Classics of the Sixties: Austin, Hillman and Morris
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The driveways of British homes looked very different in the 1960s - there were no cars on them that had parking sensors, infotainment systems or active-hybrid engines.
Back then they were dominated by the cars of Austin, Ford, Standard, Hillman and Morris, as a fascinating new book fondly recalls - and you were lucky if you got door trim that wasn't bare metal.
Family Cars of the 1960s by James Taylor, is an intriguing look at the riches of Britain’s motoring culture in that decade – a time when car ownership took off - and is packed with pictures of vehicles that look crude now, but at the time were deemed cutting edge, from the Ford Capri to the Rover 110.
The Ford Escort. Picture/Supplied
This was a period when Britain still thought it produced the best cars in the world – and was struggling to accept that its golden age was over.
Many old-established British makes disappeared in this decade, challenged by a gradually increasing number of imports.
But the 1960s was a decade in which many families came to own and cherish a car for the first time, with the greater convenience and freedom it gave.
And they did their best to fly the flag.
Taylor writes: ‘Most people who were looking for a family car in the 1960s bought British. This was partly because British makers had larger sales networks than foreign makers and so were easier to find, but there was undoubtedly an element of patriotism in there as well.’
The British brands that were dazzling them at the start of the 1960s were Austin, Morris, MG, Riley and Wolseley, which all belonged to BMC (the British Motor Corporation), plus Hillman, Humber, Singer and Sunbeam, which belonged to the Rootes Group.
There was also, writes Taylor, Standard and Triumph, part of the Leyland Motor Corporation, and Rover and Jaguar, both independent, with the latter owning Daimler from 1962.
The Ford Anglia. Picture/Supplied
The book explains that it was Britain’s motorways that sparked the car-owning boom.
It says: ‘The newly opened motorways created new opportunities for travel – on family holidays, to visit relatives, or for work.
‘Britain’s first motorway, the Preston By-Pass, had opened in 1958, and the first stretch of the M1 was opened in 1959. So it would become easier to travel by car during the 1960s as the motorway network gradually spread, and long journeys would gradually cease to be a dreadful grind through choked-up towns and cities behind slow-moving lorries.
‘Bizarrely, perhaps, there was not much traffic on the motorways in the beginning, although things had changed by the end of the decade. In the early 1960s, the police quite commonly allowed motor manufacturers to use the motorways for speed testing in the early hours of the morning.’
However, a series of serious accidents in fog prompted the Government to introduce a 'temporary' 70mph national speed limit in December 1965, explains Taylor, that was made permanent in 1967 by Transport Minister Barbara Castle.