It’s later than you think.
News broke this week that London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is now certain to be extended outwards as far as the London Orbital Motorway (M25) which encircles the outer reaches of the metropolitan area, a decision which will be greeted with some dismay amongst certain (older) car owners amid the UK capital when it comes into force next August. And while most can probably agree in principle that a reduction in airborne pollutants is likely to benefit air quality, it will mean that swathes of perfectly serviceable older vehicles will be taken off the roads – or simply shunted out of London entirely.
Similar strictures would decimate the car pool in this part of the Costa del Sol, given what remains in daily use there, but I would posit that it’s only a matter of time before such matters eventually come to pass. But in the meantime, we at least get to enjoy a brief journey into the past, amidst the November sunshine, the balmy sea air, the cerveza and the (by now obligatory) ice cream.
Ah, the 205. Reader, I owned one – a vehicle I most acutely regret allowing to slip through my fingers. These were marvellous little cars, be it the diesel van (which I drove once and enjoyed immensely) or the entry-level 954 cc XE 3-door, also of my acquaintance, or the effervescent 1.9 GTi I owned for five years; all were infused with the same eagerness, precise controls, delicate manners and grace under pressure. Lightweight but not flimsy – slapdash, yet not shoddy, the 205 was an ’80s masterclass. Why wouldn’t they remain a viable transport of delight in this part of Southern Spain?
And so to the 205’s younger, less handsome and slightly more insubstantial brother. One with a marked inferiority complex and no doubt a burning frite upon its shoulder. It’s tempting to imagine the board meeting in Paris when the AX was signed off, Jacques Calvet and his minions at last content that the diminutive Citroen was not only cheaper than the all-conquering Sacré Numero from Sochaux, but a good deal less comely.
A good deal more frangible as well, if the press reports are to be believed, although a few survivors could be found dotted around the streets, which does say something. None in this condition however, which really was of the time-warp variety. Most likely a Spanish, or indeed local dealer special edition, (were any Citroëns of this era not special editions?) this five-door model (an AX 11 if memory serves) looked good for another 30 years – assuming the local authorities agree.
I don’t wish to be mean about the AX – I’m sure it was a charming car, but I could never quite shake the suspicion that it could have been a good deal nicer, had its PSA masters permitted it.
Monsieur le Quément’s masterpiece. Twingos, I found, were everywhere, much to my intense pleasure. There are few modern cars which elicit such immodest joy in my heart than this little Renault – maybe all the more for the fact that we in these damp and often troublesome lands to the West of the French coast were denied the pleasure – and when Renault relented with a second generation, it really wasn’t the same. At all.
It’s a shape and a style of car which, somewhat akin to the original Cinq, hasn’t dated a jot over the intervening years. This was probably the tidiest looking example which made it in front of my camera lens, but these cars were meant to be used and enjoyed, not cosseted.
I will return to the Twingo in greater detail in the new year.
This Renault 4, discovered in a less salubrious part of the town was clearly a much cared for example, if one still parked nose to tail down a narrow side street with the moderns. A late era GTL version, this one sported Clan badging, which perhaps denoted a special edition of some description. Perhaps someone can elaborate? Anyway, always a pleasing sight, if perhaps, dare I say, more to be enjoyed as a work tool than an aesthetic object.
I suspect its 2024 reboot will be none of those things.
One of the many surprises for me during this sojourn was the sheer number of Rovers sighted here. These 45s were by far the most populous, but my keen eye discerned a 600 and several 75s knocking about town as well. Clearly some anglophiles abound, although their patience must be wearing pretty thin these days, not least in terms of parts availability.
This 45 was a saloon, which at least had the benefit of a certain gravity to its appearance, wholly lacking in its five-door equivalent. That, I’m afraid is about as much as I can summon up on the subject. Sorry.
It’s always best to conclude on a more upbeat note, I feel, so while no high-water mark, this Jaguar XK8 appeared right at home amid the November sunlight. As has been pointed out in the past, Jaguars of this stripe do take on a slightly more glamourous character outside of their brooding UK homelands, and while I’m never particularly enthralled to encounter a contemporary X200 S-Type, even they appeared less haplessly awkward to the eye amid the Andalucían Autumnal glow.
Over the years, I’ve softened towards the XK. It remains by far the nicest of the so-called ‘Lawson Jags’, aided by good bones and a lack of visual noise (although that side rub-strip remains a sore point). There are certainly worse ways of traversing the Spanish coastline, but my personal choice in this field of endeavour would not go Coventry’s way.
Perhaps nostalgia is something we should guard against as we get older, but as the hourglass reminds us of how little time is left, we find solace in reminding ourselves of where we’ve been and in certain cases, what took us there. Removing these cars from our streets might ultimately be for our betterment, but with them goes memory. And surely that is a pity.