THE WAY WE WERE

Clas­sics in a street close to the River Avon – changed be­yond recog­ni­tion to­day

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News - NICK LARKIN

Nick Larkin takes you on a guided tour through Bris­tol. You lucky peo­ple.

Few scenes we’ve ever fea­tured in The Way We Were have changed as much as this Bris­tol vista. No longer can a pint of Si­monds’ pale ale be en­joyed in The Ge­orge and Dragon, though strangely there are still sev­eral pubs in the Bris­tol area shar­ing that name. This hostelry, once a land­mark on the cor­ner of Red­cliff Hill and Com­mer­cial Road, was de­mol­ished in 1960 to be­come the car park of an enormous block of flats. Si­monds of Read­ing amal­ga­mated with Courage in 1960, los­ing its iden­tity 10 years later.

Red­cliff Hill is now a dual car­riage­way, and all our 1958 time trav­eller would recog­nise from the fore­ground of the pic­ture are the bridge rail­ings and abut­ments. Thank­fully, the Gothic masterpiece that is the St Mary Red­cliffe (the ‘e’ on the end is cor­rect in this in­stance) church, in the back­ground, avoided be­ing flat­tened both by the no­to­ri­ous war­time bomb­ing raids – which did mean the loss of some me­dieval glass – and the ex­cesses of 1960s plan­ners. The old­est bits of the build­ing date back to 1185. The spire, at 292 feet, is the third high­est in Bri­tain.

The church is thus a fine back­drop for the joy­ful se­lec­tion of clas­sic ve­hi­cles seen here. We’ll start with those com­ing to­wards us. OHU 381 is an Austin K8 van of which 26,590 were built be­tween 1947 and 1954, us­ing the 2199cc en­gine from the Austin 16. Also bear­ing a Bris­tol reg­is­tra­tion is the more mod­ern but much smaller Ford Thames 400E van be­hind the lady on her scooter. We’re not quite as ex­pert on two-wheeled ma­chines as we are on those with four, but the po­si­tion of the script on the front cowl­ing sug­gests it’s a Vespa. Be­hind the van is a Phase 1 Stan­dard Van­guard, and an early one at that, be­cause it’s not sport­ing any rear wheel spats. De­spite dat­ing from the late 1940s, it’s still one of the more mod­ern-look­ing ve­hi­cles here.

A Mor­ris Mi­nor, pos­si­bly a Lanch­ester, and then a Mor­ris PV van fol­low prior to a Ley­land lorry which for some rea­son has parts of its front grille miss­ing. The op­er­a­tor, Bri­tish Road Ser­vices (BRS) re­sulted from the post-war Labour Govern­ment na­tion­al­is­ing much of the road haulage in­dus­try in 1948, along with the rail­ways and some bus com­pa­nies. These in­cluded Bris­tol Tramways, which changed its name to the Bris­tol Om­nibus Com­pany in 1957 and op­er­ated the Bris­tol K-Type ve­hi­cles also seen here, the chas­sis of which were built in the city. BRS was, how­ever, de­na­tion­alised in 1952. Be­hind the buses are a Mor­ris Mi­nor and a BMC LD van, and just iden­ti­fi­able parked fur­ther up the road, a MkI Ford Con­sul.

Head­ing away from us are, firstly, two Fords: a rather care­worn 103E Pop­u­lar and a 300E van. Both have re­ceived some mod­i­fi­ca­tions, with the Pop hav­ing roof-mounted in­di­ca­tors in the style of the Austin FX4 taxi, launched this year. The 300E has side win­dows, a com­mon con­ver­sion as a way of get­ting around pur­chase tax. We then have a Mor­ris J-type van, in the olive green Post Of­fice Tele­phones liv­ery of the pe­riod, a glimpse of Vaux­hall F-Type Vic­tor and a Stan­dard 10 be­ing over­taken by a lo­cally reg­is­tered Ford 100E, with a fur­ther ex­am­ple ahead. Note the two lor­ries with most in­ter­est­ing loads. In front of the bus is an Austin A30 or A35 van and, we think, a Bed­ford CA ahead of that.

We are stuck on the iden­tity of the car vis­i­ble fur­ther up the hill on the left, but hope it’s a Wolse­ley. The age­ing car parked un­der the govern­ment health warn­ing-free ‘Wood­bine the great lit­tle cig­a­rette’ ad­vert on what is ob­vi­ously a bomb­site is, we think, a Buick. An­other J-type van also shares the patch of ground.

Fi­nally, ex­it­ing Com­mer­cial Road are a just vis­i­ble ‘Bee­tle Back’ Stan­dard Van­guard, two uniden­ti­fi­able lor­ries and a gleam­ing new Se­ries Hill­man Minx. What a won­der­ful col­lec­tion of ve­hi­cles.

Stan­dard Post Of­fice vans were red, but those in the ser­vice of the tele­phone sec­tion, like this were a less vi­brant green.

With win­dows fit­ted, the also made a handy bud­get es­tate for any­one un­able to run to a 100E Squire or Es­cort. MOR­RIS J-TYPE FORD THAMES 300E

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