The Way We Were
‘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!