Once hailed as Britain’s most technologically advanced parking garage, Autosafe Skypark has laid empty for 15 years. Almost empty, that is, since eight vehicles were left behind when the 600-space facility closed its doors in 2003 after just two years in business.
Now the garage, which used lifts and “robot shuttles” to shuffle cars around, is being demolished. And, as the demolition progressed on Wednesday, Feb. 7, some of the abandoned cars went up in flames, taking the secrets of their solitude with them.
— James Erwin (@jerwintweets) February 7, 2018
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was alerted to the fire in the derelict facility on Morrison Street, Edinburgh, at 11:09 a.m. Fire crews extinguished the cars and left at 12:23 p.m., the fire and rescue’s spokesperson told The Scottish Sun.
Some fairly dense smoke and flames now. Thankfully looks like all the workers got out safely. pic.twitter.com/UZZBGGiGMZ
— Norbert Swizzle (@Norbertswizzle) February 7, 2018
It seems the cars were set ablaze due to the demolition work, which included cutting the metal structure apart. Firefighters reported no casualties.
— Callum Burns (@purple_prawn) February 7, 2018
The workers on the site previously salvaged at least two of the eight cars, according to Reddit user ieya404, who apparently works in an office right across from the Skypark. He snapped a picture of the salvage operation too. The cars seem to be a Fiat Uno and an Austin Maestro.
The rescued vehicles provide a hope the mystery of their abandonment may yet be solved.
The cars have become an urban legend of sorts, partly thanks to ieya404. As the demolition crews stripped the building of its sheet metal facade and began to cut the metal structure within, ieya404 took a picture of the cars revealed inside and posted it to Reddit.
An online discussion ensued and multiple media picked up the story. Some people speculated the company simply locked the cars inside as the place closed down. Some opined the owners may have forgotten where they left their cars due to intoxication.
The key to the mystery lies in the corner of the cars’ windshields, according to Ronnie Meredith, a bus driver from Edinburgh who worked in the Autosafe Skypark in 2001.
When the garage first opened, the company brought in several cars to test the automated system, he told BBC.
“We had a few scrap cars. I remember one being an Austin Maestro and we also had a Lada and a long wheelbase Volvo,” he said.
That’s why nobody ever claimed the cars, Meredith said.
“I find it funny how people think that these cars were abandoned,” he said. “Even if the place had its doors shut by administrators they would have still legally be entitled to retrieve their own personal vehicle.”
Since road tax windshield stickers were only abandoned in 2014, scrap cars should be easily identified by the lack of the disc-shaped mark, Meredith said.
“If anyone looked at the windscreens of these cars they would no doubt have noticed that none of them had a tax disc which was still a legal requirement back then if the car was being used on the road.”
Indeed, ieya404’s picture shows the Austin Maestro’s windshield unspoiled.