APRIL 1954

Um­brella? Check. Pipe? Check. You’re ready for the post-war charms of ‘Briz­zle’

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

Some CCW read­ers may re­mem­ber that a com­puter called ‘True Knowl­edge’ iden­ti­fied Sun­day 11 April 1954 as ‘the most bor­ing day in his­tory’ back in 2010, but this surely would not have ap­plied to this street scene – just look at the cars.

Any­one fa­mil­iar with the West Coun­try will recog­nise the lo­ca­tion as the Horse­fair dis­trict of Bris­tol. Al­most 90,000 of the city’s build­ings were de­stroyed dur­ing World War Two, and the con­struc­tion site in the back­ground is of Lewis’ depart­ment store. These mo­torists wouldn’t recog­nise such terms as ‘mo­tor­way’, ‘un­der­pass or ‘breathal­yser’ and would as­so­ci­ate ‘seat­belts’ with air­craft. They would, how­ever, be in­stantly fa­mil­iar with ‘crank start­ing’ and ‘dou­ble de-clutching’, even if one par­tic­u­lar car here is a har­bin­ger of the fu­ture.

One post-war in­no­va­tion is the ze­bra cross­ing. Bel­isha bea­cons were in­tro­duced in 1934 but hor­i­zon­tal stripes didn’t ap­pear un­til 1951. Another pe­riod de­tail is the Bri­tish Road Ser­vices logo on the door of the Austin lorry edg­ing into the left of the shot (though it could be a Bed­ford). One re­ally can imag­ine Nick Larkin leap­ing joy­fully into this pic­ture, given the num­ber of buses on view, but this would have changed by the end of the decade – the Bris­tol Tramway Com­pany car­ried 325 mil­lion pas­sen­gers in 1952, but this fig­ure fell to 244 mil­lion 11 years later.

Pass­ing the cross­ing near­est to the cam­era – where a cy­clist is ap­par­ently stu­diously ig­nor­ing a pedes­trian, thereby an­tic­i­pat­ing 21st cen­tury be­hav­iour – is what looks like an Austin 12. Pro­duc­tion con­tin­ued un­til 1947 so the Longbridge car may have been only seven years old but its coach­work harks back to a 1930s of Bake­lite and Neville Cham­ber­lain rather than a fu­ture of tele­vi­sion and Formica kitchen fur­ni­ture. Its driver is ev­i­dently try­ing to find a gap be­tween a bus and the pale Stan­dard 8 saloon, and it is pos­si­ble that the lat­ter may have been some­one’s first new car.

In front of it is an early ex­am­ple of the Mor­ris Mi­nor, while fur­ther ahead is another Austin – a 16/6 Nor­folk that was of­ten used as of­fi­cial trans­port in the late 1930s and still em­ployed as a hire car well into the 1950s.

Fol­low­ing the bus ad­ver­tis­ing Typhoo tea is a new-look­ing Ford Con­sul MkI, the first Bri­tish pro­duc­tion car with MacPherson in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion and one of the few ve­hi­cles here that did not have pro­vi­sion for a start­ing han­dle. Ahead of the No 2 dou­bledecker TyPhoo tea bus is another Nuffield prod­uct – this one ap­pears to be an MO se­ries Ox­ford. It is fol­low­ing its chief Austin ri­val in the form of the A40 Devon with its rather at­trac­tive 1938 Chevro­let-in­spired lines.

After a fur­ther brace of buses, we see another Longbridge of­fer­ing – this one seems to be a pre-war Wind­sor 18 – and another om­nibus along, there is a diminu­tive Austin Seven van. In fact, the en­tre shot is a re­minder of how ubiq­ui­tous the Austin name was. Just imag­ine the re­ac­tion if you informed the driv­ers of these ve­hi­cles that the badge would cease to adorn mo­tor cars 33 years in the fu­ture.

Be­hind the dou­ble-decker em­bla­zoned with the Edis­wan elec­tric light ad­vert is a car with the cuboid lines of an early Daim­ler 15 Sports­man saloon, which in the first half of the 1930s was the com­pany’s en­try-level model. On the right of the pic­ture, a Mor­gan V-Twin is ap­proach­ing the ze­bra cross­ing, fol­lowed by two box vans and a Sun­beam-Tal­bot, the head­lamps de­not­ing an early 80.

En­ter­ing the round­about at the top right of the frame is a jaunty look­ing MG, al­though the lack of vir­tu­ally any form of road mark­ings can­not have made this an easy task. Other signs of a dis­tant world are sen­si­ble over­coats to ward off the spring chill, the mo­tor­cy­clists sans crash hel­mets (not a le­gal re­quire­ment un­til 1973) and the fact that the Mor­gan driver ap­pears to be giv­ing the High­way Code-ap­proved ‘slow­ing down’ sig­nal, still a com­mon sight dur­ing the 1950s.

The early 1950s re­ally was another world, but judg­ing by this pic­ture, a far from bor­ing one.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.