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

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

‘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.

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