The Way We Were: Fiesta MkIII tops the sales charts in 1989
UPPER PARLIAMENT STREET, cENTRAL NOTTINGHAM
‘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?