SPRING 1990 BONDGATE, ALNWICK, NORTHUMBERLAND
At a time when many cities were seeing Poll Tax riots, the biggest headache here is finding a parking space!
‘The Beta’s a rare survivor, even in period – UK Lancia sales struggled during the Eighties’ STILL VERY MUCH WORTH SAVING
We’re looking up Bondgate Within, in the market town of Alnwick, on an overcast Saturday, judging by the traffic. An aerodynamically-styled, second-generation Vauxhall Astra in the centre of the scene approaches Bondgate Tower, which forms part of Alnwick’s 15th century town walls.
The Grade I-listed structure is decorated with a distinctive blue lion rampant, the arms of the House of Percy, one of the most powerful families in Northern England throughout much of the Middle Ages. The family also owned neighbouring Alnwick Castle – though Harry Potter fans will know the castle best as the setting for Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardy. Of course, it’d be 11 years before the first film hit cinemas.
A second-generation Ford Transit passes under the tower, tailed by a Peugeot 405. It was the second of the Ryton-built models and its elegant Pininfarina lines, in addition to its outstanding ride and handling characteristics, won it many friends.
The newest car in this scene is almost certainly the Subaru Legacy estate parked up outside the White Swan Hotel, its lady driver and presumably her son about to head home after stocking up on Iceland frozen ready meals and McCain oven chips, and paying in a cheque to the Yorkshire Building Society.
The Legacy went on sale in October the previous year, both as a saloon and an estate, and was a credible rival to the Ford Sierra/Cavalier – initially 1.8- and 2.2-litre fours were available and each could be specified with four-wheel drive, which we presume was one of the appeals for this Northumberland-based driver. A 1.8 Legacy would’ve cost £10,999 at launch, undercutting the thirdgeneration Cavalier in 2.0 4x4 guise ( launched in 1988) by £500.
Parked ahead of the Subaru, starting closest to Bondgate Tower, there’s a Ford Escort MkIII van and a bay-window Volkswagen T2 camper (presumably with visiting tourists).
Closer to the camera, on the same side of the road, there’s a quartet of popular superminis in uninspiring shades of silver, white and beige. The Metro, C135 CVU, was first registered in February 1986 and 1275cc A-pluspowered. Ahead is an early Peugeot 205, what we think is a Vauxhall Nova and a basic Ford Fiesta MkII.
On the opposite side of the road, where cars are parked on the cobbles, it’d be remiss of us not to start with the most interesting car in the shot, the Lancia Beta Coupé, at rest just in front of the town walls, ahead of two vans, a Transit MkIII ( less than four years old at the time) and a Maestro van –belonging to a window cleaner, perhaps, with those ladders strapped to its roof bars?
The Beta will have been a rare survivor, even in period – UK Lancia sales struggled throughout the Eighties, largely as a result of much-publicised rust issues, and this example here will have certainly been susceptible to a corroded rear subframe, the cause of many being consigned to the scrapyard.
It’s nice to see that electronics store G. Penrose & Sons is still operating today, though the Norwegian flag has gone (Alnwick is twinned with Kommune, a town near Stavanger). Here we have the twin delights of a Talbot Express and a Bedford CF out front.
Other cars on the cobbles closer to the camera include a Nova SR junior hot hatch, a Sierra in GL trim ( judging by those wheeltrims) a Vauxhall Magnum, a Mercedes-Benz 190E and an early Cavalier MkII. Meanwhile, credit goes to former
CCW editor and BL guru Keith Adams for identifying the car in the bottom-right corner of this scene, just ahead of a vibrant MkII Transist. According to him the door mirrors and wipers set for left-hand drive are the giveaway features: it’s an Austin Allegro, production of which ended in 1983 – clearly its owner didn’t fancy a Metro or a Maestro just yet!
Happiest behind the wheel of a ‘50s roadster, Chris has been writing for classic car mags for a while now, having started with CCW in 2008.