Tony Turner takes a trip down the M2 in 1974 when oil prices were ris­ing sharply – but the roads re­mained busy.

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News -

As we en­joy fuel prices lower than they’ve been for years, spare a thought for th­ese 1974 driv­ers, who must have been feel­ing se­ri­ously out of pocket. Fol­low­ing the 1973 Arab-Is­raeli War, the oil pro­duc­ers in OPEC cut sup­plies to the USA (and, by ex­ten­sion, the UK) as a penalty for sup­port­ing the other side, caus­ing se­vere short­ages and a mas­sive 70% price hike. Within the space of a year, a bar­rel of crude rock­eted from around $3 to well over $11 (which rather puts the $30 a bar­rel we’re cur­rently cel­e­brat­ing into per­spec­tive).

Add to that ran­dom IRA bomb­ings, a huge bud­get deficit lead­ing to dras­tic spend­ing cuts, and con­tin­u­ing in­dus­trial dis­putes in the coal mines, rail­ways and power sta­tions, and it re­ally wasn’t as cheer­ful a time as rose-tinted nos­tal­gia might sug­gest – es­pe­cially for driv­ers.

How­ever, whether plea­sure-seek­ing or work­ing, some de­fi­ant driv­ers are head­ing off from the Lon­don end of the M2, per­haps plan­ning a quick cross-Chan­nel trip in search of fewer re­stric­tions and cheaper fuel (some chance!). Lead­ing the charge to­wards us are two Ford Cortina MkIII es­tates. The lead one has an in­tri­ugu­ing grille – it looks like the cen­tre bar has been painted black. Be­hind them come a Jaguar XJ6 Se­ries I, by now su­per­seded by the Se­ries II in­tro­duced the pre­vi­ous year that brought with it rocker switches on the dash and some new qual­ity con­trol is­sues. It’s fol­lowed by a de­ter­mined-look­ing Simca 1501, the facelifted ver­sion of the ul­tra­con­ven­tional (but very com­pe­tent) 1301/1501 sa­loons and es­tates, and a Ford 105E Anglia (or maybe the larger-en­gined 123E Su­per), out of pro­duc­tion for six years. Just hav­ing crested the hill are a BMC/BL 1100/1300 and what looks like a P6 Rover 2000 in pre-eggcrate grille form, which dates it to be­fore 1970.

Mak­ing or­derly progress in the left-hand lane are an­other BMC/BL 1100/1300, the multi-bar grille con­firm­ing it’s the Mor­ris ver­sion, along with a Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle 1300, which ac­cord­ing to the DVLA is still alive and well (its MoT isn’t due un­til Septem­ber 2016), an Austin A40 MkII, a Cortina MkI, an NSU, a mys­tery car, a Hill­man Imp, an FX4 taxi and a Ford 100E.

Just four cars are climb­ing the hill to­wards Lon­don: a Re­nault 17 (based on the rather more mun­dane Re­nault 12), a Ford Cortina MkII es­tate, a Ford Tran­sit and an­other Cortina MkIII. Let’s hope they found enough fuel for the re­turn jour­ney.

In­ci­den­tally, the ‘tem­po­rary’ fuel-sav­ing speed lim­its were ex­tended un­til May 1977, long af­ter the fuel short­ages had eased, af­ter which they were raised to our present 70mph for dual car­riage­ways and 60mph for sin­gle car­riage­way roads. Given the de­vel­op­ments in ve­hi­cle safety and ca­pa­bil­i­ties over the in­ter­ven­ing 39 years, you might think it was time for th­ese lim­its to be re­viewed for a pos­si­ble in­crease, rather than more fiercely en­forced as seems to be the case in many parts of the UK. But we couldn’t

pos­si­bly com­ment, of course...

Re­nault 17 was an at­tempt to take on the Ford Capri and had quirky French looks. More grille spot­ting – the bright­work and cen­tre badge makes this an XL, we reckon. Did the blacked-out grille cen­tre on this Cortina re­late to a trim level or a DIY spe­cial?


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