The importance of personal transport increased dramatically
during the Sixties, particularly the car. The industry saw
a lot of streamlining and many of the independent companies
of the 50s and early 60s had been swallowed up by conglomerate
groups by the end of the decade. Britain's biggest major manufacturers
of the decade were B.M.C. ( Austin-Healey, Austin, Morris,
Riley, MG, Wolseley, Vanden Plas ), Rootes Group ( Hillman,
Humber, Singer, Sunbeam ), Jaguar,
Standard-Triumph, Ford, Rover / Land Rover, Vauxhall, Rolls-Royce
/ Bentley, Daimler and Aston Martin.
Smaller independents like Lotus and Jensen managed to survive
as did most ( but not all ) of the producers of 'specialist'
cars such as TVR, Reliant, Marcos, Ginetta, Gilbern, Morgan
and Bond. Heinkel
bubble cars were being built under licence by the Trojan
bubble cars included
the Isetta, the Heinkel
(built under licence by the Trojan company)
and the Messerschmitt (above).
most famous car of the Sixties was, without doubt, the Mini.
Designed by Alec Issigonis,
it was first seen on 26th August 1959 and was originally named
the Austin Seven or the Morris Mini Minor depending on whether
it was built at Longbridge or Cowley. Alec Issigonis became
chief engineer and technical director at BMC in 1961, was
awarded the CBE in 1964 and knighted in 1969. continued
His brief was to produce
a metal box with four wheels, no more than 10 feet long, to carry
four adults in comfort along with their luggage. The factory foreman,
Albert Green, assembled the first Mini - registration number 621
AOK - in just seven hours, in early 1959, at the Longbridge factory
20,000 cars were produced in the first year and well over a million
by the end of 1963. In all, more than 5.3 million of the 'original'
have been built and it has been crowned the greatest European car
of the 20th century by 132 motoring journalists from 32 countries,
according to voting results announced on 19th December 1999, coming
second only to the Model 'T' Ford in the global awards.
The other 'cult' car among the youth of the Sixties was the most popular
car ever manufactured - the Volkswagen 'Beetle'. It was originally designed
in the early Thirties by Ferdinand Porsche for the German motorcycle manufacturers
NSU and Zundapp. The first prototypes were produced by Mercedes Benz in
1937. Because of the fuel shortage caused by the 1956 Suez crisis, the tendency
had been towards smaller, more economical vehicles rather than the mighty
gas-guzzlers of the Forties and Fifties. The slowing in sales of the large
car market was one of the factors which resulted in Jaguar cars taking over
the Daimler Motor Company on 19th June 1960. An even smaller means of transport,
the Bubble Car, was popular for a time from the late Fifties onwards and
is now seen as a cult icon of the early Sixties.
The Mini really took
over from where these, mainly German, vehicles left off. Made by
B.M.C. they cost around £500 and were very cheap to run, bringing
the possibility of four-wheeled vehicle ownership to many for whom
it had previously been financially beyond. The
Mini re-wrote the rules about car design, being a front wheel drive
car with a transverse-mounted engine, the four 10" wheels having
independent suspension. Capable of 50 mpg it had a top speed of
It was extremely basic but its selling factor was price. Other manufacturers
provided look-alikes such as the Wolseley Hornet, the Riley Elf
and, of course, the Rootes manufactured Hillman Imp, but the Mini
remained the most popular. Its price stayed remarkably stable throughout
the Sixties, starting at £495 19s 0d in 1960 and still costing
only £595 10s 0d in 1969. Not including the small, specialist
companies, there were 38 'major' British car manufacturers in 1961!
British manufacturers enjoyed
considerable sporting success in the Sixties, both in rallying and sports
car racing. Mini Coopers finished 1-2-3 in the 1963 Monte
Carlo Rally but were all disqualified for having illegal light-dipping
systems - so much for cutting edge technology! Lord Nuffield, the creator
of Morris cars, died on the 22nd August 1963 aged 84. The ultimate early
Sixties four-wheeled success symbol was probably the sleek, sexy, elongated
E-type Jaguar whose shape epitomised the modern streamlined designs of
the new decade. The prototype, 9600 HP, had reached a maximum average
speed of 150.4 m.p.h. over two runs during tests by driver Peter Riviere
on a stretch of Belgian motorway between Antwerp and Herental.
This particular hand-built
car had no wing mirrors, badge plates or bumper overriders and was
fitted with perspex windows in the rear and tailgate to reduce weight.
It also had a larger than standard roll bar to prevent it leaning
too much when cornering at high speed. The test was carried out
in Belgium because even though no speed limit had yet been introduced
on Britain's only stretch of motorway between Rugby and London it
was thought that there would be too much traffic around for safety.
It was first seen by
the public at the Geneva Motor Show on 16th March 1961 and came
in hard-top or open-top versions at a price of around £2100,
with a 3.8 litre six cylinder 'S' type engine which developed 265
bhp allowing it to go from 0 to 100 in about 16 seconds.
The last coloured E-type
was a sable brown 1975 V12 5.3 litre convertible commissioned by
Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons. Only 50 more were made after that,
all of them in black.
Of course, if you owned a car, you had to drive it somewhere........ Trafalgar
Square - mid-60s A20
traffic jam - late 60s
other 'classic' cars of the Sixties included, but were by no means
1960 - Aston Martin
1961 - Original-style Ford Capri and
Consul Classic, Morris Oxford series 6, Austin A60 Cambridge, Hillman
Super Minx, Austin
Westminster A110, Wolseley 6/110, MG Midget
Aston Martin DB4 Vantage, Ford
Zodiac III, Consul Cortina, MGB 1967MCC, Triumph Spitfire, Morris
1100, Ford Zephyr
Mark III, Lotus Elan
Ford Anglia, Hillman Imp, Porsche
911, Vauxhall Viva, AC Cobra 289, TVR Griffith
- Ford Mustang, Austin 1800, Mini Moke
Reliant Scimitar coupe, Vauxhall FC Victor, Ford Zephyr Executive,
Hino 1300, Aston Martin DB6
- MGCGT, Mark II Mini, Jensen FF and Interceptor, Ford Cortina Mark
II, Lotus Europa,
Miura and Ferrari Dino 308 (both designed by Giuseppe 'Nuccio' Bertone),
1967 - DeTomaso Mangusta, NSU Ro80, Sunbeam
- Jaguar XJ6, Ford Escort and Corsair, Reliant Scimitar GTE, Morgan
Plus 8, Colliday Chariot
- Austin Maxi, New style Ford Capri, Aston Martin DBS, Datsun 240Z
During the Sixties,
car production in the U.K. saw rapid growth, but was completely
outstripped by the growth of the European industry as demonstrated
by the following production figures:
From a vehicle
ownership base of about 9.5 million in 1960, the British market
had increased to about 15 million cars by the end of the Sixties.
Manufacturing cost problems, not helped by the multitude of strike
actions during the decade, caused many of the manufacturers to merge,
or disappear. For instance: in September 1966 7,000 workers were
laid off by B.M.C. who announced plans for 11,000 redundancies.
The resulting strike closed all B.M.C. factories until November
11th when the redundancies became effective. This was just one of
the actions taken by the busy trade unions during the decade - the
full list is almost unbelievable. In fact, during the period September
to November 1966 100,000 car workers were either idle or on short
time working! The main movements between manufacturers culminated
in a merger between the Leyland Motor Corporation and British Motor
Holdings to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation on 17th January
for car merger graphic
On two wheels, the
Sixties saw the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers coming to the
forefront, particularly Honda and Yamaha, with brand new machines
and technology, where just a few years previously they had been
copying British designs very closely.
British motorcycle industry had been in decline since the late fifties
due to a combination of government incompetence and bad management,
British machines still ruled the superbike end of the market for
much of the decade but were being overtaken by Japanese technology
and designs by the end of the Sixties.
production of the leading nations in 1969
The major British manufacturers
of the decade were Triumph, BSA and Norton who produced many classic machines
The first T120 was developed from the T110 with a separate gearbox
and twin carbs
1960/61: New duplex
1963: New gearbox and
unit construction engine. Frame produced with a single downtube
1964: Competition TT
special built for the U.S. market only, with bigger carbs, 11:1
compression and a Lucas ignition system
1966: Smaller fuel
tank, 12 volt electrics and fairing lugs fitted for police use
1968: 30mm Amal concentric
carbs, new front frame and swinging arm, tls front brake and compression
increased to 9:1
1969: Triumph Trident
introduced, a 3-cylinder machine.
In 1962 the Joe Dudek streamliner
with a 670cc T120 engine tuned by Johnson motors set an FIM approved world
speed record of 224.57 mph. This was increased to 245.50 mph in 1966 by
Bob Leppans Gyronaut X-1 streamliner running two pre-unit 650 engines.
Triumph retained the speed record throughout the rest of the decade.
Malcolm Uphill set the first
100 mph lap in the 1969 Isle of Man TT 750 production race on a 650 Bonneville,
averaging 99.99 mph for the three lap course. He also did the Manx GP
double in 1965 and won the 1969 Thruxton 500 mile endurance race on a
Lightning, Thunderbolt and Rocket
1962: The names Lightning
and Thunderbolt first appear in BSA's American production catalogue
1963: Twin carb A65 Rocket
launched in the U.K., called Thunderbolt Rocket in the U.S.A.
1964: Twin carb A65L Lightning
introduced as competition to the Triumph Bonneville. A limited edition
'clubman' racing version was made between September 1964 and October 1965
with a close ratio gearbox, dropped handlebars and rearsets.
1965: The Thunderbolt, a
single carb version of the Lightning, was introduced as a replacement
for the A65 Star tourer.
The 1968 BSA Range Page 1 Page
Atlas and Commando
1962: Norton Atlas
launched in the U.S.A.
1964: Norton Atlas
launched in the U.K. in February
Commandos had sloping Atlas engines with an isolastic mounting
1968: First production
Commandos appear in April, sporting a diaphragm clutch system
1969: The 'S' model
is introduced, with high, left-side mounted exhaust pipes.
The original model
is renamed the 'Fastback'
The motorised Mod alternative to the motorcycle
was the Italian-produced scooter which had much smaller wheels and,
generally, engines, although race-tuned machines were surprisingly
fast. The most popular and famous makes were Lambretta and Vespa,
the Italian 'wasp' earning the nickname of 'hair dryer' due to the
shape of its distinctive side panels which covered the engine.
The machines were a dream to customise, many sporting superbly artistic
paint jobs and invariably adorned with an excess of mirrors, lights
or other paraphernalia and were as much a fashion accessory or art
form as a mode of transport.
in London with no motorised transport there was always the ubiquitous
red bus. The most famous of these, the double-decker Routemaster,
was designed for London Transport in 1959 by Douglas Scott ( who also
designed telephone booths in 1963 ) and was destined to become one
of the icons of Sixties London.
For paying passengers there were also the 'black cab' taxis and the
London trolleybuses, the last of which ran on May 8th 1962. The first
minicabs were launched in the capital by a company called Carline
in Wimbledon on 6th March 1961.
Underground system has, of course, been there forever but in 1962
London's first new tube line since before the War was authorised.
It took five years to build the Victoria Line (between Walthamstow
If you wanted to travel free you could get yourself a space-age folding
bicycle - the Moulton. It was originally designed in 1958 by Alex
but Raleigh, the major cycle manufacturer of the period, were not
interested. Moulton continued to produce the machine and it became
almost a fashion accessory in the built-up city areas by the mid-sixties
until Raleigh realised their error and took the company over in 1967.
Raleigh also produced a moped - the Raleigh
'Wisp' - a bicycle with an engine of sorts.