The Way We Were: Fi­esta MkIII tops the sales charts in 1989

UP­PER PAR­LIA­MENT STREET, cEN­TRAL NOT­TING­HAM

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - DAVID SIMIS­TER

‘Did you catch a ride home from the The­atre royal in the back of Toy­ota Camry, C208 GNB?’ NOT­TING­HAM’s 1980s’ TAXI FleeT

There are plenty of great cars jostling for po­si­tion on this busy city cen­tre street – but it’s the bus driv­ers who will ul­ti­mately have the last laugh

Edg­ing through this par­tic­u­lar part of Not­ting­ham in your Ford Orion – or any other car, for that mat­ter – is likely to earn you a stern tick­ing-off these days.

Up­per Par­lia­ment Street, like many a thor­ough­fare in Bri­tain’s city cen­tres, has been made a om­nibu­sonly af­fair, en­forced by cam­eras and the threat of a hefty fine for any­one brave or fool­ish enough to ven­ture past the Vic­to­ria shop­ping cen­tre. It makes the scene far less in­ter­est­ing to­day than it was when this shot was snapped 28 years ago.

Spare a thought for the poor cou­ple in the Ford Orion, be­cause it looks as though the odds are against them cut­ting into the slip­stream of traf­fic. This par­tic­u­lar one’s a 1985 GL model, and its own­ers have opted to be pi­o­neers by es­chew­ing Ford’s CVH petrol en­gines in favour of the derv-driven En­dura-D lump. At the time diesels only ac­counted for a tiny frac­tion of Bri­tain’s car sales, so it’s prob­a­bly the only ve­hi­cle here that sounds the same as the Not­ting­ham Cor­po­ra­tion-liv­ered dou­bledecker bus just be­hind it (an East Lan­cashire-bod­ied Volvo Ci­ty­bus, Nick Larkin as­sures us).

The car that looks like it’s re­fused to al­low our Orion-driv­ing friend out is what would have been one of the first Ford Fi­esta MkIIIs on Bri­tain’s streets; this par­tic­u­lar ver­sion is the 1.4-litre LX model, although ac­cord­ing to the DVLA’s records it stopped tootling to the city’s shops some­time in 2003. It seems the Fi­esta XR2 MkII be­hind it has suf­fered the same fate, although we bet its owner wished they’d held on to it; nos­tal­gia for Ford’s ‘80s hot hatches are mak­ing val­ues rocket.

Be­yond the XR2 there’s a GL-spec Toy­ota Corolla, a Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat MkII and a rather un­usual vis­i­tor to the late 1980s East Mid­lands; a left­hand-drive Fiat Re­gata. The sin­gle mir­ror on the driver’s door sug­gests it’s an Ital­ian-mar­ket car, while the chrome strip along the bumper of this post-’87 facelift model points to an SX ver­sion. Per­haps it’s a con­ti­nen­tal driver vis­it­ing fam­ily in the city, and try­ing not to hold up the Sierra im­me­di­ately be­hind.

Sneak­ing up along­side is a BMW 5-se­ries – one of the re­cently launched E34-gen­er­a­tion models – although it’s tricky to tell from this shot if it’s one of the four-pot or straight-six models. Up in front there’s an Austin Mae­stro, a Volvo 240, and a Toy­ota Camry – this one’s the petrol-pow­ered GLi ver­sion, equipped with the same 2.0-litre en­gine you’d have found in the con­tem­po­rary Cel­ica. The sign on the roof and the dif­fer­ently coloured bon­net and bootlid sug­gest it may have plied its trade as a taxi on Not­ting­ham’s streets – did you catch a ride home from the The­atre Royal in the back of C208 GNB? An­other Volvo 240, in typ­i­cal beige, leads.

There’s a cu­ri­ous con­voy of cars head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion too, wait­ing to pass the city cen­tre’s branch of Burger King (still flip­ping burg­ers to this day from the dis­tinctly rounded Vic­to­rian build­ing on the right-hand side). Bring­ing up the rear is a 1976 Saab 99 in three-door Combi Coupé form. This 2.0-litre model was nearing the end of its work­ing life back in 1989, and dis­ap­peared from the DVLA’s records two years later.

Hold­ing up the age­ing Swede is an Austin Metro City, de­not­ing it used a 998cc A-se­ries en­gine to do its bid­ding; the re­vamped Metro with its K-se­ries pow­er­plants were more than a year away when this shot was taken. There’s also a late Ley­land Princess pa­tiently wait­ing in the queue, the Vauxhall Cava­lier MkIII in sa­loon form, and a Ry­ton-built Peu­geot 405 that ap­pears to have blocked the path of an over­coat-don­ning shop­per at­tempt­ing to cross to­wards Clum­ber Street.

While cars have dis­ap­peard from this view to­day, many of the shops have also al­tered. The white build­ing just be­hind the traf­fic lights on the left-hand side has shed its scaf­fold­ing, sprouted a roof and is now a branch of the Na­tion­wide Build­ing So­ci­ety, while the void im­me­di­ately be­hind it has long since been filled in by a new two-storey of­fice block.

The Top­man clothes store im­me­di­ately in front of it closed to fash­ion fol­low­ers three years ago, hav­ing been re­placed by a new shop in­side the Vic­to­ria shop­ping cen­tre across the street. In fact, it’s the Vic­to­ria that’s seen the sin­gle big­gest change in the shot, hav­ing un­der­gone a multi-mil­lion-pound facelift that re­placed the rather ugly 1970s ar­chi­tec­ture just vis­i­ble in this shot with an il­lu­mi­nated frontage that now bright­ens up the thor­ough­fare for any­one do­ing late-night shop­ping.

But it’s hard to look at the branch of Dixons – whose prime bit of Up­per Par­lia­ment Street real es­tate is now taken up by Ur­ban Out­fit­ter – and not feel a tad nos­tal­gic. At the time of this shot it was hold­ing yet an­other of its sales, and you can al­most imag­ine the young­sters hop­ping on to the bus in their fetch­ing blue/ yel­low jack­ets hav­ing just emerged from there, look­ing long­ingly at £300 Aiwa multi-CD sys­tems, high-end VCRs and Amiga com­put­ers.

Dixons still ex­ists to this day, as one half of the com­pany that owns Car­phone Ware­house. How­ever, the Dixons store name only op­er­ates in UK and Ir­ish air­ports and the gad­gets of the 1990s have long gone.

Maybe there’s scope for a new weekly news­pa­per cel­e­brat­ing them.

Clas­sic Gad­get Weekly, any­one?

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