We British love our cars. There are over thirty million cars in the UK and more than one million of those are classics. With their charm, their quirks and the feelings of nostalgia they evoke, it is no wonder that many of us raise a smile when we pass a classic motor on the road. The driver always looks so content as they travel along the highway at a stately pace with a stream of impatient yet slightly envious motorists following behind. But they care not for those yearning to overtake as they are immersed in another world.
This is a world where Great Britain still had a thriving car industry, where 50 mph was considered to be zippy and where people looked forward to “getting the car out” and having a pootle on a Sunday.
The most memorable British made cars of the 1970s
When we think of the “British car”, most of us don’t associate with luxury examples such as Daimler or Jaguar. We think of familiar, homely names such as Austin, Hillman, Humber, Rover, Morris and Triumph. They conjure up memories of sturdy vehicles with now obsolete features such as stick out indicators, 8 Track stereos, manual hand brakes, travel rugs, full size spare tyres and the ubiquitous AA road map in the glove box. Static ridden fabrics adorned the seats, and we operated air-con by opening the windows. Ultimately, the cars we travelled in as children are more likely to evoke warm memories, and the Rover SD1, the Mini Clubman and the Triumph Herald all fit into that category.
A treat for the senses
It is said that nothing transports us quite as effectively as fragrance, and it is the smell of a car built in the 1970s which recalls the past. It is a heady mixture of rubber, damp, oil and plastic, which reminds us that part of the fun of driving was our car’s effect upon our senses. Cars then were cold, and they were noisy. They were also highly textural with carpet, leather, plastic and nylon. 1970s body colours were no less thrilling.
British Leyland famously went overboard on their choice of colour schemes offering shades with unlikely names such as ‘sunset orange’, ‘pimento’ and ‘lime flower’. The Mini Clubman is always associated with various garish shades of orange whist Triumph favoured fifty shades of brown. Meanwhile, Rover opted for metallic blues to compliment the orange headlights, but the terrible colours were all part of the fun. These cars had personality, and what could be more enjoyable than driving about in a bright orange car?
When driving was driving
21st Century cars do so much thinking for us. They warn us about tyre pressure, help us park, and tell us if we’re too tired to drive, but back in the 1970s, we had to think for ourselves. We had to manually change gear and reverse parallel park in the days before power steering was fitted as standard. We had to know how to change a tyre, use ladies tights as an emergency fan belt and listen out for odd sounds in case they were the herald of a garage bill.
Driving long distances could be physically exhausting, uncomfortable and slow, but that was all part of the fun too. We were in a relationship with our car, and we had to know her little ways. She may have been a difficult mistress with her frosty windows, her inability to start the first time, and her rust patches, but we loved her and kept coming back for more.
Driving a 1970s car now
There is a thriving market for vintage cars in the UK, and the challenge of owning one now is even more significant than owning one then. If you can get your hands on the model you want, you can expect a severe dent in your bank balance as many are now selling for huge sums. Fuel is now also an issue for some models after the UK Government addressed emissions and introduced E10 petrol that can harm older engines.
Safety is a consideration as modern cars are indeed built to withstand a crash in a way classic cars can never hope to mimic. Vintage rides present further problems in the shape of specialist garage bills and finding parts that may be obsolete. However, they say love is blind, and if you love a car, these practical considerations will pale into insignificance when it comes to driving your little piece of the seventies.
If you would like to drive a 1970’s car the check out Drive Dads Car they have a range of cars for you to choose from. Maybe it’s the Austin 7 that appeals, or maybe the classic Mini. The choice is yours, visit and book your drive today.