Mich­e­lotti rar­ity

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - The Way We Were -

It’s a pop­u­lar mis­con­cep­tion nowa­days that the re­sults of World War II bomb­ing was cleared up by the early 1960s, but this was not the case.

Many towns and cities still bore grisly scars and re­minders of the war. The rem­nants of shat­tered build­ings seen here would have been a de­press­ing and dis­turb­ing sight to many lo­cal res­i­dents to whom the Blitz would have been a far from dis­tant mem­ory. Imag­ine go­ing into the cen­tre of your near­est town or city and find­ing much of it re­duced to rub­ble. Lon­don still had un­re­cy­cled bomb sites into the new mil­len­nium.

Hull has the un­for­tu­nate record of be­ing the most bombed pro­vin­cial Bri­tish city. Some 1200 peo­ple were killed, 400 of them in a con­certed bomb­ing cam­paign on 7-9 May 1941. It was prob­a­bly of lit­tle com­pen­sa­tion that this area was be­ing put to good use for car park­ing when this pic­ture was taken from Holy Trin­ity Church in, we un­der­stand, the winter of 1962. Chapel Lane, com­plete with cob­bles, which led from Low­gate to High Street, is in the fore­ground.

So, we’ve parked up and no­ticed quite a few new cars in the line-up, with most of the ve­hi­cles echo­ing a new era, seem­ingly a world away from post-war ra­tioning and hard­ship.

As in many places, tem­po­rary build­ings were of­ten put up on bomb­sites, as is the case with the ‘half-tim­bered’ con­struc­tion on the right of the pic­ture, though in prac­tice these would of­ten be stand­ing for much longer than in­tended. This also ap­plied to the in­fa­mous ‘pre­fab’ houses, built from pre­formed con­crete sec­tions, which sprang up across Bri­tain on bombed streets and in­dus­trial out­skirts.

Many a gen­tle­man of the au­to­mo­bile trade jumped at the chance to set up busi­ness on land made va­cant by the poli­cies of A Hitler and the term ‘bomb­site car dealer’ en­tered Bri­tish par­lance.

Note the rem­nants of snow be­hind the ad­ver­tis­ing hoard­ing and on top of sev­eral ve­hi­cles in­clud­ing the Mini van fourth from the cam­era in the sec­ond row back. Sev­eral ve­hi­cles have their wind­screens cov­ered over to avoid an ice scrap­ing session. Who cares if you couldn’t see out of the side win­dows?

There are lots of cars to go through so let’s start. Stand­ing away from us in the fore­ground is a Wolse­ley 16/60. Fac­ing it men­ac­ingly are, from the left, a Ford Pop­u­lar 103E, a model fright­en­ingly only out of pro­duc­tion for some three years, a 105E Anglia van, a Hill­man Husky, Ford Con­sul MkII, Austin A40, Standard 8 and Singer Vogue.

Af­ter a Mor­ris Mi­nor on the end of the next row back we have one of three VW Bee­tles seen here. In­ter­est­ingly from the 200 or so ve­hi­cles in this shot only seven are for­eign mod­els. Apart from the Volk­swa­gen split-screen camper seen in the back row, and the three Bee­tles, we have cou­ple of Re­nault Dauphines from the two mil­lion built world­wide from 1957-64, and an ear­lier 4CV, seen with its back to us, be­hind the Bedford CA van on the road fur­thest away from the cam­era. These would al­most cer­tainly have em­anated from Re­nault’s Bri­tish as­sem­bly plant in the non-too Gal­lic do­main of Ac­ton. There’s also a rare (in Bri­tain, at the time) Citroën 2CV. Though these were of­fered on the Bri­tish mar­ket and built at Slough, the side-mounted in­di­ca­tors sug­gest this is a French car. Per­haps it’s a tourist who’s got slightly lost?

Oth­er­wise we have good old Blighty­mo­biles. We reckon Mi­nors are most nu­mer­ous, with 13 ex­am­ples, beat­ing the dozen BMC Fari­nas. Ford Anglias are next on 10, then Minis with eight. Math­e­mat­ics was never our strong point though, but trust us! Two cars, the ex­tremely early Mor­ris 1100 (fourth ve­hi­cle along from the right of the third row from the wall in the back of the pic­ture) proves the pic­ture was taken in 1962. There’s also, would you be­lieve, what would ap­pear to be a two-tone 1100. It’s in the fourth row back from the wall, di­ag­o­nally op­po­site the gen­tle­man in the peaked cap. We won­der whether he was a ship’s cap­tain, traf­fic war­den or worked on the buses. The car is more in­trigu­ing though. Was this one of the first MG vari­ants? At the end of this row near­est to us, be­hind the mag­nif­i­cent Arm­strong-Sid­de­ley Sap­phire 346, is the big rar­ity of this col­lec­tion, a Frisky, con­ceived by the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle and marine en­gine man­u­fac­turer Henry Mead­ows and built from 1958-1961, us­ing Vil­liers and Ex­cel­sior en­gines. This was a well put-to­gether tiny car, with its glass­fi­bre body de­signed by Gio­vanni Mich­e­lotti!

Look­ing fur­ther, we note but few pre-World War Two cars, pre­sum­ably due to the new MoT test which had been in­tro­duced in 1960. The sev­eral MkII Austin A40s and FB Vic­tors, which de­buted in 1961, have lit­tle cause to worry about it yet though.

Our great­est sym­pa­thies lie with the owner of the ve­hi­cle in row five, 14th car from left, We think this is a Singer Road­ster rather than an MG, but the driver would cer­tainly need to be wear­ing his or her woolly muf­fler for the freez­ing journey home. Many other mo­torists will have re­gret­ted not spend­ing that £17.4s.2d or whatever on a car heater.

To­day, an of­fice block, a branch of Ar­gos and a multi-storey car park occupy most of this site and only a cou­ple of the build­ings in the back­ground re­main. Wm Gi­ly­ott and Co Ltd, later Gi­ly­ott & Scott, was well known lo­cally, hav­ing ma­jor ware­hous­ing and ship­ping in­ter­ests, Next door, with the light­coloured (we think Ford) lorry be­ing loaded out­side, was Ge­orge Buck­ton, the grain mer­chant. The firm that oc­cu­pied most of the site prior to the bomb­ing, whole­sale chemist Loft­house and Salt­mer, lost its en­tire premises but did man­aged to re­lo­cate. It was taken over by Glaxo in 1967.

Hull is on the up, hav­ing been nom­i­nated as City of Cul­ture 2017. The city is, how­ever, pre­serv­ing the Na­tional Pic­ture Theatre in its bomb-dam­aged state as a poignant me­mo­rial of the Blitz.

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