THE WAY WE WERE

BHP meant lit­tle with few cars mov­ing in Bri­tain’s horserac­ing cap­i­tal al­most 50 years ago

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - NICK LARKIN NICK LARKIN is a legend in his own bus timetable, but he’s been known to write about cars for Pop­u­lar Clas­sics, Prac­ti­cal Clas­sics, and the very first is­sue of CCW back in May 1990.

Nick Larkin takes you to Newmar­ket in 1967. There's a horse race on – mean­ing lo­cal traf­fic is stuck in a rut.

Whether your car would have been con­sid­ered a thor­ough­bred or a slog­ging old carthorse, it wouldn’t have been mov­ing too quickly in this busy scene from Bri­tain’s horse rac­ing cap­i­tal of Newmar­ket. It’s spring 1967, and the traf­fic has taken over the town cen­tre.

Judg­ing by the fact that most of the cars have mul­ti­ple oc­cu­pants there could have been a race hap­pen­ing, or maybe peo­ple were keen visit the new premises of the Na­tional Stud, opened by Her Majesty The Queen this year. This was (and still is) Bri­tain’s race­horse breed­ing Mecca and not a film com­edy star­ring Les­lie Phillips or Robin Asquith.

Newmar­ket has been home to horserac­ing since the 15th cen­tury, when King Charles II is known to have com­peted there. The town grew rapidly and even to­day horses are its heart. In 1967, Newmar­ket was well known for its traf­fic prob­lems, the main A11 Nor­wich to London road pass­ing through the town cen­tre be­fore this was by­passed in 1975.

So, to the traf­fic se­lec­tion here, and some real gems. At the right­ful head of the queue, creep­ing to­wards us, is a Mor­ris Eight Se­ries E, a model built be­tween 1938 and 1948 and an ex­cel­lent small car of its era. We’d rather hoped that HXV 251 might be listed on the DVLA web­site as a sur­vivor, as the car looks to be in ex­cel­lent or­der, but this is sadly not the case. The Mor­ris’ 918cc side­valve en­gine was a sturdy unit but might not have been en­joy­ing stuck in a queue in hot weather. Note the dou­ble yel­low lines be­gin­ning next to the car – these would have been rel­a­tively new, leg­is­la­tion al­low­ing them hav­ing only been in­tro­duced in 1960.

Be­hind the Mor­ris are no less than three Fords in quick suc­ces­sion, be­gin­ning with a 100E Anglia or Pre­fect, a Con­sul and fi­nally a 105E Anglia. Then we go back to side­valve power with a Mor­ris Ox­ford MO and another Ford, a 100E Anglia, with its num­ber­plate sportily ap­plied to its bon­net.

On the right of the pic­ture is, be­hind the bi­cy­cle, a trusty Cam­bridgeshire-reg­is­tered Mor­ris Mi­nor van, pre­sum­ably owned by a lo­cal busi­ness. You’ve got to ad­mire the slick use of Bryl­creem or sim­i­lar by the gen­tle­man about to walk past it.

Be­hind them, and another bike, is a true gem, a London-reg­is­tered Daim­ler, we think a DB18. Sadly FGU 777 is another non-sur­vivor, but at least it lives on in this pic­ture. We’re in­trigued by the bon­net mas­cot. Did it in­cor­po­rate a flag for of­fi­cial du­ties?

Cross­ing the road, another Mor­ris 1000 van can be seen, this time head­ing away from us. In front of this is the ve­hi­cle that has caused more in­trigue. That looks like a Wolse­ley rear badge but we’re stuck, as the bootlid is def­i­nitely not from a car of that mar­que. Per­haps it came from another ve­hi­cle?

Another Mor­ris Mi­nor is next in line, with a Ford Anglia 105E ahead, hope­fully not about to hit the pushchair be­ing pro­pelled in front of it.

An Austin West­min­ster or Wolse­ley 6/110 is next, and in ac­tion fur­ther along the road, be­hind the Plax­ton-bod­ied coach, is a ‘sit-up-and-beg’ Ford Pop­u­lar 103E, its side­valve notes echo­ing past the soft Suf­folk burr (pos­si­bly) of the mar­ket traders.

Fur­ther up the road we can see the rear out­line of an Austin A30/A35 van along with a Du­ple-bod­ied coach. Mov­ing across the road one last time, a Ri­ley 1.5 and a BMC Fa­rina are head­ing our way.

The ho­tel vis­i­ble with the Bel­isha bea­con out­side it is the Rut­land Arms, still go­ing strong to­day.

The awning next to the Daim­ler on the right of the pic­ture be­longed to lo­cal elec­tri­cal shop Cartwright Bros, es­tab­lished in 1929 and also still with us. Di­rec­tor Gary Cartwright tells us that Wigg’s the jew­ellers, just down the road from the ho­tel, is still trad­ing too, though the lo­cal butch­ers is now a Na­tion­wide Build­ing So­ci­ety branch.

‘The traf­fic wouldn’t be as busy to­day as in this pic­ture, un­less it’s a race day,’ he be­lieves.

It’s cer­tainly a good con­trast­ing se­lec­tion of ve­hi­cles. Many peo­ple tend to think the in­tro­duc­tion of the MoT test in the early 1960s ban­ished all pre- and early post-war cars in reg­u­lar use to the crusher. This was ob­vi­ously not the case, though less-than-won­der­ful rust­proof­ing would have meant some newer cars be­ing scrapped from April 1967. Then, ve­hi­cles had to be tested when they were three years old, as op­posed to 10 pre­vi­ously. It’s a shame that so few of ve­hi­cles here sur­vived.

‘Rust­proof­ing was less than won­der­ful...’

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