The Way We Were

Burford, sum­mer 1972

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

‘Given that Bri­tain was still quite in­su­lar at this point, the num­ber of for­eign cars is sur­pris­ing’ OLD-STYLE ROAD WORK­ING

We may be in the heart of Eng­land, but cars from abroad are al­ready be­gin­ning to take over this pic­turesque view

If colours can char­ac­terise a decade, then the 1970s was most def­i­nitely beige. Af­ter the psy­che­delic mul­ti­colour kalei­do­scope of the pre­ced­ing 1960s, it’s al­most like what came next was cop­ing with the hang­over. Beige be­came much big­ger than beige re­ally has any right to be. And nowhere was this more ap­par­ent than in mo­tor­ing.

This choco­late box view of Sheep Street in Burford in the Cotswolds demon­strates this well. Many of the cars are beige. The build­ings are beige (al­though the honey gold Cotswold stone of the Bay Tree Ho­tel is ad­mit­tedly 16th cen­tury rather than 1970s). Even the horse that seems to have re­cently passed this way has left a ma­nure de­posit of the ap­pro­pri­ate tone. Wel­come to Beige­world, 1972 style.

Given that Bri­tain was still quite in­su­lar at this point – it wouldn’t join the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity un­til the fol­low­ing year – the num­ber of for­eign cars is quite sur­pris­ing. Im­ports from abroad were ris­ing year-by-year, threat­en­ing the in­dige­nous car builders that were rapidly de­scend­ing into in­dus­trial chaos. There are French, Ger­man and Ja­panese in­vaders here. Clos­est to the cam­era, and the first in our feast of beige, is a rear-en­gined Re­nault 8. And be­fore you all write in to say it’s ac­tu­ally a 10 be­cause of the longer front and rear, and rec­tan­gu­lar tail­lights, yes; we know. But this is a 1965 model, which was known as the 8-1100 or 8 Ma­jor in coun­tries other than France back then. It only be­came the 10 in the UK when the 1.3-litre ver­sion ar­rived in 1969. This seven year-old ex­am­ple is look­ing a lit­tle de­crepit al­ready, so it’s no sur­prise that BJO 982C is no longer on the DVLA’s books.

Next in line is a Rover P6. Al­though the R8’s wing mir­ror is ob­scur­ing the num­ber­plate year let­ter, be­fore 1973, the Northamp­ton ‘PNV’ com­bi­na­tion was only is­sued on F-reg­is­tered 1968 cars. It’s a four-cylin­der 2000 SC rather than a V8 be­cause there’s no chrome side-trim, vinyl on the C-posts or TC badge on the right­hand side of the boot. White and yel­low re­flec­tive num­ber­plates were an op­tion from 1968 and be­came manda­tory from 1 Jan­uary, 1973. Nowa­days, as a clas­sic, it would prob­a­bly adopt black and sil­ver items to make it look suit­ably old again.

There’s a hint of MG Midget parked ahead, kept com­pany by a two-tone Kar­mann Ghia coupé. The de­sign of the rear lights sug­gests a 1970/1971 ver­sion. The light clus­ters on the red Mini also help date it as a 1959-1967 MkI, in De Luxe form with bumper over­rid­ers and bars. The Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe be­yond is of a sim­i­lar vin­tage and spec, fin­ished in the 1959-1962 duo-tone liv­ery that was dropped when the Anglia Su­per came along with an al­ter­na­tive pat­tern of blend­ing two colours. A cousin Cortina MkII, in Sil­ver Fox, is its neigh­bour. This paint’s ten­dency to flake off af­ter a few years prob­a­bly meant the older Anglia would have out­lasted it. Fi­nally, there’s the in­evitable Mor­ris Mi­nor.

The real beige­fest be­gins on the other side of the road. France heads things up again, with a brand-new J-reg Citroën D Su­per (the ID20’s new name for 1970), its stain­less steel roof-mounted cor­nets dis­tin­guish­ing it from the lower spec D Spe­cial. Sadly, SBM 360J isn’t a sur­vivor. Af­ter the God­dess comes the Hunter, prob­a­bly a Su­per, judg­ing by the Hill­man’s chrome ex­te­rior trim. The Rootes and Su­per theme con­tin­ues with the Hill­man Imp it’s nudg­ing up to. Then comes what would have been quite a rar­ity in Bri­tain – an Opel As­cona A Voy­age, which was the Ger­man Gen­eral Mo­tors’ term for an es­tate. The model only de­buted in 1970. Bri­tish Ley­land pre­ferred to think of its es­tates as Coun­try­mans (if Austins) or Trav­ellers (if Mor­rises), and we have one of those next, in the form of a Har­vest Gold 1100 or 1300. The beige ceases with a blue Ford Es­cort MkI, the first-ever front-wheel drive Dat­sun in the form of a red 100A (E10) sa­loon and a Sun­beam Rapier Se­ries IV or V. This row ends with a BMC 1800/2200 Land­crab and an Austin Maxi that, be­cause it was forced to share the Land­crab’s doors, looked closely re­lated to it.

Bizarrely, there seems to be a large lamb in the tree above the Land­crab and Maxi. Well, a sheep does strike us as the sort of crea­ture that would be fond of beige…


Joined Clas­sic Car Weekly in 2000. Now free­lance, but has al­ways main­tained a con­nec­tion with the news­pa­per that started his ca­reer.

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