JAN­UARY 1971 FLEET­WOOD, LAN­CASHIRE

Trams and cars col­lide – hope­fully not lit­er­ally – on this un­fea­si­bly warm win­ter’s day

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling - RICHARD GUNN Joined Clas­sic Car Weekly in 2000. Now free­lance, but has al­ways main­tained a con­nec­tion with the news­pa­per that started his ca­reer.

We had to turn de­tec­tive with this im­age. The lo­ca­tion isn’t in doubt – even with­out the Arthur Street name­board, dis­tinc­tively painted white-on-red (some­thing of a lo­cal trade­mark), the 1937-built Brush Black­pool rail-coach tram would nail the gen­eral area. The cream and red tip of the 1840 Pharos Light­house loom­ing over The Wash­ing Well laun­drette and dry cleaner would then pin­point things even more ac­cu­rately. But when was the pho­to­graph taken?

At first glance, it looks typ­i­cally early-1960s – un­til you spot the post-1968 Ford Es­cort MkI about to be eclipsed by the tram. Still 1960s then? Well, maybe. But look closer. The weak sun­shine cast­ing long shad­ows and ‘A Merry Xmas’ scrawled on the win­dow of Pricerite Mo­tor Spares sug­gest mid-win­ter… ex­cept the three young chil­dren a lit­tle way down the street are dressed in very light­weight cloth­ing. We know they breed ’em tough up north, but still – shorts and a pinafore dress in De­cem­ber in Lan­cashire? That’s bor­der­ing on psy­chotic par­ent­ing. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Of­fice ar­chives, Jan­uary 1971 was un­sea­son­ably warm, with record tem­per­a­tures recorded. North Wales – not that far away – reached 18.3 de­grees Cel­sius (65 de­grees Fahren­heit). So was this shot snapped on that day, 10 Jan­uary 1971? When North­ern schoolkids could hap­pily – but briefly – don sum­mer clothes again, while lo­cal shop­keep­ers con­tem­plated whether the time had fi­nally come to take down the Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions? El­e­men­tary!

We sus­pect that the owner of the Ford Pre­fect 100E was prob­a­bly a Pricerite cus­tomer; be­ing be­tween 12 and 18 years old, this would have been a typ­i­cal cheap banger of the era. But the prom­i­nent wing mir­rors and stick-on bon­net num­ber­plate sug­gest that its owner was fond of jazz­ing things up a lit­tle with ac­ces­sories. Per­haps he was in Pricerite see­ing if he could add a lit­tle en­gine oomph? The Pre­fect’s 1172cc 36bhp wheezy side-valve wasn’t even ca­pa­ble of 70mph, yet the M6 at Pre­ston – Bri­tain’s first stretch of mo­tor­way, opened in 1958 – was just down the road. Per­haps the much plusher 196062 Hum­ber Su­per Snipe Series III be­hind be­longs to Mr Pricerite him­self, ac­quired us­ing the boun­ti­ful prof­its of his thriv­ing au­to­mo­tive em­pire?

Next is an early Wolse­ley 16/60 Fa­rina, which might have been re­garded as a slightly more bud­get-con­scious al­ter­na­tive to the Hum­ber when new. How­ever, the scruffy con­di­tion of this one, with black un­der­seal ex­tend­ing from the sills onto the doors, sug­gests that it’s fallen down the food­chain. The ul­ti­mate ig­nominy for this once quite pres­ti­gious machine is that it’s be­ing used for learner driver du­ties, judg­ing by the peel­ing L-plate.

The grey Austin A30/A35 van be­hind it looks sur­pris­ingly large by con­trast and pre­sum­ably be­longs to a lo­cal shop­keeper. Then comes the only com­par­a­tively mod­ern ve­hi­cle here – a Ford Es­cort two-door MkI. Rec­tan­gu­lar head­lamps and bumper over­rid­ers iden­tify it as the bet­ter-equipped Su­per – re­joice, for you got a car­pet in­stead of the Deluxe’s rub­ber mat­ting and a fresh air-blend­ing heater as stan­dard. A ra­dio was still £20 ex­tra, mind. It’s hard to be sure, but its wind­screen wipers ap­pear to sug­gest that it’s left-hand-drive, too.

Over on the other side of the road, a lo­cal busi­ness’ Ford Anglia 307E or 309E van is gen­tly moul­der­ing away, with tin­worm es­pe­cially preva­lent around the bot­toms of the rear doors. Be­yond that is what looks like the rear lights of an ADO16 of some de­scrip­tion, with a Volk­swa­gen Type 2 Kombi Trans­porter van com­plet­ing the lineup. It’s a very early 1950-1955 ver­sion, known as a ‘Barn­door’ due to its large en­gine cover and small rear win­dow. Its clas­sic value to­day would far ex­ceed all the other ve­hi­cles here put to­gether. Well, ex­cept for the tram, per­haps.

Re­mark­ably, both Pricerite and The Wash­ing Well are still go­ing strong on North Al­bert Street, and the trams still run to the nearby Fleet­wood Ferry Ter­mi­nus. But the Pharos Light­house has weath­ered to its orig­i­nal sand­stone fin­ish and not even Pricerite’s anti-cor­ro­sion treat­ments and Plas­tic Pad­ding body filler could prob­a­bly save the cars here from the rav­ages of time and salty sea air.

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