The Way We Were

Stam­ford, 1977

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - RICHARD GUNN Is much older than he looks. He joined CCW in 2000 and al­though now a free­lancer, he’s al­ways main­tained his con­nec­tion with the news­pa­per that started his ca­reer.

‘Only one ve­hi­cle here seems to be con­form­ing to tin­worm stereo­type’ NOT ALL 1970S CAR WERE RUSTY

What a dif­fer­ence 40 years make. Our lo­ca­tion this week, Stam­ford’s last sur­viv­ing ten­e­ment dwelling, looks fit for de­mo­li­tion, with bro­ken win­dows, sub­sid­ing, cracked stonework and the gen­eral aura of de­crepi­tude that comes from hav­ing 1970s’ Fords and Vaux­halls parked out­side. Yet fast-for­ward to 2017 and it’s the build­ings that have sur­vived; the cars hav­ing been re­placed by award-win­ning fish and chips. Of course, some might sug­gest that the 1970s’ prod­ucts of Gen­eral Mo­tors and the Blue Oval had sim­i­lar struc­tural in­tegrity to bat­tered cod, but CCW would never be so un­kind.

Ac­tu­ally, only one ve­hi­cle here – the Es­cort MkI two-door – seems to be con­form­ing to tin­worm stereo­type – the other seems to be last­ing pretty well. Al­though, to be fair, most of what’s con­ve­niently ig­nor­ing the ‘Pri­vate prop­erty – park­ing strictly pro­hib­ited’ sign is just a few years old.

It looks like the lo­cal Ford and Vaux­hall deal­er­ships have Stam­ford all sewn up. It’s Ford 4, Vaux­hall 3, and the rest of the world just 1, a Mor­ris Mi­nor be­ing the nonDa­gen­ham/Hale­wood/Lu­ton in­truder. How­ever, it’s to the Vic­tor the spoils, with a trio of Vaux­hall’s big bruis­ers dom­i­nat­ing. In fact, was this patch of waste ground be­ing used by the nearby Vaux­hall deal­er­ship for over­flow stock? It could ex­plain why park­ing was strictly pro­hib­ited for some, but not for oth­ers.

Obey­ing the rules by park­ing on the street is a Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe es­tate, vis­i­ble through the left arch­way. It’s out­side the Lon­don Inn, where pint-sized Tom Cruise al­legedly popped in for a pint-sized bev­er­age dur­ing film­ing of the most re­cent Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble film. The open­ing fea­tured him hang­ing off an Air­bus A400M At­las over the town, shortly af­ter take-off from nearby RAF Wit­ter­ing (pre­tend­ing to be Minsk in Be­larus). He prob­a­bly badly needed a beer or two af­ter that. Could the two fe­male Stam­for­dians walk­ing to­wards us – one of whom is rock­ing a de­light­ful flo­ral blouse and waist­coat en­sem­ble – pos­si­bly imag­ine such fren­tic fu­ture aerial ex­cite­ment? Co­in­ci­den­tally, RAF Wit­ter­ing was a Cold War base for nu­clear-equipped Vic­tors be­fore Har­ri­ers started ar­riv­ing there in 1969.

The first of our Vic­tors here, HXD 525K, thank­fully isn’t armed with Blue Steel mis­siles. But it’s still quite a po­tent weapon, the crossed grille and Rostyle trims mark­ing this 1971/1972 FD out as the sporty VX4/90 vari­ant. Its two-litre over­head-cam twin-carb en­gine boasted 112bhp, mean­ing 100mph was at­tain­able.

What’s next is newer but less vir­ile. The fi­nal FE Vic­tors came along in 1972. The sleek and dis­tinc­tive es­tates proved es­pe­cially ca­pa­cious load-lug­gers. This looks to be a 2300SL Vic­tor by its sil­ver rear panel and wheel em­bel­lish­ers. Its neigh­bour is a 1975/1976 Ford Capri MkII with that es­sen­tial 1970s ad­don, a vinyl roof. This, to­gether with the black side strip, sug­gests a Ghia. Some­thing other than Vaux­hall or Ford fi­nally ap­pears with the ad­ja­cent Mor­ris Mi­nor. It’s not do­ing badly con­sid­er­ing that it’s at least 15 years old; cer­tainly bet­ter than its Es­cort MkI neigh­bour. Black un­der­seal on its sills and rear wings sug­gests rust has started fes­ter­ing. Still, at least its owner has bal­anced things out with a black roof, per­haps hop­ing that peo­ple will over­look its bog-stan­dard hub­caps and think it’s a 1300E. He’s prob­a­bly not fool­ing any­one though.

The last of our tri­umvi­rate of Vic­tors is next, a stan­dard FD 1600 or 2000. Fi­nally, there’s an­other Es­cort MkI; a ba­sic 1100 or 1300L ac­cord­ing to the front wing badge and glimpse of poverty-spec dash­board.

It’s no sur­prise that such a prime spot by the River Wel­land, in a town just voted the sec­ond best place to live in Bri­tain, is no longer waste­ground, but now hosts an up­mar­ket fish and chip shop. But be­yond, the orig­i­nal build­ings are still there. Al­beit in a lot bet­ter state of re­pair.

Bath Row in Stam­ford. Where ‘No park­ing’ signs are rou­tinely ig­nored.

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