Sad that Eighties motors haven’t stood test of time…

A yellow Metro not too dissimilar to my beloved motor.

A yellow Metro not too dissimilar to my beloved motor.

Depending on your view of life I’m either an excellent driver – or a very bad one.

It took me five attempts (yes, five) to pass my driving test and I finally achieved success in 1989.

On that basis, you’d have thought I’d have been quite good by the time I took off my L Plates, wouldn’t you?

However, I’m embarrassed to admit that at the age of 18 I drove into the back of someone else’s car because I was titivating with my hair in the rear view mirror.

The vanity of youth, eh?

It’s also true to say that I still have a tendancy to hog the middle lane while driving on the motorway – much to my other half’s annoyance.

But I’d like to think I’m a better driver these days, due in no small part to more regular shifts at work and the fact that there are no babies to wake me in the middle of the night anymore.

Thus my days of travelling to The Sentinel on auto-pilot, fuelled by coffee, are a dim and distant memory.

I learned to drive in a Nissan Micra and my first car was actually a company car – a bright yellow Austin Metro from WT Bell, no less, of Burslem.

I remember picking it up from the garage of the then Port Vale Chairman and him telling me that it was ‘a good little runner’ with the latest stereo system.

To be fair, the car never let me down and it did have a ‘wicked’ stereo with a graphic equaliser.

When it was stolen from outside my parents’ house in Sneyd Green one night the thieves woke my mum and dad because I had left the stereo on full blast and so when they started the engine Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell kicked in at full blast – waking the neighbours and presumably scaring the life out of whoever it was who nicked my wheels.

I loved that car – even if my mates did refer to it as ‘The Canary’ and ‘The Yellow Peril’ and I was jealous that they had a Ford Orion and a Renault Fuego.

Sadly, my beloved Metro was found dumped at Central Forest Park – its stereo missing and the car itself a write-off on account of it having been driven through and on to wooden fence posts.

Now I read that the car once driven by Lady Diana Spencer during her engagement to Prince Charles is on the endangered list – along with a number of other Eighties classics which haven’t survived the test of time, often due to unnecessary scrappage.

Car industry website estimates less than 2,000 of the 1.5 million Metros built between 1980 and 1981 survive today.

Its analysis of cars built before 1995 claims that 1980s cars have disappeared far more quickly than models from other periods.

Many of the models we grew up with and watched racing around on our goggle box have all but vanished from Britain’s roads – although some may take the view that it’s no bad thing.

These include the legendary Austin Allegro (only 291 remain) which, as I recall, was something of a joke even back in the day.

Then there’s the Austin Montego. I’m pretty sure my dad drove a green one of these of which we were quite proud at the time.

According to Honest John, however, only 296 Montegos are being driven on UK roads today.

Other motors from the Eighties said to be on the brink of extinction include the Austin Princess, Hillman Avenger, Vauxhall Viva, Austin Maxi, Morris Ital and Rover SD1.

Even the legendary Ford Cortina, a staple of TV cop shows from my youth, is in danger of disappearing – with just 5,411 of the 4.15 million models built prior to 1982 still on the road.

So, if you see one of these Eighties classics, give it a toot – for old time’s sake. And make sure the driver hasn’t broken down, won’t you?

Pick up a copy of The Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia


Let’s enjoy a knees-up we’re all (sort of) invited to

I’M DETECTING a lot of apathy, a good deal of cynicism and just the faintest aroma of outrage about the forthcoming royal nuptials.
There are plenty of people only too keen to tell you why they don’t give a monkey’s about two super-privileged individuals tying the knot.
Others will cry foul at the public money being lavished on this grand affair to celebrate the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton during this time of austerity.
Then there are those to whose only interest is that they may get a day off work – or be paid extra for going in on what has been declared a national holiday.
I think this is a real shame and that some people are rather missing the point.
The royals are, as always, an easy target for critics but I have to confess I have a real soft spot for the monarchy – unlike many of my colleagues, it seems.
I guess this dates back to the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977 when, as a five-year-old, I attended a party down the street at Marie MacDonald’s house.
It is one of my earliest happy memories – a blur of Union Flag bunting, triangle sandwiches, cakes, jelly and ice cream, and lots of sunshine.
Four years later, I was one of the generation of Potteries schoolchildren who collected coins, ceramic money boxes and first day covers of stamps commemorating the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.
My mum’s still got them all.
Even to a young lad from Sneyd Green, Diana seemed like a breath of fresh air for the House of Windsor and like so many others I fell under the spell of the awkward, pretty princess.
When the fairytale ended in divorce and very public recriminations I felt saddened – not only for those involved – but also that those fond memories of national togetherness had been scrubbed away.
Suddenly all the memorabilia seemed cheapened and the reputation of the royal family irredeemably tarnished.
Over the years, through my job, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Prince Charles, Prince Edward and even the late Princess Diana herself.
Granted, the latter was a brief conversation during a Sunday afternoon visit to Alton Towers with the two young princes but it is still indelibly stamped on my mind.
When Diana died I wasn’t afflicted by the strange, paralysing phenomenon of the national out-pouring of grief.
In truth, I found the whole spectacle of people shedding tears for someone they didn’t personally know rather bizarre and unnecessary.
However, I felt sorrow at the tragic waste of life and my thoughts turned to those left behind – principally Princes William and Harry.
Say what you like about their silver-spoon upbringing and their unique forces careers but I have an awful lot of time for the two lads who followed that gun carriage flanked by Welsh Guardsmen which carried their mother’s coffin through the streets of London.
Yes, they enjoy a lifestyle the rest of us can only dream of but, in truth, I wouldn’t swap places with them for a life so regimented and microscopically-scrutinised.
Having said that, I admire the monarchy and I’m truly glad we have one.
It is one of the few things which makes the United Kingdom different and yes, it does the tourism industry in this country no harm whatsoever.
The royal family is also, like sport, one of the few things which has the potential to bring us together in celebration and foster a sense of national pride. Heaven knows we need a little bit of that right now.
So forget the mealy-mouthed nay-sayers. Forget business owners. Forget the unions. Forget the arguments over Bank Holiday pay.
Let’s enjoy April 29 for what it is – a wedding to which we are all (sort of) invited.
Let’s buy some new crocks with pictures of Wills and Kate, stick up some flags and be happy for a young couple in love.
Yours truly will be at his daughter’s school in the run up to the big day, hosting a celebration party for 200 children with cakes and jelly and bunting.
They won’t care about the cost to the taxpayer or who designed the bride’s dress.
But they will be happy for the happy couple – and make a few memories that might just last a lifetime.