The Way We Were

1956, Poole, Dorset

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Contents - RICHARD GUNN Joined Clas­sic Car Weekly in 2000. Now a free­lancer, he has al­ways main­tained a con­nec­tion with the news­pa­per that started his ca­reer.

‘It’s not too sur­pris­ing to see two rather up­mar­ket ma­chines first in line’ POSH SAND­BANKS RES­I­DENTS

At first glance, this looks like it could be some far-flung ex­otic colony of the Em­pire or newly in­de­pen­dent Com­mon­wealth mem­ber, still pa­tri­ot­i­cally driv­ing Bri­tish. Bar­ba­dos per­haps, or maybe a re­mote coastal part of Aus­tralia

But don’t let the sand dunes, scrub­land and beach­combery bloke in san­dals fool you, for this is Dorset, just across the wa­ter from the densely-pop­u­lated Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch conur­ba­tion.

The lo­ca­tion is the slip­way for the Sand­banks to Shell Bay chain ferry; we’re on the Shell Bay side, look­ing to­wards Stud­land and Swan­age. The idea of a chain ferry car­ry­ing ve­hi­cles just 400 yards across Poole Har­bour might seem anachro­nis­tic, but the ser­vice, ini­ti­ated in 1923, still op­er­ates suc­cess­fully to­day. The al­ter­na­tive for those go­ing to Swan­age is a 25-mile road trip. Via the ferry, it’s just eight. Granted, in sum­mer, any po­ten­tial time sav­ings will be lost by the enor­mous traf­fic queues. But there’s also some­thing rather en­dear­ing about 48 cars at a time be­ing shut­tled back and forth from Sand­banks – now the fourth most ex­pen­sive place in the world – on a noisy lit­tle ves­sel smelling strongly of hot oil, gulls and sea­weed.

Back in 1956, the 1920s-built steam ferry had a ca­pac­ity of just 18 ve­hi­cles, hence the lengthy queue for Sand­banks here. And while prop­erty prices on the Poole Har­bour mouth promon­tory might not have been quite so silly then, it was still very de­sir­able. Less than a decade after this photo, Bea­tles singer John Len­non bought his Aunt Mimi a Sand­banks bun­ga­low over­look­ing this scene for £25,000. The aver­age house price at the time was £3444.

So it’s not too sur­pris­ing to see two rather up­mar­ket ma­chines first in line. Lead­ing is a 1948/1949 Hum­ber Su­per Snipe MkII, iden­ti­fi­able by its round lamps – one a fog, the other a ‘pass’ item – un­der­neath the head­lights. Th­ese were dis­con­tin­ued dur­ing 1949. It is fol­lowed by a newer Jaguar MkVIIM, the light 1954 facelift of Jaguar’s lux­ury MkVII flag­ship. New, it cost £1680, against an aver­age home cost of £2003!

Par­tially ob­scured by the mo­tor­bike, whose rider’s safety con­cerns ex­tend to a DIY wind­shield and cowl­ing but not a hel­met (only com­pul­sory from 1973), is a Morris Mi­nor Tourer, with the split front wind­screen dis­con­tin­ued in 1956.

Next up is a four-door Ford 100E Pre­fect, fit­ted with the chrome-free head­lamp sur­rounds that de­noted the Basic model. Fol­low­ing it is a Vaux­hall – its long front name­plate, rear wing stone­guards and barred grille sig­ni­fy­ing an Oc­to­ber 1952 to 1954 Velox E-type EIPV. A Hill­man Husky, based on the con­tem­po­rary Minx but with nine inches lopped out of its wheel­base, is keep­ing it com­pany. Then comes an­other 100E – this time a two-door Anglia – and is that its big­ger sib­ling, a Con­sul MkII 204E, be­hind? It would have been brand new if it is, as it was only launched in Fe­bru­ary 1956.

Next up is a Jowett Javelin, after which it all be­comes a lit­tle vague and gen­er­ally pre-war, al­though we can see a Morris Ox­ford MO, Bed­ford CA van and Austin A40 Som­er­set wait­ing pa­tiently.

As can be seen from our mod­ern day shot, not much has changed; there are more trees, the tele­phone box near the beach is still there, as is the café, al­beit mod­ernised and no longer ad­ver­tis­ing its of­fer­ings to pass­ing air­craft. But as for the cars, it’s one big yawn, aside from a lone MG Mid­get. It no longer feels like some far-flung Bri­tish colony.

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