The Way We Were
Milton Keynes, 1980
It was a year when the average wage was £6000 per annum, petrol was £1.40 per gallon and a pint of milk cost 17p. And in Milton Keynes, the highlight of the week may well have been a visit to RS McColl’s newsagent for a Rowntree’s Texan bar – ‘A man’s got to chew what a man’s got to chew’– and to read George Bishop’s opinion of the Morris Ital in CAR magazine.
Nearest to the camera we have a Datsun 120Y with its Fray Bentos pie tin hubcaps, while dominating the foreground is a Vauxhall Chevette, with the sports wheels and extra detailing apparently denoting the plush GL version.
Moving along the line, we find a Ford Cortina MkIV in L-specification guise, an SE5 Reliant Scimitar GTE with a Webasto roof, and an Escort GL MkII. Next is a Renault that is now far too seldom seen in the UK although 37 years ago, a 6TL was widely regarded as a fine combination of the 4’s practicality with such luxuries as reclining front seats. The FWD Mercedes-Benz L 206 D was an intriguing rival to the Transit, while the Ford Cortina MkII alongside resembles one of Arthur Daley’s ‘Bargains of the Week’.
The adjacent DAF looks like a 44; its constantly variable beltdriven automatic transmission made it a very useful town car. The neighbouring first-generation VW Polo was the hatchback that the forthcoming Austin Mini Metro would have to beat.
The Ford Escort estate close by looks like a MkII GL, judging by its wheel trims, while the Viva HC to its left would have only ceased production in the previous year. Further down the line, the Cortina MkIII would have seemed redolent of the just-passed era of The Protectors and of Mud singing Tiger Feet while the Vauxhall Cavalier MkI beyond would still have looked contemporary after several years on the British market. The Morris Minor van in the distance would still have been a familiar working vehicle some 37 years ago.
Parked just behind the Chevette is the magnificence of a 1973 fourthgeneration Toyota Crown Coupé. This was a car with an eight-track cassette player with extra controls for the rear and a foot pedal for the driver to control the the frequency seeking functions on the FM/AM radio – that nearby two-door Morris Marina Coupé is probably fleeing in envy. On the other side of the hedge, there is an equally splendid Citroën CX Safari, with coachwork that is a marked contrast to the 1960s’ appearance of another Cortina MkII.
Meanwhile, the Rover SD1 and Mini Estate look so diverse in appearance that it is sometimes hard to remember that they were built by the same company. And we wonder if the two young chaps by McColl’s doorway, who look like extras from a Madness video, are more likely to own that HC- Series Vauxhall Viva, which was quite a performer in 2300SL guise. They might equally have favoured the might of the Ford Zodiac Mk IV, seen here adorned with a very sensible roof-rack.
Past the no-entry barrier is the unmistakeable shape of a Volkswagen Beetle, official imports of which only ceased in 1978. Right out on the edge of the shopping parade can be made out a Leyland FG displaying its rear-hinged doors that were mounted across the corners of the ‘three-penny bit’ cabin.
This picture reminds me of the time when Leyland’s Princess ‘ Wedge’ was promoted as ‘Not the Car for Mr Average’, Abingdon was in its last days of MG production and the Falkland Islands would have been virtually unknown to most of the UK. I think my ten-year-old self would have been most impressed by the Zodiac, which seemed to convey a great sense of cinematic glamour – one guest-starred in Holiday on the Buses. Some matters do not change…
‘This was also a time when Leyland’s Princess Wedge was being promoted as not the car for Mr Average’ SMART MARKETING OF 1980