SPRING 1993 OLD TRAFFORD, MANCHESTER
Football, baggy jeans and Porsche 928s – it was all happening up North back in the early 1990s
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
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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…