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!

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling - CHRIS HOPE

‘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.

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