Foot­ball, baggy jeans and Porsche 928s – it was all hap­pen­ing up North back in the early 1990s

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - PRACTICAL CLASSICS -

Manch­ester was on a roll in the early 1990s. Record shops thrummed to the sound of Mer­cury Prize win­ners, M Peo­ple – the brain­child of Mike Pick­er­ing, a DJ who’d honed his craft in the city’s Ha­cienda night­club. Steve Coogan in­tro­duced the first of his many TV al­ter egos – the stu­dent-bash­ing Paul Calf – to view­ers of Satur­day Zoo on Chan­nel 4. And The Stone Roses were hard at work record­ing their mod­estly ti­tled

Sec­ond Com­ing al­bum. Stu­dents get­ting off the trains at Pic­cadilly sta­tion in their baggy jeans were be­ing whisked straight into the city cen­tre by the new Metrolink sys­tem, the coun­try’s first new tram net­work since the 1920s.

Things weren’t go­ing too badly up the road at Old Traf­ford, ei­ther. Manch­ester United was on its way to vic­tory in the new Premier League, and had cruised past As­ton Villa and Nor­wich City to the top of the points ta­ble barely a month be­fore this pho­to­graph was taken, no doubt helped by the ar­rival of one Eric Can­tona the pre­vi­ous De­cem­ber.

It’s hard not to sup­pose that the Porsche 928 stick­ing out like a sore thumb in this photo be­longs to one of the club’s in­creas­ingly wealthy em­ploy­ees. It ap­pears to be an S4, which was pro­duced be­tween 1987 and 1991. While its lucky owner would have had 50:50 weight dis­tri­bu­tion and a 5.0-litre, 320bhp V8 to en­joy, we reckon the per­son­alised plate might have been to dis­guise the fact that this par­tic­u­lar Porsche wasn’t brand new. Per­haps there’s a row of shiny 964 911s, Jaguar XJSs and R129 SLs owned by United play­ers just out of shot, but in this com­pany it man­ages to up­stage ev­ery­thing else in the car park.

We reckon the Sierra Sap­phire to its right be­longs to the young fam­ily wan­der­ing away from the Sir Matt Busby Suite. It looks the part, with its dis­creet rear boot spoiler and body­coloured bumpers, but it lacks the front fog­lights of the range-top­ping GLX and Ghia ver­sions, so we’d bet this one is a mid-range LX, pow­ered by the 1.8-litre ver­sion of Ford’s ven­er­a­ble CVH en­gine.

Sier­ras were still a com­mon sight on Bri­tain’s roads in 1993, com­pet­ing with Vaux­hall’s Cava­lier MkIII for the af­fec­tions of the na­tion’s fleet man­agers (that’s a Cava­lier MkII sa­loon in the back­ground, by the way), but Ford un­veiled its Mon­deo suc­ces­sor at the Geneva show a few weeks after this photo was taken.

The Peugeot 309 be­hind it was an­other fam­ily favourite about to be put out for pas­ture, with Peugeot’s plant at Ry­ton gear­ing up for its 306 re­place­ment. It looks like a Phase I – the enor­mous re­vers­ing lights are the give­away. The Phase II, in­tro­duced in 1989, in­cor­po­rated a re­designed bootlid with a lower lip and smaller, restyled rear light clus­ters in a bid to keep what was es­sen­tially an age­ing de­sign orig­i­nally in­tended for Tal­bot look­ing fresh.

It shared its fun-to-drive fac­tor with its smaller and rather less dowdy 205 cousin a few park­ing spa­ces down. This par­tic­u­lar Pug is a 1.4-litre GR, and looks in re­mark­ably good con­di­tion for a nine-year-old car; cer­tainly, it’s fared bet­ter than

‘Manch­ester United was top of the new Premier league, no doubt helped by one eric can­tona’ frOM fa­Mil­iar TO Near-ex­TiNcT

the Fi­esta MkII parked next to it. This 205 was last on the DVLA’s books back in 1999, by which time its 206 suc­ces­sor would al­ready have been a fa­mil­iar sight.

To the 205’s right is a China Blue Vaux­hall As­tra MkII three-door es­tate – a de­sign of car that be­came al­most ex­tinct in the early 1990s. Three-door es­tates were a fix­ture of both the Ford and Vaux­hall ranges through­out the late 1980s, but they dis­ap­peared from Ford show­rooms fol­low­ing the launch of the Es­cort MkV in 1990, and Vaux­hall fol­lowed suit a year later when it launched the As­tra MkIII. If you wanted to ferry your flat pack fur­ni­ture home from the na­tion’s first IKEA su­per­store – opened six years ear­lier in nearby War­ring­ton – you’d need the full com­ple­ment of doors or opt for the Es­cort/As­tra in van form.

There wasn’t much call for this seven year-old 1.3-litre model even in 1993, with its rear win­dows bro­ken up by awk­ward pil­lars meet­ing nonex­is­tent rear doors. It dis­ap­peared from the DVLA’s records that April, and there’s been no trace of it since.

It’s a sim­i­lar story with the Es­cort MkIII parked along­side, which was also spend­ing its fi­nal year trundling around Manch­ester’s roads when this photo was taken. It’s a fairly lowly 1.3L model, and we think it’s a three-door – the five-door had a third rear side win­dow and rear door quar­terlights. The MkIII had long since de­scended into banger ter­ri­tory by 1993, and you’d have been able to pick up a decade-old ex­am­ple like this one for well un­der a grand. If only its owner had held onto it, be­cause they’re fi­nally be­gin­ning to rise in value on the back of the pop­u­lar­ity of the XR3 and RS mod­els.

Nearly 25 years later, you could cer­tainly be for­given for think­ing that not much has re­ally changed. Reign­ing FA Cup cham­pion Manch­ester United is still rak­ing in the sil­ver­ware and a resur­gence in vinyl sales means that Stone Roses records are ap­pear­ing in the shops once again. All we need now is a 928 for the 21st cen­tury. Go on, Porsche. You know you want to…

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