The Way We Were

Mil­ton Keynes, 1980

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - AN­DREW ROBERTS Film his­to­rian and en­thu­si­ast of mo­tor­ing cul­ture, An­drew blames his en­tire ca­reer in this last field on hav­ing seen Carry On Cabby in 1975.

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

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