The Way We Were

Dou­glas, Isle of Man, 1967

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK - RICHARD GUNN He joined Clas­sic Car Weekly in 2000 and rose to be­come its ed­i­tor. Al­though now a free­lancer, he’s al­ways main­tained his con­nec­tion.

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?

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