SUM­MER 1998 PLY­MOUTH HAR­BOUR, DEVON

We do like to be be­side the sea­side – es­pe­cially with these won­der­ful cars

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - TRADE DIRECTORY - NATHAN CHAD­WICK As­sis­tant ed­i­tor of Mod­ern Clas­sics, but be­fore that he worked on Clas­sic Cars, The Stoke Sentinel and, most oddly, The Ve­teri­nary Times.

The sea­side in sum­mer – a time full of hope, salty sea air, ice cream and, pre­dictably, a big black cloud in the sky. One gets the sense that the peo­ple in this par­tic­u­lar shot of Ply­mouth Har­bour are more hard­ened to the change­able cli­mate than the aver­age sea­side daytrip­per.

Not for them sand­cas­tles and don­key der­bies – their fun is on the open sea. How­ever, given the cars on dis­play, at least a few are fond of in­ter­est­ing land trans­port, too.

For me, the most in­ter­est­ing one is the white Peu­geot 405 es­tate in the cen­tre. My fa­ther had one of these, which he used to carry a bright red Dart 18 cata­ma­ran called ‘Mus­tang On’. Sadly, that’s as far as my fa­ther’s need for speed went – he also towed the fam­ily car­a­van be­hind the eight-valve un­tur­bocharged 1.8 diesel. I’m pretty sure my fam­ily was re­spon­si­ble for all the UK’s traf­fic jams in the mid-to-late-1990s.

If I was in Ply­mouth on this day I’d have been far more en­am­oured with the white Ford Sierra es­tate, even if it looks like it’s seen bet­ter days. I loved the Sierra for its space­ship­style looks, though my young eyes would have been obliv­i­ous to this par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple’s rust mak­ing its way around the rear whee­larch. While the Sierra was never quite the sales suc­cess Ford had en­vi­sioned, it traded punches with Vaux­hall and Rover in the top end of the sales charts. Now fewer than 1000 are left, prob­a­bly not in­clud­ing this one.

Even rarer these days is the Citroën BX on the jetty. The roads around Ply­mouth weren’t ex­actly the great­est in the 1990s and the hy­drop­neu­matic sus­pen­sion fit­ted to this Gal­lic ma­chine would have been very wel­come. Its styling wasn’t for ev­ery­one, but you could al­ways tell pub bores that you’d got a car crafted by a su­per­car de­signer – af­ter all, Mar­cello Gan­dini also de­signed the Lam­borgh­ini Coun­tach. If you squint you can just about see the re­sem­blance. Well, maybe you’ll need to close one eye and turn around, too. Still, it was a good year to be a Fran­cophile – Les Bleus were vic­to­ri­ous in that year’s FIFA World Cup, beat­ing Brazil in the fi­nal.

But be­fore our French fans get too ex­cited, we Ros­b­ifs had some­thing to be proud of: small Bri­tish sports cars. The lat­est of the breed can be seen in this pic­ture – a bur­gundy MGF that would only be, at most, three years old. It proved to be one of the most pop­u­lar cars in its class and it’s a bona fide clas­sic now, with val­ues on the up. De­servedly so – af­ter all these years, it’s an en­ter­tain­ing steer. Here it’s easy to imag­ine this be­ing the first sports car of a boat owner’s daugh­ter, spend­ing a re­lax­ing day cruis­ing up the coast.

There’s style of a dif­fer­ent sort just along the row: a BMW 3 Se­ries in E30 guise, here wear­ing a se­duc­tively sug­ges­tive boot spoiler, pos­si­bly the de­sir­able M-Tech kit. Nowa­days these are the hip­ster’s favourite, a style icon and an ap­pre­ci­at­ing as­set. But 20 years ago it was just a sec­ond­hand Beemer, and we can only imag­ine the por­ous na­ture of this ex­am­ple’s sills given the car’s prox­im­ity to salty sea air.

Else­where we can see a VW Golf MkIII – hardly an en­thu­si­asts’ favourite these days, but a hardy vet­eran. Golf MkIIIs will prob­a­bly be here un­til the Earth plum­mets into the sun thanks to VW gal­vanis­ing them. We can’t imag­ine many of the Vaux­hall As­tra MkIIs next to it will en­joy a sim­i­lar longevity!

Still, it prob­a­bly had a no­bler end than the Nis­san Primera MkII and Toy­ota Ca­rina E Es­tate nearby. These were good, re­li­able cars and so hard-wear­ing that many saw use as pri­vate hire taxis. The As­tra may have rusted to death, but the Toy­ota and Nis­san’s later life will have been spent scoop­ing up the ‘tired and emo­tional’ (as Pri­vate Eye eu­phemisti­cally puts it) be­fore head­ing into a scrap­page scheme.

An­other com­mon sight was the Land Rover Dis­cov­ery – at this time an ad­mirable work­horse and fam­ily holdall, now with so few left that the re­ally nice ones are grow­ing in value.

To­day, Ply­mouth’s har­bour is a hip place to be, with a uni­ver­sity and sev­eral new lux­ury flats en­cir­cling the ma­rina, plus the Na­tional Marine Aquar­ium (in the back­ground of this shot – it opened in May 1998). It’s all for the good – there are so many more boats moored there to­day than in 1998, but I won­der if our trusty fam­ily Peu­geot 405, and all the traf­fic stuck be­hind it, would fit in?

‘To­day, I won­der if our trusty fam­ily Peu­geot 405, and all the traf­fic be­hind it, would fit in?’ THE HAR­BOUR GOES UP­MAR­KET

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