Friday, 24 July 2015

Fleetwood Tram Sunday 1989 Retrospective

Yesterday I was showing some of the vehicles that had congregated for this year's transport event at Fleetwood and it struck me that some of the cars on display these days were everyday runabouts when the event first started. The first event coincided with the centenary of the Blackpool tramway system in 1985 and it was so successful that they decided to make it an annual event.

Today's photos are from a few years later when the event had become hugely popular and attracted a brilliant number of cars and other vehicles.

In 1989 the roadway was still wide enough to allow cars to pass trams on their inside. Passengers had to cross the road to the tram door which, with the number of vehicles on the road these days, became too risky. The final decider was the change to Blackpool's new Flexity trams which require raised platforms for people to get on and off at. This facilitates wheelchair use on the trams but means that the roadway was narrowed considerably at these points. In common with many other towns, Fleetwood also chose to narrow the road by building pavements out for reasons known to local councils as "traffic calming measures" and to everyone else as "Stop cars parking for free so they have to go in council car parks".

This vastly reduced the number of vehicles that could be displayed along the road during Tram Sundays and consequently, I've had to whittle down the number of photographs here - though I don't think I can be accused of short-changing my readers!

The first photo is the Webster's Brewery dray pulled by a pair of fine shire horses. All the photos in this entry will be black and white. Digital photography has been around long enough now for many people to think of photographs as "free" once you have bought the camera, mobile, or even tablet (though why people want to hold up miniature televisions to take photos of other people's miniature televisions held aloft confuses the heck out of me...). In 1989 you not only had to buy a film but then you had to pay to have it developed and printed. Taking a 36 exposure film would set you back a healthy chunk of your disposable income for a week.

I bought chemicals and equipment and could process my own photos. Black and white, although rapidly dying out in favour of colour, was far cheaper and easier to process and was still the preferred medium for magazines and newspapers of the day.

I don't have a great deal to say about many of these cars so some of the descriptions may be short! However, to start us off, this is an Austin Seven. Built from 1922 to 1937 they were the UK's equivalent of America's Ford Model T. They sold in great numbers and the name became so popular that it was brought back by Austin in 1959 for their first version of the Mini.

Rolls Royce in their early days didn't have a standard model. They produced a rolling chassis, that is the underneath foundation on which to build a body and the engine, gearbox, controls and braking systems. You bought this then took it to a coachbuilder who would make a body to fit the chassis and radiator grill and then you took it to an upholsterer who would make and fit the seats. In this case if you couldn't afford a roof you then took it to a pram manufacturer who would fashion a fabric roof with plastic windows. As plastic didn't exist yet, there was sometimes a long waiting list for the foldable windows...

What was this doing there in 1989? It was probably only 15 years old by then? Anyway, Chevrolet Corvette Stingrays were somewhat rare on the roads of the UK even so.

The Wolseley 1500 was produced from 1957 to 1965 with Series II coming out in May 1960 and Series III in October 1961. The first series had external bonnet and boot hinges that were visible under the windscreen close to the sides of the bonnet, so this example is a 1960s car. My Grandad had a couple of these, one after the other. If that sounds extravagant, it was because he leased them rather than bought them. It was the first car I remember that had the indicator switch on a stalk that came out of the steering column. In most cars of the time the steering column was a pole with the wheel on the end, but this had a little housing behind the steering wheel and the little stalk came out on the right hand side with a green warning light on the end of it that flashed with the indicators.

Another version of the Austin Seven. This was known as the Chummy. The children's TV show Brum about the little car that lived in a museum had the lead caracter based on the Austin Chummy. And kids, if you want to see the original model than get your parents to take you to that very museum which is in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds.

A whole row of Austin A35s. Made from 1956 to 1968 they are one of the cars that stimulate the most emails or messages to be fired off to me whenever I do a car-related blog entry. No one in the family had one but a couple of my mates drove them as their first car. Eight years was reckoned to be the average age of a car in those days and they must have all been at least getting on for that during those early 70s. By the time of this event in 1989 they were at least 21 years old and there's at least three of them lined up here.

Armstrong Siddeley 17hp circa 1935. That's the full total of my knowledge about it!

Ford Cortina MkII in Lotus colours. Seen here in Lotus black and white...

Ford Model Y, also popularly known as the Ford Eight (the engine was rated at 8hp). The car was produced between 1932 and 1937. Another one is seen below.

Ford Anglia E494A. Made from 1949 to 1953 I always used to wonder what the difference was to the sit-up-and-beg Ford Popular or "Pop" which was my Dad's first car. The answer, so I found out recently was no difference at all. When the new shaped Anglia came out in 1953 the old one stayed in production and changed its name to Popular, in which guise it continued until 1959.

In 1953 the Ford Prefect and Ford Anglia had very few external differences other than the grill, the number of doors (big giveaway!) and the rear lights cluster. Compare this Prefect to the Anglia above in the previous photo though and there is more of a body shape difference between the two older models.

A 1930s Austin Light Twelve-Six. Again: sum total of knowledge and sheesh - how long did it take me to identify this???

1933 Singer 9 Sports Car. Quite a branch from their sewing machine business but if you worked the treadle fast enough with your feet, this could really move...

Flatbed lorry in the livery of wood and coal merchants and haulage contractors, H&A Burgess of Southampton.

One of the last of the Humber Imperial model from 1967. One by one the old names of marques from the UK's past were merging and disappearing. The Rootes Group had Hillman, Standard, Triumph, Sunbeam, Humber, Commer, and Karrier all under their wing. It ended with the takeover by Chrysler in 1967 and the Rootes name disappeared altogether twelve years later when Peugot bought out Chrysler Europe.

1937 Jowett Eight. Jowett went by the wayside in 1954 following the abolishment of purchase tax and a huge increase in the demand for cars. Why should that make a car firm go bust? Because the large firms like Ford and the newly formed British Motor Corporation (BMC) were quick to grab up the available body building firms, leading to supply difficulties for Jowett.

1937 Wolseley 14/56. Many of what used to be the famous names in British cars were paired with another. Austin and Morris were one example - the Cambridge and Oxford models were look-alikes. Wolseley and Riley were another pair. Whilst I always thought of Wolseleys as posh anyway - they kept the illuminated badge on the front of their cars long after other brands had ditched them - it was Riley that generally had the higher specification of model. Both Wolseley and Riley produced a "posh" version of the Mini - the Wolseley Hornet and Riley Elf, which had an elongated boot instead of the stagecoach boot of normal minis and also had a raised central band along the bonnet leading to a narrower more traditional grill.

1948 Bentley Mk VI. It was very expensive and undoubtedly beautiful. I was privileged to drive one of these a couple of times in the 1970s when the photographic studio I worked for had one available for weddings. The gear lever was to the right of the driver which took a bit of getting used to. Despite the weight and stately appearance, its 4.5 litre engine made it quick off the mark if you could cope with the sucking noise as the petrol tank emptied...

1963 Zephyr 4 Mk III. Another beautiful car. I had one myself at the age of 17. Bench seat, column mounted gear stick. Ahhh... bliss... You did need to be strong to steer it though...

1949 MG YT 4-seater 1¼ litre tourer, made for export (to Ceylon) and returned to the UK in the 1980s. Also seen below.

AC 2-Litre, produced from 1947-56. The flashing indicators will have been retro-fitted.

This is confusing. The mascot on the bonnet is I think a later addition and probably nothing to do with the make of car. It's a Riley and I think one of the RM series. Riley made RMA through to RMF from 1945 to 1955 and the RMB and RMF were large limousine types produced at the same time as the smaller RMA and RME respectively. I think this belongs to the larger class. The RMC and RMD were both convertibles. So I think it is either a Riley RMB or RMF but I wait apprehensively for someone with greater knowledge to say, "You fool...".

Oh... and here's another. I'm going to stick my neck out here and say it's a Riley 12/6 which was not the purchase price but the size and number of cylinders in the 1500cc engine. But now indecision strikes and is it a 12/6 Falcon, Kestrel or Mentone? I have no idea...

The Yanks are coming! Line-up of American military vehicles.

A Morgan sports car - Morgan Plus 8? I'm presuming it was built in 1986 from the number plate but it could be a big ask.

Yay! One I know! A 1966 Ford Corsair. Dad took one out for a test drive in 1966 and didn't like it. We ended up with a brand new Ford Zephyr 6 Mk IV instead...

Basically a longer Cortina, the Corsair replaced the lovely Consul Classic in 1964 and continued to 1970 when - and here's a twist - Cortinas got bigger. So the Corsair was replaced by the Cortina Mk III and the gap in Ford's mid-sized car range was plugged by the brand new Ford Escort.

I am writing some 26 years after this event took place. As I said at the beginning, some of the cars being used as everyday (and brand new!) transport then now appear at current events. The number of veteran and vintage cars, those cars from the very early days of motoring have inevitably shrunk during the intervening years.

The other difference between 1989 and the present day is the existence of the Internet. In the 1980s I used to write occasional illustrated articles for magazines - another reason for taking photos in black and white. Now I can spread my ignorance far wider on this blog... To identify cars after the event in 1989 meant spending hours in libraries. Now, with only a few exceptions, it is easily accomplished in a few seconds online. I hope you have enjoyed sharing these memories.

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