The Way We Were
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.