Thursday June 21, 2018
Or, a trip into the real 1960s, as opposed to the myths about “Swinging Britain”, a decade of shops with striped awnings, chaps with Hank Marvin/Peter Sellers glasses and when parking seemed laughably easy by modern standards -
London: Walworth Road 1960
There are two vehicles that immediately date this footage as “Macmillan-era London”; the LCC Morris LD “Wandsworth” ambulance and the Bedford CA van delivering The Evening News. Some of the traffic would have been very new – the Morris Oxford Series V “Farina”, the Mini, the Austin A99 Westminster, the Triumph Herald and especially the Mini Van. Then there are the RT buses and the Austin FX3s plus an older generation of private cars such as the Hillman Minx Mk. VIII plus an insight into the gentleman’s fashionable hairstyle of the day. In a word – Brylcreem.
Every second of this cine-footage is truly priceless; the Vauxhall Cresta PB, the Wolseley 1500, the Ford Consul Classic, the Morris Minor Traveller with a laden roof-rack battling through the rain and, in the background, a Triumph Renown and a Standard Vanguard Phase II. And that is before we mention the shop fronts, the clothes, the hairstyles of the passers-by, the buses and, of course, the traffic lights mounted on black & white poles…
London – Bath 1963
Many of you will have already seen this masterpiece of cinema but how could we possibly exclude nine minutes and 52 seconds of the finest in automotive entertainment? The narrator is George Eyles, the future Head of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, who takes his Jaguar Mk. 2 on a spin from the capital to Bath on a bright day in July 1963. En route he encounters very badly driven Triumph Heralds (‘I should hate to be his passenger!’), learner drivers in Standard Eights, a remarkably traffic-free A4 – and countless traffic vignettes that make the early 1960s seems centuries rather than decades in the past. A black Wolseley 6/99 police car with a roof-mounted loudhailer passes our hero near Heathrow Airport, a petrol pump attendant gives the windshield of a Ford Thames 307E van a quick polish and the conductor of a double-decker augments the flashing indicator with an official hand-signal. Best of all is the footage of a two-lane M4 that is completely devoid of a central barrier where Mr. Eyles overtakes a caddish chap in the Sunbeam Rapier who then makes a very unofficial hand-signal– ‘Giving me the “V-sign” - I can’t imagine why he should think I’m interested in his politics!’.
Without sounding like Alan Partridge, this is indeed Southampton before the pedestrianisation of the city centre for 1964 was the year the home of Benny Hill and Ken Russell was promoted from “town” status. From a 2018 perspective the idea of being able to park your Oxford “Farina” by the Bargate and travel by Heinkel bubble car or Riley Pathfinder along Above Bar Street is as fantastic as the displays in the shop windows.
The title reads “1964” but the combination of summer weather, a Ford Cortina Mk. II and that new-looking “Give Way” sign leads me to guess that this footage was shot in mid-1967. For any Hampshire-based reader, this is utter gold, from the Jaguar E-Type to the King Alfred Bus Station and the Morris Mini Traveller passing Macfisheries Food Centre. Some of the students of the School of Art are affecting a bohemian look but, by and large, this is an eminently respectable city of Vauxhall Viva HAs, collars, ties - and possibly a vanilla slice at the Cadena Coffee house.