The Way We Were London, 1962
HORSE GUARDS PARADE, WHITEHALL, LONDON A vision of England in the twilight of the days of starting handles and sidevalves – and the dawn of The Beatles
‘The small number of 1930s and 1940s cars here is a result of the introduction of the MoT in 1960’ SAFETY FIRST, AT LAST...
This year, 1962, was the last when a new British car, the Austin A35 Countryman, was fitted with trafficators as standard and saw the swansong of the sidevalve-engined Ford 100E Popular. Alternatively, it was the first year of the Sunday Times colour supplement and when the name of The Beatles would be heard outside of Merseyside and Hamburg.
Average annual pay was £799, a pint of milk was 1/4d and a gallon of petrol 4/6d, although the primary concern of the owners of the cars here was probably parking rather than the £sd of everyday life.
Nearest to the camera is a prime example of the original Consul. The lack of semaphore indicators denotes a post-1953 model. To its right is an Austin A30 van that has been converted into an estate and a Hillman Minx Phase I that might have been a £50 ‘Bargain of the Week’ on a bombsite car lot.
Sandwiched between the Hillman and what looks like a Wolseley 4/50 is a now near-forgotten form of transport in the form of a Standard Atlas motor caravan. The 948cc engine made for a very limited top speed; the thought of piloting one on the speed-limit-free M1 is the stuff of nightmares. Still, at least the Atlas boasted ‘the biggest windscreen of any van in its class’.
Moving to the line-up behind the Minx, there is an Austin 12 New Ascot, fitted with FX3 taxi-style flashing indicators in order that a 25-year-old car could better cope with modern traffic. Beyond that can be seen the top of an Isetta, probably built in Brighton under licence. The next row starts with a black Ford 100E Anglia sporting the thick-barred grille of the pre-1957 version.
That pre-war Morris 18 would have been on the cusp of ‘cheap transport’ and ‘collectable’ and its upright stance was a world apart from the B-movie spaceship demeanour of the Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe.
The second A35 and the ‘Audax’ Hillman Minx Convertible would have been familiar sights but the next two vehicles would have been highly expensive when new. Even 55 years ago, the chances of spying a Mercedes-Benz 220 ‘Ponton’ in London were rare indeed, while the Armstrong- Siddeley Sapphire exudes patrician dignity.
On the left of the off-road parked cars are a Standard Eight, a Ford Zodiac MkII and a brace of Volkswagen Beetles, all awkwardly arranged in comparison with the orderly rank that begins with a very early Minor Traveller.
Next to the Morris is a Ford Popular 103E and it is very difficult to believe that the latter ceased production less than three years previously. The styling of the Vauxhall Victor F-type would have already been faintly dated by the early 1960s and the Daimler Conquest was so-named, as the story goes, for its pre-tax price of £1066.
On the right-hand side of the road is a Sunbeam Rapier Coupé, one that judging by its front number plate and wing mirrors might be the property of a weekend club racer – think of flat hats and moustaches.
Crossing the street, the nose of what appears to be a Standard 10 Companion is visible behind the Ford Prefect 100E and a tail-finned Austin A55 Cambridge MkII. The Anglia 105E estate would have been a fairly new car as it was only introduced in September 1961 while an A55 Cambridge MkI seems to have thought the better of even attempting to park as it passes yet another large MkII Ford.
Meanwhile the domed roofline of the Standard Vanguard Phase I dwarfs a Mini and the whitewall tyres are an attempt at jauntiness on a car that usually defied frivolity.
The comparatively small number of 1930s and 1940s cars here is a result of the introduction of the MoT test in 1960, while severe import duties were responsible for the limited number of foreign vehicles.
However, one might have expected a few more Minis. It’s almost as if the 1960s were still waiting in the wings.