The Way We Were
March 1969, Sheffield
Vauxhalls didn’t have the greatest of reputations for rust resistance during the 1960s, and we’ve had a few previous The Way We Weres featuring Vivas and their brethren looking a little sorry for themselves. So it’s genuinely gratifying to see this shot of Sheffield in 1969, and a brand-new Viva HB looking absolutely pristine. YLB 846G would have been fresh out of the showroom when this snap was taken, and there’s not a mark on it. It may only be in base model spec, but that mid-blue shade always suited the small Vauxhall’s ‘Coke bottle’ styling, and looks very handsome, even without the higher-spec cars’ embellishments. It might even have belonged to the proud photographer, because it’s certainly very prominent in this picture of Sheffield’s impressive 1870 Midland station, with the architecturally contrasting Park Hill flats in the background. Normally, a rust-free unblemished Vauxhall would be the stand-out vehicle of any The Way We Were, but this is an image that keeps on giving. For over on the left is something scarce even for the era. It’s an
Autobianchi Bianchina Furgoncino, the van version of the tiny Italian minicar fitted with the Fiat 500’s 499cc engine, giving it a potent 17.5bhp. This is the low roof model; you could fit marginally more in the later tall roof variant. It’s only three years old here, yet already looking care-worn, especially compared to the Viva.
Beyond the Vauxhall is a Wolseley 1500 MkII or MkIII that’s also seen better days, with dents on the front wing, a nibbled wheel arch and a big patch of tinworm on the scuttle. We suspect it may not be much longer for this world. A Ford Anglia 105E is next, looking a little miniscule compared to its Ford Cortina MkII neighbour. We then return to the Anglia theme (or at least its style) with the bright blue Model 70 Invacar, which must have been a very early example of the mobility machine that championed the Anglia’s reverse rake window arrangement into the 1970s. Most suddenly disappeared in 2003 when the government destroyed most of them as no longer fit for purpose. This one’s parked next to a Morris Minor.
Parked along from the Autobianchi are two visions in brown – a 1966 Triumph Herald 12/50 keeping close company with a 1967 Austin 1800 MkI in a slightly paler shade. There’s yet more brown – it would become almost incomprehensibly popular in the coming decade – on the Ford Escort MkI that’s partially-concealed by the Wolseley.
Sheffield station’s arches are glazed in these days as part of the passenger concourse, so any car parking beyond them would have to be the result of a very unfortunate incident. But there were no such restrictions back in 1969. So, huddled under the stonework are, over on the left, a Ford 100E, Renault 10, Ford Cortina MkII, Reliant Regal and Cortina MkI. Lurking behind the pillar to the right are a Ford Corsair, BMC J2 van (which, with its dark paint, could be a security or British Transport Police van), and the front of a BMC Farina. Annoyingly, there’s just a glimpse of the rear business end of an NSU Prinz 4, poking out over on the right. We’re intrigued because it adds to what is quite an eclectic mix of vehicles outside the station. If only we could see more of it.
This photo works on different levels, and up and over in the far distance, outside one of Park Hill’s flat blocks, there are two Fords – a Classic Capri and a Corsair. The area, once known as ‘Little Chicago’ due to its crime levels, was redeveloped in brutalist style between 1957 and 1961. The complex was, somewhat controversially, Grade II-listed in 1998 and is now being revitalised and revamped, in a scheme due to be completed in 2022. The Capri and Corsair are probably long gone, though…
500cc or 600cc Steyr-Puch engines powered Invacars after the original 147cc Villiers, allowing a frankly terrifying 82mph top speed. TERROR ON THREE