The Way We Were

Lan­cashire, 1973

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - NICK LARKIN

‘Is the driver of the Vaux­hall HC Viva guf­faw­ing loudly at ev­ery­one else’s plight?’

Look­ing at this photograph, you can just feel the mix­ture of leaded fuel odours, ten­sion and frus­tra­tion as these mo­torists try to edge a few feet closer to Black­pool or the Lake District. We’re on the M61, which links the M62, north of Manch­ester, with the M6.

Hopes of plonk­ing their suit­cases down in Old Ma Smith’s sea­side guest house (no baths af­ter 6pm by or­der of the man­age­ment, and it’s not our fault if some­one leaves their toe­nail clip­pings on your pil­low), mak­ing a nice cup of tea and head­ing to the beach seem to have van­ished into thin air here for driv­ers and pas­sen­gers on Thurs­day 19 April 1973. In­stead, many will find them­selves in a ter­ri­ble cul-de-sac of in­de­ci­sion. Do they leave the en­gine run­ning and risk overheating, or turn every­thing off and risk a flat bat­tery and an en­gine that won’t start?

Things are get­ting worse, now. Lit­tle Tommy has opened his can of Cresta pop, which has vir­tu­ally ex­ploded over the en­tire car, and hi­lar­i­ous Ra­dio 1 DJ ‘Diddy’ David Hamil­ton is play­ing Puppy Love by Donny Os­mond – un­for­tu­nately it sounds like an­gry cats on acid as it war­bles from the cheap tran­sis­tor Mo­torola ‘for all mo­torists out there.’

At least 92 per cent of the oc­cu­pants of the cars here will be wish that they had spent a penny at their last op­por­tu­nity. But all their frus­tra­tions are our gain as they present us with a truly fantastic se­lec­tion of cars.

Is the driver of the Vaux­hall HC Viva about to burn past the Hill­man Husky on the left hand lane of the mo­tor­way guf­faw­ing loudly at ev­ery­one else’s plight? We hope he or she has no­ticed the Lan­cashire Con­stab­u­lary Ford Capri pulling away fur­ther up the road.

Head­ing the cen­tre lane line-up is a Ford Cortina MkI es­tate, com­plete with re­place­ment front wing (which matches the roof ), a miss­ing bon­net badge and front wing mir­ror and a dash­board full of rub­bish. Ob­vi­ously a hack. Won­der what the owner would think if he knew that you’d pay at least £4000 for this car to­day?

It gets worse. Look at the great chasms of rust in the front wings of the Hill­man Minx Se­ries III be­hind the white Rover P5, not un­usual at the time. And nei­ther was the sight of mum giv­ing baby a good view of this cor­ro­sion by sit­ting the in­fant on her lap, un­belted in the front seat! Dad looks bored, prob­a­bly af­ter hav­ing re­ceived a good nag­ging with the words ‘new’ and ‘car’. The driver of the rather more pris­tine Hill­man Su­per Minx next door ap­pears to have three hands. The Mor­ris Ma­rina to his right is a coupé ver­sion, sur­pris­ingly rare to­day.

Fur­ther back in the in­side lane are a cou­ple of Ford Es­cort MkIs, mir­rored by two Vaux­hall HB Vi­vas in the ou­side lane (demon­strat­ing the grille dif­fer­ences be­tween lowly and SL mod­els) and a Rootes Ar­row Hill­man Minx in the mid­dle lane. Let’s hope the Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle tow­ing the Sprite car­a­van is at least a 1584cc model, but in any case this would not be an out­fit built for speed. We’re in­trigued by the Austin 1100 es­tate along­side, too – we’ve never seen a two-tone one be­fore.

We haven’t got the room to men­tion all the cars, but what is that ma­chine two cars back from the Ford Tran­sit in the in­side lane? We think it’s a Simca 1500, which was sur­pris­ingly pop­u­lar in Bri­tain at the time. There aren’t a lot of for­eign cars in this line-up; air-cooled Volk­swa­gens are the most nu­mer­ous, but we can also see a Re­nault, Saab, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Opel among the que­ing mar­ques.

Well, let’s hope ev­ery­one got where they were go­ing in time for sup­per!

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