The Way We Were

Heathrow, 1976

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - AN­DREW ROBERTS Film his­to­rian and en­thu­si­ast of mo­tor­ing cul­ture. He blames his en­tire ca­reer in this last field on hav­ing seen Carry On Cabby in 1975

There is a slight sense of the calm be­fore the late 1970s storm in this pic­ture – the car park of the Sky­way Ho­tel is de­void of Fi­es­tas, Cortina MkIVs, Alpines or Rover SD1s, but the num­ber of sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Es­corts in­di­cates the fu­ture. The smat­ter­ing of 1960s cars would have been par for the course in 1976 but the lack of re­cent Vaux­halls, Rootes Group/Chrysler UK cars and any Al­le­gro or Ma­rina is note­wor­thy.

One of the most promi­nently fea­tured cars is the grey Vic­tor FC to the right of the Mini MkIII, sport­ing the grille of the 1964-1966 ver­sions. It would have been less than 13 years old but its bench front seat and three-on-the-tree gear change hail from an­other era.

The Tri­umph sa­loon, with the long nose of the MkII, rep­re­sents a more re­cent form of trans­port, with the badges on the C-pil­lars de­not­ing a 2.5-litre Lu­cas fuel-in­jected engine. By early 1975 BL had ceased of­fer­ing this op­tion in the face of re­li­a­bil­ity prob­lems and too many cus­tomers de­fect­ing to the likes of the Ford Granada MkI parked next door to it.

Fur­ther along the line are a Rover P6B, an MGB GT equipped with a We­basto top – which would come into its own as the sum­mer wore on – and a just-vis­i­ble Tri­umph Her­ald and blue Cortina MkIII. All of these are sub­tle and low-key com­pared with the ex­cep­tion­ally stylish yel­low coupé in the mid­dle. This is a Dat­sun 180B SSS, with its distinc­tive pil­lar­less lines and quite in­cred­i­ble hub­caps. It was rare then, and al­most ex­tinct in the UK to­day. In marked con­trast is our first Es­cort MkII – the black bumpers and gen­eral lack of fit­tings, in­clud­ing a driver’s door mir­ror, sig­ni­fies the base Pop­u­lar.

Parked along­side is a toma­to­coloured Ford Cortina L MkIII with a boot prob­a­bly packed with sam­ples of socks or tinned prunes, and to its right is a Citroën Dyane 6. Fit­tingly, the next car in the row is its close ri­val, the equally bril­liant Re­nault 4.

The tall bod­ies of both French cars mask a Mini whose pink coach­work is rem­i­nis­cent of swing­ing Lon­don of a decade ear­lier. Then we have a more re­cent Mini in jaunty yel­low and a white Cortina MkIII sa­loon whose driver was prob­a­bly plot­ting his/ her way to 2000E own­er­ship.

Along­side the Ford is one of its fiercest over­seas-built ri­vals, the A10-se­ries Toyota Carina, one of ‘The sports wheels of the Ford Es­cort MkII point to a GL, fea­tur­ing such lux­u­ries as car­pets’ FORD TAKES OVER THE MAR­KET the Ja­panese cars that were ev­er­in­creas­ing in num­ber in the UK.

Mov­ing fur­ther away from the cam­era, there is the mas­sive rear bumper of a Volvo 144 and the un­con­vinc­ing ‘wood’ dec­o­ra­tion of a Mini Club­man es­tate. Then, walk­ing past those fierce in-house Bri­tish Ley­land ri­vals, the Tri­umph 2000 MkII and the Rover P6B, is a coupé that was fairly un­usual then and now rarer than a de­cent episode of

Ca­su­alty – an early Re­nault 17. The row on the right of the frame be­gins with a sec­ond Es­cort MkII. The ‘sports wheels’ of this blue Ford point to a GL, fea­tur­ing such lux­u­ries as car­pets that our Pop­u­lar driver could only dream of. Mean­while, that Re­nault 5 must have been one of the very first to be im­ported into the UK, the front wing badge in­di­cat­ing the TL trim level (three ash­trays).

Next, we have a yel­low Tri­umph Spit­fire MkIV and a blue Mini while a Ford Cortina MkII Es­tate, in a fetch­ing shade of brick red, ob­scures a beige – and roof-racked – Austin Maxi. The Tri­umph Dolomite looks like ei­ther a 1500HL or 1850 judg­ing by its rear pil­lar and the badge be­hind the Ford Granada’s back door de­notes a GXL, the flag­ship of the range un­til the 1974 Ghia.

Fi­nally we come to the cars at the back of the shot – a third Es­cort MkII in what looks like Sig­nal Green parked in the en­trance way and the long-wheel­base Mercedes-Benz W114 be­hind the coach. The lat­ter is to be ex­pected at an air­port lo­ca­tion, while the tail of the 128 just ahead of the Cortina MkII es­tate is a wel­come re­minder of Fiat’s bril­liant small FWD sa­loon.

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