Friday June 15, 2018
Drive-In, for those readers who are too young to remember the great days of ITV, was Thames Television’s motoring programme and the editions posted to YouTube provide viewing that is not so much unmissable as totally addictive. Plus, there is a special guest appearance from a Womble - enjoy!
1976 Headlamp Washers
Tony Bastable of Magpie fame is the presenter who is mainly associated with Drive-In but here the great Shaw Taylor, in the company of a Ford Capri Mk. II, demonstrates a brilliantly primitive headlamp washer system and even a pioneer Sat-Nav.
1978 The New Ford Capri
Here the presenter marvels at the Capri Mk. III’s ‘four powerful halogen headlamps’, the ‘small air dam’ at the front and how the mesh head restraints were a £76 option on the “S” version. N. B. Two details that really date this footage; shirt collars from the Harry Hill School of Fashion and the jaw-dropping line that Ford’s explanation of how they cut labour costs ‘is nothing short of Irish’.
1978 Car Security
Or how the lock expert from Motoring Which magazine proves how easy it is to break into a Ford Escort Popular Mk. II. The scene then changes to the Brent Cross Shopping Centre where even the car park is a place of wonder to a 2018 viewer from the Citroën Dyane 6 and the Triumph 1500 to the Audi 80 B1 and a three-door VW Passat. Here, Inspector Parson of Scotland Yard demonstrates that it is not a good idea to leave the rear nearside door and the boot of your Jaguar XJ Series II LWB unlocked. The latter also applies to an Austin Allegro with a partially opened driver’s door but maybe the owner was just in too much of a hurry to experiences the wonders of Fine Fare.
Finally, we have Shaw discovering how a car lock could be picked in just thirty seconds for this edition of Drive-In was made at a time when central locking was the province of expensive models. In the mid-1970s you might also encounter older models, such as a Ford Anglia 105E or a Morris Minors parked with their quarterlights left open so car security was a pressing issue for any driver.
1977 Fiat X1/9
An extremely interesting test of the X1/9, which Fiat GB had just started to market in RHD guise in the UK. Tony remarks that ‘any hot Escort will beat it away from the lights’ but also that ‘it doesn’t use much fuel’. He concludes that ‘it looks like an “Action Man” car, doesn’t it, with its pop-up headlights’, but in 1977 could £3,298 have gained you more in the way of sheer charisma? I doubt it.
1975 A Womble at Silverstone
And finally, to my favourite clip of all. ’30 per cent of all cars on British roads hail from foreign manufacturers’ observes our narrator as the camera focuses on a Fiat 128 saloon. Mr. Bastable then describes the SEAT 133, the Spanish-built successor to the 600 which did find a handful of customers in the UK (are there any still on the road?) although for £1,700 the Renualt 5TS does seem rather more desirable. My favourite car is £4,300 worth of Toyota Crown Super Saloon ‘with just about every known extra’, plus that essential sense of chintzy glamour.
However, my main fascination with this edition of Drive-In is not the mighty Crown, the Datsun 100A Cherry – 43 years ago Nissan held nearly 5% of the UK market - the very new VW Golf or the Citroën SM. It is not even Tony’s proto-Alan Partridge hairstyle. As Frank Page of The Observer is pontificating about how the ‘old-fashioned’ steering-column gear-change of the Renault 16 and how it would be very difficult to fit it with a roof-rack, a Womble walks past the camera. I repeat, at the 1975 Silverstone International Car Test Day, a Womble (I think it is Wellington) ambles into shot - watch for yourselves and tell me that I am not dreaming…