The Way We Were

BLEN­HEIM PALACE, OX­FORD­SHIRE It was the year in which Jack Brab­ham be­came a For­mula One World Cham­pion (again), JFK won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and The Shad­ows recorded Apache

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - AN­DREW ROBERTS

Summer 1960, Blen­heim Palace

‘The Sprite MkI was per­fect for any young blade with a Gra­ham Hill mous­tache’

Much of the Bri­tish Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion’s line-up for late 1960 is in place, here, but strangely no Austins other than the A30 sa­loon in the back­ground, be­hind which is the faintly in­con­gru­ous sight of a Volk­swa­gen Type 2.

At the rear is a car that is for­ever as­so­ci­ated with the Royal fam­ily and pro­vin­cial may­ors – the Van­den Plas 4-Litre Princess Limou­sine. This de­buted in 1952 as the Austin A135 Princess Limou­sine, but BMC used the coach­builder’s name as a mar­que in its own right from July 1960.

The beau­ti­ful MGA 1600 Road­ster in front of the Princess was a bar­gain at just £940 (in­clud­ing Pur­chase Tax) with disc front brakes as stan­dard, but the Austin-Healey 3000 – com­plete with a de­mure young lady perched on the near­side front wing – would have cost £1175 10s 10d (over­drive and wire wheels op­tional). But then it was ca­pa­ble of 115mph – ideal for the new mo­tor­way age.

At £632, the Sprite MkI was rather more ac­ces­si­ble to those of a re­stricted over­draft and the per­fect trans­port for any young blade with a Gra­ham Hill mous­tache, es­pe­cially with a Don­ald Healey Mo­tors su­per­charger for an ad­di­tional £81.

On the far right is a fas­ci­nat­ingly An­glo-Amer­i­can Metropoli­tan 1500. It was made at Long­bridge for Nash – and sub­se­quently AMC – and was the sec­ond car of choice in the US for mo­torists look­ing for more com­fort than a Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle could ever hope to of­fer. It was avail­able in the UK from April 1957, but never as an Austin. This one is a Se­ries IV, iden­ti­fi­able by its open­ing boot.

Mov­ing anti-clock­wise, we have a Mor­ris Ox­ford Se­ries V, then a new­ly­launched Ri­ley One-Point-Five Se­ries II – note the con­cealed bon­net hinges.

Next, there is a car so mag­nif­i­cent that it de­serves a sep­a­rate men­tion, so let us pass on to the Mor­ris Ox­ford Trav­eller Se­ries V, a new model for 1960. One nice touch was that the squab formed a head­rest when the rear seat was folded, con­vert­ing the load bay into a dou­ble bed.

The Van­den Plas Princess 3-Litre fur­ther back was the flag­ship of the ‘Big Fa­rina’ range and prob­a­bly one of the most el­e­gant cars of its era.

In the op­pos­ing line-up, we find two 1.5-litre Fari­nas – a Ri­ley 4/68 and a slightly cheaper MG Mag­nette MkIII. The lat­ter wasn’t overly pop­u­lar with own­ers of the out­go­ing ZB Mag­nette.

The fact that BMC made the Fa­rina un­der five dif­fer­ent badges says al­most as much about the classstruc­ture of Macmil­lan-era Eng­land as it does about its dealer net­work, but the 1000 Trav­eller ap­pealed to all sec­tors of the com­mu­nity. The Mi­nor be­came the first car in the UK to sell a mil­lion ex­am­ples on 22 December 1960. Fit­tingly, it is parked along­side its Wolse­ley 1500 sta­ble­mate, which was aimed at driv­ers want­ing the virtues of a Ri­ley One-Point-Five, but in a less raff­ish pack­age.

As for the Mor­ris Mini Mi­nor, the em­bod­i­ment of ‘Wizardry on Wheels’ had suf­fered a few teething prob­lems, in­clud­ing leak­ing floors and in­ter­nal oil leaks, but mo­torists seemed to ap­pre­ci­ate the mer­its of a front-wheel drive car with a side­ways en­gine. 16 Sep­tem­ber saw the de­but of the Mini Trav­eller (and its Austin Seven coun­ter­part), in de luxe spec­i­fi­ca­tion with a heater as stan­dard.

And fi­nally, we have the mighty Wolse­ley 6/99. The 1960s may bring forth many chal­lenges, but with this great car pa­trolling the mean streets of vir­tu­ally ev­ery low bud­get black and white crime film, all is well. ‘Use the gong, Sergeant; he’s get­ting away!’

Film his­to­rian and en­thu­si­ast of mo­tor­ing cul­ture, An­drew blames his en­tire ca­reer in this field on hav­ing seen Carry On Cabby in 1975.

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