The Way We Were
A Victorian Cameron Highlander stands guard over a host of classics outside Inverness railway station
Inverness, July 1967
Thank you, British Rail. Without your helpfully large sign, we might have been confused as to where this week’s The Way We Were is set. But clearly, we’re in the north of Scotland and the capital of the Highlands, Inverness, on a July 1967 afternoon at exactly 1.46pm. Station Square is home to the city’s 1855 railway terminus but sadly, this handsome granite frontage was about to receive a facelift – and not for the better. British Rail rebuilt the façade as an uninspiring brickwork block between 1967 and 1968.
At least the impassive statue in the car park escaped unscathed. The memorial to the men of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders who died on active duty between 1882 and 1887 is still there today. During that period, they fought in Egypt and the Sudan as part of the Anglo-Egyptian War. The 1793-founded regiment amalgamated with the Seaforth Highlanders in 1961 to become the Queen’s Own Highlanders.
With Inverness being so far up the country, it wasn’t that simple to get to by road. It still isn’t, to be honest, being over three hours and 150 miles from Edinburgh. But at least the cars and roads are a little better these days than they would’ve been in 1967. Thus, Inverness was wellserved by the Motorail network of vehicle-carrying trains, with links at various times to Birmingham, Crewe, Newcastle and London.
Launched in 1955, the last proper Motorail service ran in 1995, although there was a brief revival between London Paddington and Penzance from 1999 to 2005. Had any of the vehicles here been hauled up from the south by diesel (or even steam, which lingered on until 1968)?
We suspect that the Austin-Healey ‘Frogeye’ Sprite parked outside the Highland Lines manager’s office on the left belongs to a local – it’s about as weatherproofed as a Frogeye could possibly ever be, even during the height of summer, hinting at an owner familiar with the local climate. Its rather bulbous hard-top isn’t the BMC or ’Healey option, but looks to be one of the plusher and more streamlined Ashley Laminates glassfibre aftermarket extras, which significantly altered the Frogeye’s rear appearance. Ashley also had a short-lived bout of building bodyshells and chassis for specials.
Auntie Rovers and ageing granite seem to go rather well together, and the two P4s either side of the statue look perfectly at home. The dark blue one to the right is (probably) a post-December 1958 model as it has chrome side trim, but it’s not a topof-the-range 110 because there are no wheel rimbellishers.
Somebody is learning to drive in quite an impressive machine, parked across from the blue Rover. This car with an L-plate tied rather crudely to its bonnet catch is a 1965 Vauxhall Victor FC Super, which might have been a bit of a handful for an inexperienced driver. The neighbouring Austin A30/A35 – we’d need to see the grille to confirm which – might have been more appropriate for education in the ways of the road. Although, that said, the quiet highways beyond the city would have been a lot nicer to practise on than the more hectic ones further south.
Finally, there’s delightful symmetry in the row of cars on the right. Two Jaguar S-types (although one may be a Mk2) are bookended by a pair of BMC 1100s. The grey Morris in the foreground looks very smart – something its owner obviously wants to preserve, since each door is fitted with bullet-type protectors.
Let’s hope such good intentions aren’t ruined by a few harsh Scottish winters wreaking havoc on its rather a rust-prone bodyshell. Unless the car is imminently about to head south by Motorail of course…
This Frogeye’s owner looks like he or she has been enjoying its handling a little too much, to judge by the missing rear hubcap. Bizarrely, the P4 soldiered on for another six years following the launch of the rakish P5 saloon in 1958. Buyers clearly loved ‘em. The rover P4’s slightly dowdy image wasn’t helped by its rear-hinged rear doors, which were anachronistic by the late sixties. HUb of tHe mAtteR RoveRs sIDe by sIDe ReARGUARD ACtIoN