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.
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.
Where I grew up in the 1970s, Vauxhalls of this era were driven by hoodlums. Seemed a shame but who was I to argue? I pulled up at the traffic lights late one afternoon on my Sukuki GT250 motorcycle and said to the chap in the dark blue Velox next to me – ‘Nice car’. He said ‘WOT?’. I said ‘I said NICE CAR’. Actually, that’s not strictly true, I thought ‘nice car’ but I kept my mouth firmly shut and eyes glued to the red light on the other side of the intersection. When the light changed to green, I dropped the clutch, front wheel rose up off the road and my bike bolted forward, leaving the big guy and his dark blue sedan in my dust. Actually, that’s not strictly true, I made like I hadn’t noticed him, gently eased out the clutch whilst ensuring the nice chap was a good nose ahead and eventually dropping in behind and maintaining a healthy 30 metres. Well it just seemed right, didn’t it?