23 Jul 2013

Land of the Free, Home of the Welsh

When you move to a new area, you expect there to be many, many differences to get used to. For a start, when you move from England to Wales, you start seeing signs written in incomprehensible strings of consonants, or ‘Welsh’, everywhere you go. There’s a much more cogent sense of national identity, and as I no longer live within spitting distance of Chigwell, far fewer footballers. People like singing in public – if there’s a charity fundraiser, they sing; if there’s a strike, they sing; if there’s a rugby international they sing. There was a march in response to the EDL and their idiocy (though to be honest, I’m not quite sure what the English Defence League would be doing in the capital of Wales). They sang at that, too.

I expected big differences in the car culture as well. For various reasons, not least of which being the aforementioned lack of footballers, I imagined I would see far less exotica, and while it’s true that I’ve not seen any Lamborghinis or chrome plated convertible Ferraris, when I was out on my very first wander around my new neighbourhood, an Audi R8 came rumbling past. The first of several Aston Martins I’ve discovered near here wasn’t far behind. There’s a bright yellow Ferrari 458 buzzing around too. Classics seem pretty popular too (though maybe they’re considered cutting edge in Wales), with plenty of little Triumphs and MGs emerging blinking into the sunlight now the weather’s finally improving. It’s not on the same scale as London, but the fancy stuff’s out there.

But one particular type of car has been particularly prevalent, and you’d probably never imagine what it is in a million years, because while south Wales has produced its own cars – a friend of mine actually has a Gilbern in his garage awaiting a rather ambitious engine transplant (a Cosworth-powered Gilbern Invader is going to be an interesting prospect, but that’s another column) – these come from rather further afield, and not from the Far East, either.
Gilbern Invader
Cardiff is in love with Americana, and particularly with the Ford Mustang.

In the few weeks since I moved, I have discovered that there are at least four Mustangs regularly being used just in my little corner of the city. Two of them are the latest GTs, which are on Qatari plates, and two of them are classic convertibles, which are not. One of the older ones, a particularly brown one, often cruises up and down the local shopping street. Incredibly, it hasn’t been raining much lately, so it’s usually topless. I dare say if it gets much warmer, the driver will be in a similar state.

This herd of wild horses brings me a great deal of joy, as you can imagine, but as they say in those late night infomercials that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever been visited by the Insomnia Fairy there’s more.

Yesterday – and I’m really not joking here – the A Team van drove past my house.

I don’t mean someone painted a red stripe on a knackered black Transit. I mean someone actually sourced a GMC truck and had it painted up in black and dark grey, split with a red stripe that carried over a spoiler on top. A proper, honest-to-goodness, A Team van just minding its own business in the middle of a sunny afternoon in Cardiff. As you do.

My mission for the summer is clear, I feel. I am going to see what else is out there, and if I don’t find a Chevy Bel-Air or a Ford Thunderbird or a pink Cadillac (limos don’t count) by the end of September, I shall be very surprised. Bonus points if I can get a drive.

Gentlemen, start your engines…

Footnote: I spotted a turquoise and white Chevy Bel-Air on Saturday 13th July. However, I was visiting friends in Essex, so it doesn’t count.

Article by the wonderful Sharon Endacotte*

*See all of Sharon's stuff here