Wednesday July 18, 2018
The year is 1959, the month is October and the weather may be best described as ‘wet’. Some of the cars in this shot taken near Earls Court - the Austin A55 Cambridge Mk. I, the Rover P4 and the Ford 100E Anglia - will almost certainly be heading for the Motor Show, lured by the opportunity to see this strange new small car from BMC, one where the engine is mounted sideways.
The drivers of British Road Service Albion and the Bedford A-Type lorries were almost certainly anticipating their break for tea, spam fritters and chips at the Ace Café on the North Circular and, of course, there are the Austin FX3 taxis with Sid James style drivers probably moaning about their 6d tips – ‘Are you sure you can afford that, guv’nor?’
However, the car on the right has no “taxi” sign on the roof, denoting the very rare four-door FL1 “Hire Car” version with a front bench and two forward-facing folding seats in the rear compartment – ideal for the mayoral parlour or the wedding car fleet. Meanwhile in front of the 100E there is a fine example of the Leyland RTW bus making the journey to Kilburn Park Station.
The driver of the latter is either making signalling a right turn or attempting to drop Woodbine ash on the roof of the “Bush Signs” Austin 152 Omnitruck. This was the first unitary-construction light commercial to be made by the British Motor Corporation but if I were the driver of the Austin A40 Farina I would be more concerned by worried about the state of that ladder.
Fortunately, this piece is not about the LWT sitcom and film series in which Reg Varney and Bob Grant portray possibly the world’s worst bus crew. Just take a look at this clip from the “masterpiece” that is Mutiny on the Buses and wonder how Stan Butler ever manged to hold down any job at the depot.
Instead, we will explore the archives of Pathé and Movietone with so much priceless footage of street scenes and fine machinery in action.
And so, this short from 1957 features a bus undergoing a safety test at London Transport’s works at Aldenham – being tipped through 28 degrees with the top deck filled with sandbags to represent 30 passengers, each weighing ten stone.
There is also a brief visit to the skid pan at Chiswick -
As for the news of an automated bus wash, this clearly prompted the Pathe announcer to heights of excitement - while Eamonn Andrews sounds equally thrilled at the wild world of bus destination blinds. Maybe life was simpler in 1952?
Tearing ourselves away from the wild world of destination blinds and moving north to Bradford, we encounter the last of the trolley bus which were in service until as recently as 1972.
Two years the capital gained its first woman bus driver when Jill Viner joined RT; the chivalrous/deeply patronising voice-over remarking that ‘with a pretty girl’ behind the wheel ‘who’s complaining’. Sometimes, it really does seen as though dinosaurs still roamed the earth in the early 1970s…