Blog : Happy 50th Anniversary Parkers!

Last week the publication I edit, Parkers, celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Back then, it was called Parker’s New, Used & Trade Car Price Guide and its cover proudly proclaimed that it contained ‘18,000 prices to help you buy and sell!’ Why Parker’s? Because the ‘book’ was published from Parker Street in the City of London.

The first issue, with a cover date of March 1972, went on sale for 20p and, as was the way back then, it was hardly a colourful publication – in fact, all you’d find inside were page after page of car valuations, and line drawings of some of the era’s most popular cars. It was the publishing world’s equivalent of a telephone directory.

Parkers New Used and Trade Car Price Guide

Exciting, huh? Well, actually yes. Because although it might have had all the visual appeal of a beige wall, there was gold in them thar pages. For one, the prices and valuations it contained were pure gold for car buyers in the UK. Yes, the Glass’s Guide had been around since the 1930s, but that was trade only, and its pages were a closely-guarded secret.

As a fledgling car buyer in the 1980s, I remember vividly car traders holding a copy in the pocket of their Glass’s in the pocket of their sheepskin coats and, when dipping in, being very careful not to let me see what was inside. Wow.

Parkers, on the other hand, was completely consumer-focused. And although traders at car auctions across the land used to sneer at private punters sporting a copy of the Parkers ‘book’, making it clear that the valuations weren’t that accurate, the reality was that those valuations were based on real-world transactions and were an invaluable asset for buyers looking for much-needed guidance.

The final print edition of the (more simply named) Parkers Car Price Guide was published in January 2020, and it was me that put that issue to bed. It was a sad occasion for me, as I never joined this business to close magazines, but there were commercial realities involved (that I didn’t agree with), and the shape of the industry had changed considerably.

By 2020, Parkers had become an online monster of a business, and web was dwarfing print in this case. More than 250,000 valuations are being served and around 2.5 million users visit the site every month, and if you consider that every one of those interactions is about informing car buyers, there’s a lot to be said for that – and a continuance of the principles of helping consumers.

The world has certainly changed since the first issue hit the newsstands – and we’re probably more aware of that than most are here at AROnline given that British Leyland was still number one on the UK market, even if the 1100/1300 range had just been supplanted by the Ford Cortina as the UK’s best-selling car. How life has changed…

You can see just how much in the video below.


Keith Adams
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19 Comments

  1. I used to have at least one around, which I stupidly threw away during a clearout along with some Glass’s guides I rescued from a bin at my job with an insurance company!

  2. Congratulations Parkers! I’ve often used it when estimating my car’s part ex price at trade in time (and will do again). it’s enabled me to get the deal I want.

    Love that Cortina GXL MK3 (a 2 door GXL auto is rare). Between the two vehicles, I still prefer the Cortina, as much of my early working life was spent driving MKIII & IV 1.6L Estates round the UK. Happy “simpler” times.

  3. Re: the subject of car traders looking into their copy of Glass’s and hiding it so you couldn’t see what was inside………….I remember the same mentality with mortgage advisers. If you went to enquire about a mortgage, the adviser would tell you “the best deal” but wouldn’t show you all the other options which were available (but which obviously didn’t give them so much commission).

  4. Note as well on the front cover of the first edition, a Sunbeam Rapier, a little remembered rival to the Capri that was a stylish car in its day.

  5. PS Cortina 2000s were for the rep in a hurry – designed to do 100 up the motorway – in the days before speed cameras, and generally with a lot less traffic, this was feasible if you kept a sharp eye out for jam sandwiches.I hit the ton on the M1 at least twice – I couldn’t find room now.

    • The Cortina 2000 GXL/E would be aimed more at people in managerial positions or reps who had done really well and as a desirable used car. The 2000 E was the business, vinyl roof, metallic paint, velour seats, wood effect dasaboard and a fitted radio to keep the driver entertained on long journeys. Also these were fairly refined cars that could cruise all day on the motorway without stressing out the driver.

  6. Yes, the Cortina 2000E was about as good as it got with the MKIII range. I once rode in a MKIV Cortina 2.0GL Auto hire car and that seemed to effortlessly fly up the uncongested A1M. Year 1977

    • @ Hilton D, the Pinto engine was a big improvement on the V4 used in the Corsair and made high speed driving quite effortless. Of course, for a more refined and relaxing drive, the V6 that was introduced in 1977 was the model to go for, even if it was only 5 mph faster than the 2.0 and could be thirsty around town. You can see why the Cortina was beating the Marina hands down by the late seventies, the Marina only went as far as a 1.8 that was quite noisy and thrashy at speed and the HL was no match for a Cortina Ghia.

      • Glenn… I go along with that. I recall the 2.3 V6 Cortina Ghia (though didn’t see as many on the roads). I guess they were the pinnacle of the Cortina MKIV line up. Even the simpler 1.6 Cortina Estates I drove were capable of high mileage cruising. As said before, they were happy motoring days for me.

        • @ Hilton D, another rival was starting to threaten top of the range Cortinas, the Cavalier 2000 GLS. This lacked the fake wood and Ghia badges of the Cortina in favour of a more Germanic less is more style interior, although equipment levels were similar to a Cortina. Also it rode better, the Opel CIH engines were smooth and powerful, and the Cavalier felt like it was made from granite. Even lesser Cavs were nice drivers cars and were stealing sales from Ford.

          • I go along with that Glenn. In particular the Cav 1900/2000 GLS Coupe and Sportshatch are my all time favourites. The GL saloon versions are runners up for me.

  7. Bramble the GXL. A fantastic restoration job by Pete C which I’d choose over any modern car.

  8. In the USA, we also had a paper consumer publication like this with new and used car values, retail, trade-in’s suggested price one should pay with comments since the 1960’s under the name Edmund’s and since the 1990’s available on line. https://www.edmunds.com/about/

  9. What use is a guide these days? You look at a car on Autotrader and all the similar cars are about £30K. Webuyanycar will offer £26K for it and the guides say it’s worth £22K.

    If you are buying at the moment, and you’re not prepared to pay the asking price, then they bid you good day, because the dealer knows that there are plenty of people that will.

    If you are selling, then you just put your car up at a similar price to all the others on Autotrader. Price it a little bit lower, so that it says “Good Price or Great Price” and you soon sell it. Price it according to the guides and you are just giving it away. You would get more if you went round to Philip Schofield.

  10. Let me provide another example. The guides tell me that a certain Jaguar is worth worth £22-£24K as a private sale. An identical model is for sale with a dealer at £29K, which Autotrader says is close to market average. Clearly I am not a dealer, so I cannot ask dealer prices, but as a private sale, no way do I need to discount my identical car by £5-7K. That is just ridiculous, and it isn’t what the market expects. A bit cheaper, yes, but not £7k cheaper.

    The guides say that the dealer should be asking £25.5 to £26.5K for it, but they are not, and nor will they take it, because they will just show me the cars that are for sale at that price, and show me that they are older and have more miles on the clock, which I cannot argue with, because it’s true.

    So as I said earlier, if I follow the guides and I am selling a Jaguar, I will be giving it away. If I am buying one, then I won’t be successful at the prices shown in the guide, so what use are they?

  11. Parkers Guide … absolute comic in the trade. Finance companies don’t look at 110% of Parker’s clean!

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