The Way We Were
Douglas, Isle of Man, 1967
We know that seaside holiday places aren’t usually that busy during winter, but Douglas, the Isle of Man’s capital, seems to be strangely deserted, even for the off-season. Aside from the solitary, shadowy figure walking past the scaffolding-clad Villiers Hotel on the left, it’s almost like the zombie apocalypse has struck this corner of Loch Promenade and Victoria Street in the UK’s closest off-shore tax haven. There isn’t even anyone on board the No 10 bus which, because public service vehicles are often better chronicled than private ones, we can tell you is a 1949 Douglas Corporation Transport AEC Regent III with Northern Counties bodywork. Out of service in 1976, it went to the London Bus Preservation Group in Cobham, Surrey, before ending up in Germany, where it disappeared.
The buildings on the left have also gone. The Villiers Hotel – the largest hotel on the island, which dated from the mid-19th century – was demolished in 1996/97. The Royal Bank of Scotland now occupies its spot. In the distance, the Promenade Methodist Church has been replaced by a more modern place of worship. But apart from these losses, this Victorian terrace remains largely unbroken.
Sadly, the same probably can’t be said for most of the cars here. Although this may be 1967, many of the machines hail from an earlier era, with Morris Minors being most prevalent - obviously much appreciated by Mankind.
Starting on the right, there’s a Ford 100E Anglia just nudging its way into the picture, differentiated from its four-door Prefect sibling by its less ornate three-bar grille, which also marks it out as a 19531957 example. It’s next to one of Rootes’ commercial derivatives of the Series Hillman Minx, a Commer Express delivery van. Next in line are a couple of Morris Minors. The green one is a 1954-1956 Series II still retaining the original split front windscreen that would be dropped for the 1000 variant, as typified by the white model adjacent. This car would have been built after 1962, as it has the larger combined indicators/sidelights up front. The bumper overriders suggest that it’s a DeLuxe version. A Minivan rests next door, not that much of it can be seen thanks to the inconvenientlyparked bus. One of only two foreign vehicles – both of which, perhaps unsurprisingly, are Volkswagens – is the last identifiable vehicle in this row, in the form of a Beetle. An Austin A35 and BMC 1100 can just be made out nearer the sea behind.
Over on the other side of the road, a white Ford Cortina MkI four-door saloon, black Morris Minor and grey Triumph Herald are parked outside the Villiers. A red Austin 1100 sits beyond the bus. Occupying the centre ground of this wide promenade (and blocking the lines of the summer-only Douglas Bay Horse Tramway, still working today despite a £263,000 loss in 2015 – not everything has to be about profit) is a regal-looking Daimler Majestic Major, with its huge boot and 4.6-litre V8 capable of propelling this 220bhp leviathan to 120mph. Its bulk almost completely obscures a red Mini. A Rover P4, BMC 1800, two more Minors, two Minis, another red Cortina and the second Volkswagen, an 11-window Type 1 bus in two-tone green and white, complete the chain.
However, it’s another two-tone vehicle that stands out most – the yellow and white Metropolitan coupé, BMC’s idiosyncratic compact collaboration with its US equivalent, the American Motors Corporation, sold in the UK from 1957. Although never badged as an Austin here, the car became informally known as one, while ‘Metropolitan’ was often shortened to ‘Metro’ – thus making it an Austin Metro 20 years before the better-known holder of this title came along.
‘Douglas, the Isle of Man’s capital, seems strangely deserted. It’s almost like the zombie apocalypse has struck the town’ THE IslE OF MAN OFF-sEAsON
CORTINA TRAP MAJOR, NOT MINOR AN AUSTIN METRO GERMANY CALLING It’s a brave owner who parks his car in front of some scaffolding. Hope nothing fell on it. To balance out all the Minors, here’s a more potent and aptly-named Majestic Major. No, not that kind! We bet this bright Metro(politan) looked more at home in summer. Bizarrely, this AEC Regent ended up in Germany. Does anyone know where it is now?