The Way We Were

A Vic­to­rian Cameron High­lander stands guard over a host of clas­sics out­side In­ver­ness rail­way sta­tion

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - RICHARD GUNN

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

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