Just a few of the great cars made in Britain – Ford Anglia, Prefect, Zephyr and Cortina, Morris, Austin, Riley and Vauxhall and the mighty Land Rover.
Between 1952 and 1972 Austin and Donald Healey Motors produced a series of sports cars, which have become highly collectible. After Donald Healey’s death in 1988 The Times observed: ‘The big Healey’s brutally firm ride, heavy steering and engine so close it would roast a driver’s feet never detracted from the superb, timeless styling and classic proportions.’ Don’t make ’em like that anymore.
In 1957 Vauxhall presented the all new Velox and Cresta models: to become known as the PA. They were highly desirable cars by the late 1970’s when we started buying up old cars as college kids, with our part-time jobs to finance it. The sought after cars back then were British and Australian, but the American influence didn’t go unnoticed with the wrap-around windscreen and small tail fins – just American enough, maybe. Vauxhall built these cars in our part of the world at plants throughout Australia, and the General Motors New Zealand plant in Petone, north of Wellington. Specially engineered versions of the Velox were built for use by the New Zealand Traffic Police, bless them.
Next one down is the Ford Prefect of the same era. These were assembled here in New Zealand as well and had a rare ‘factory fitted’ heater and plush carpet no less. Optional extras included windscreen washers, radio and leather upholstery to replace the standard PVC, such sophistication. In 1957 The Motor magazine tested a 100E and recorded a top speed of 71 mph (114 km/h) and acceleration from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 32.2 seconds.
Then down again to the Prefect’s cousin Anglia. A bit American as well with its sweeping nose line and fins at the back. Some have likened it to a mid-fifties Studebaker, in terms of styling influence anyway, or even the early Ford Thunderbird … hmmm. The Anglia sold quite well in Europe but Europe also had a variant called the Anglia Sportsman, which carried its spare tyre on the back, in the United States this was called the ‘continental kit’. Chrome bumper overriders, broad whitewall tyres, and optionally a side stripe kicking up at the end into the tail-lights/fin were also fitted. Those Europeans always were more stylish.
My sister’s boyfriend had one of these, only his was a mustard colour. I used to enjoy sliding into the back seat, cruising the back streets of Johnsonville – Abba belting out SOS from the cassette player on the parcel shelf. Slightly on the too loud side, speakers rattling. Sis was partial to a bit of Abba back then but who cared, this was a Mark 1 Cortina and we were cruisin’. The Boyfriend was probably wondering why the little brother was always in tow, but that never really occurred to me. Sis and the Boyfriend up front, me in the back with Abba having my own party, maybe it wasn’t such a big deal. To be honest, Johnsonville wasn’t that glam – twice around the block was enough before the lure of the bright lights drew us to ‘The Mall’ – this is where it really happened in Johnsonville on Friday night, I can tell you.
When my wife was a design student some years ago, her car of choice was a Morry. Common to students at the time, insurance was beyond her budget once the weekly pub expenses were covered (she has always had an admirable sense of priority). She also has a strong sense of social responsibility and having no insurance was something of a burden. With this in mind, she developed a strategy to keep her, and her fellow motorists, safe on the road. Every panel on her Morry was painted a different colour. Rough as guts its was. My wife (who was always ‘very creative’, according to her mum) regarded it as a work of art, others regarded it an old banger. Whether a work of art or old banger, it made other drivers nervous. Change lanes on the motorway, no problem, everyone stayed clear. Park at the supermarket, no problem, everyone stayed clear. Shoot an orange light, no problem, everyone stayed clear. Worked a treat it did, never so much as a scratch.