Plenty to keep the peak-capped car park at­ten­dant – and clas­sic car spot­ter – oc­cu­pied.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.