Eleven Sweaty Men in a 4-Seat Hillman Husky

disco lightsCan you remember what you did on Saturday nights in 1970? My friends and I were, like a lot of other testosterone and beer fuelled males, heading for the disco. We had a choice of venues; the Top Rank Suite, with its circular dance floor downstairs and the illuminated, multi-coloured glass one upstairs; and the Mecca, Royal Pier Ballroom, famous for its plastic palm trees. There were other, seedier establishments which decent chaps avoided. One week in May it was our turn at the Pier.

Picture of the sort of Hillman Husky – a 1954-1957 model – unfortunately not a '70s modelThere were four of us in the old Hillman Husky and the plan was to meet in the car park at the end of the evening, for the return journey. Colin, the car’s owner, was not renowned for his powers of logical thought, especially after a couple of beers, and he was so proud of his new wheels that he invited everyone he met, to a lift home.

Later that night a crowd gathered outside the disco to see the famed car. When he was satisfied with the packing of the passengers he started the journey home. He had travelled less than a mile along the High Street, just reaching the Bargate when he was flagged down – by the local constabulary. He had forgotten to turn on the lights. It would have helped had he been able to see the dashboard, but with eleven people occupying the four seats it proved impossible.

The astounded policeman did his duty, seven passengers walked home and Colin pleaded guilty at court. It cost him a £13 fine and he got his ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ in the local paper.

The 70s were under way …

Kim P Moody

Green Cross Code

The Green Cross Code posterThe Green Cross Code was a road safety campaign where Dave Prowse, the bloke who played Darth Vader in Star Wars wore a superhero type suit and told kids how to cross the road safely. This was in the time before there were many special effects so it mattered that he was quite tall. I think he was also the jolly green giant, but can’t find any reference to that even on Wikipedia. So maybe it’s just my bad memory.

The Green Cross Code was a set of rules, one of which was that you weren’t supposed to cross behind parked cars, but to move further down the street to find a place without a parked car so that you could see clearly to cross. Of course, times have changed a lot since this public information film was shot. I imagine that street is now double-parked all the way down with speed bumps dissecting the road.

A number of celebrities would also appear in these films, such as Kevin Kegan (footballer) and Alvin Stardust (rock star). Presumably this was meant to appeal to the agegroup who would swoon over these people. Didn’t do nothing for me as I was only about five at the time! I liked the Green Cross Code man because he had a light-up watch that could transport him out of his little CCTV peep show and into the street. Fab stuff.

Another favourite road safety campaign of the Seventies was Tufty, as seen in this lovely animation. I was in the Tufty Club but only vaguely remember it, badges and the like. I think Tufty taught me how to ride a bike.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Tyrell P34 F1 Racing Car

Kim P Moody with more Formula One Racing

JTyrell P34 at Monaco

While Niki Lauda was busy trying to win his second F1 World Championship, Tyrell Racing was producing a rather special F1 racing car. Derek Gardner, their chief designer had produced a car with tiny, 10-inch diameter wheels at the front. The idea was to reduce the frontal area, thus reducing aerodynamic drag.

The problem with the small diameter wheels was the reduced area of contact with the road giving poorer grip when cornering. Gardner’s answer – to give the Tyrell P34 four wheels at the front instead of two!

The Tyrell P34’s first race was the Spanish Grand Prix in 1976, with two cars driven by Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler. Its best ever result was the Swedish Grand Prix with a 1 – 2 finish. Jody Scheckter is still the only driver ever to win a Grand Prix in a six wheeled car.

Schekter left Elf Team Tyrell at the end of 76, and was replaced by Ronnie Peterson for the 1977 season. The car was not as good as in 76, largely due to the lack of tyre development by Goodyear, and did not reappear in 1978. It was a short lived chapter in F1 history. The P34 was one of the two most radical designs to have succeeded in F1. The other was the Brabham BT46B Fancar.

Niki Lauda the Real F1 Hero

Kim P Moody watches Formula One Racing

Well done to Lewis Hamilton for winning the 2008 F1 World Championship, with McLaren, and his ensuing MBE. We won’t mention his friends in the Toyota team …

Niki Lauda leading the 1976 Formula One title raceBut back in the 70s we had real F1 heroes, like Niki Lauda. Lauda’s first F1 race was the Austrian Grand Prix in 1971, driving for the STP March Racing Team. He didn’t get his first race win until the 1974 Spanish Grand Prix when he was driving for Ferrari.

He won his first World Championship in 1975, but his most spectacular year was 1976, again with Ferrari. By the end of the ninth round of the 76 season, the British Grand Prix, Lauda had twice as many points as his nearest rival. His run of success came to a sudden halt on the second lap of round ten, the German Grand Prix, at the long Nurburgring circuit.

Lauda’s car spun off the circuit with a suspected mechanical failure. It hit an embankment, rolled back onto the track and was struck by the Surtees-Ford driven by Brett Lunger. The Ferrari burst into flames and Lauda was trapped. Other drivers ran to his aid and pulled him from the burning wreck. He suffered severe burns to his head, and his lungs were damaged by hot, toxic gases. Although he could stand after the crash, he later fell into a coma. His condition was so bad that the worst was feared and a priest administered the last rites.

Niki Lauda in signature red capLauda returned to the track just six weeks later, having missed only two races, and finished forth in the Italian Grand Prix. James Hunt had reduced Lauda’s lead and won the championship by one point. Because of his determination and courage, Lauda is regarded as one of the bravest people in Formula 1.

Lauda won the championship again in 1977, and retired in 1979 to operate his charter airline. In 1982 he returned to F1 and won his third world title in 1984. Lauda has only ever had sufficient reconstructive surgery to get his eyelids to close, and now he is always seen in public wearing a red cap to cover the scars on his head. At the end of 1985 he retired again and returned to running Lauda Air. In 2001/2002 he managed the ill fated Jaguar F1 team.

Reliant Robin

Reliant RobinOne of my favourite cars as a child, due to its surprising visual appeal was a Robin Reliant. I loved them with their funny little shape and bright colours, they looked like toys.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned this car was actually called a Reliant Robin, and calling it a Robin Reliant was incorrect on the same level as calling a Ford Escort an Escort Ford. This mistake was also exacerbated by the fact that Reliant only made the one model of car. (Although according to Wikipedia there were another 13 different models, the Robin is the only one anyone has ever heard of.) However, I grew up a few miles from the Reliant factory and it was a quite common car in our area, and everyone used the term Robin Reliant and Reliant Robin interchangeably.

They were also called Plastic Pigs as the body of the car was made of fibreglass not metal, and the shape of the front resembled a pig’s snout. Also Tamworth is famous for its pigs, and there are many other references to pigs in that area, for instance the Pretty Pigs pub. Though very common in our area, the Reliant was still the butt of many jokes.

The main reason for it seeming funny was being small and easily overturned, and the type of people who would drive it. The lightweight body meant that it was highly economical on fuel and easily repaired. You could drive a three-wheeler on a bike licence and pay much lower tax. As such, the Robin Reliant could be said to be one of the world’s first eco-cars. And herein lies the hilarity: being eco-friendly in the Seventies was weird.

If you were trying to save money on petrol for instance, you were considered to be mean, if you weren’t bothered by people laughing at the way the car looked then you were an anorak. At last this is not such a problem any more, now we have many eco-cars available. Unfortunately for the Robin, it also had a problem of overturning due to the lightweight design and they are no longer manufactured so they pose no threat to the Smart car.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Zed Cars

Zed Cars logo from the opening of the programmeZ-Cars or Zed Cars (yes, definitely Zed and not Zee) was a police drama which ran through the Sixties and Seventies. It was based in the gritty North of England and was the first hard-hitting realistic drama, as opposed to fantasy land ‘it’s a fair cop guv’ sort of drama.

Z-car was also the police codename for a police car (see Panda Cars), the name of the drama being given for the car.

I wasn’t allowed to watch Zed Cars because it was on too late at night and it was considered ‘unsuitable’. Though seeing clips of it now, the violence and menace seem to be mild compared to what you see today, and the bad language laughable.

Although I never watched it, I knew all about it because there were some children in my school who talked about it and played Zed Cars in the playground. That mainly involved running around pretending to be driving a car, saying nee-nar or singing the theme tune. As well as the usual cops’n’robbers style of playground bullying.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Viva! – Vauxhall Viva

Kim P Moody revs things up a little

Viva Vauxhall Viva HA advertismentIt was my pride and joy in the late 70s. The 1972 silver, Vauxhall Viva HC Estate, was a sleek and modern car, just right for the family man.

The Viva was introduced in 1963. The HA was produced until 1966 then replaced with the HB. The last version was the HC, introduced in 1970. Production stopped in 1979 when it was replaced by the Astra. The HC was mechanically similar to the HB but the styling was changed from the sexy ‘Coke bottle’ curves to a sleeker, more modern shape. Interior space was improved, too.

Vauxhall Viva HC 1979One of the first things I did to my Viva was to change the styling. I parked it against a lamp post and put a huge dent in the passenger door. The estate version was great for shifting family stuff, including the dog.

I found that the handling was improved by placing a couple of breeze blocks in the back to aid traction. Cars were still made with the mechanical bits in the right place in the 70s – engine in the front driving the rear wheels – the way the gods intended (ask BMW).

Sporty versions, Magnum and Firenza, were successful in rallies and racing. The were fitted with a distinctive ‘droop snoot’ front that improved their aerodynamics. I have fond memories of the late Gerry Marshall throwing the Dealer Team Vauxhall Firenzas (named ‘Old Nail’ and ‘Baby Bertha’) through the chicane at Thruxton racing circuit – making more use of the grass than was appropriate. Nice style, Gerry! Nice car, Vauxhall!


Panda Cars

www.propsrcars.fsbusiness.co.uk websitePolicemen in the Seventies tended to chase criminals on foot. They patrolled on foot, by bike or in a small blue car. We called these the panda car. This was because they often had a black and white checked pattern on them to make them visible as police cars.

If a criminal hopped in a fast car and sped off then the police had lost them. This lack of a high-speed car might have been due to the police budget or it might be a symbol of a naïve time when criminals came quietly. Perhaps organised crimes were outside of the remit of the local bobby. High-speed police chases on a Starsky and Hutch level just didn’t happen.

When it became obvious that actually they did happen, the jam sandwich police car was introduced and we said goodbye to the light blue panda. Nowadays both the fast response cars and the ordinary patrol cars have the jam sandwich style (it’s called this because it’s a layer of bright orange between two layers of white so looks like a jam sandwich, us Brits being so literary).

According to Wikipedia, the change of model and pattern was due to budget but I remember at the time the newspapers and TV news going on about how the jam sandwiches were much faster and the police would be better able to do their jobs.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

Silver’s Mum’s Memories Part Two

Silver’s Mum’s (Judith Hubble) memories continued…

Harold Wilson, rarely seen without his pipeIn 1974 we also had a general election. Harold Wilson became PM – Labour – and the IRA bombed ‘Mainland’ Britain. London and Birmingham suffered the most. EEC membership was endorsed by referendum.

Sex Discrimination Act came in. Queen (the band) had their first number one – yay!! Equal Pay Act came in. Slight hic-up change of PM – James Callaghan (still Labour) aerospace and ship building industry nationalised – big mistake!

Again with the strikes, this caused ‘the winter of discontent‘. Margaret Thatcher became PM. The first ‘test tube’ baby was born. First commercial flights of the Anglo-French Concord. Lancaster House ended the illegal rule of Ian Smith in Rhodesia and in 1975 our second child arrived, Andrew.

Personal thoughts – still had bell bottoms, the average cost of a three-bed semi was £4,500, our first mortgage was £28.00 per month. Milk and bread were delivered to the door six days a week and supermarkets weren’t really the place to shop, he he he. Meat came from the butchers and you couldn’t take children out with you for a meal until the mid to late Seventies. If you had kids they stayed at home, with family or babysitters. Much better now.

Taxi on TV

Reverend Jim Ignatowski (Christopher Lloyd) in TaxiThe main character in the American Seventies sit-com Taxi was someone quite nondescript.

The characters who stood out were those around him, such as Louie the boss played by Danny DeVito and the Reverend Jim played by Christopher Lloyd, who was a complete nutter, or Latka the grease monkey with a funny accent.

I loved Taxi. Initially I think because my dad was a taxi driver, but after a while it was the Reverend who drew me. I adored him because he was hilarious and clever, laid back and always said whatever he thought. I decided I was going to be like him when I grew up.

I’m not quite as spaced out, but I think the wild hair is getting there. I went around in faded denim for a while in the eighties but only succeeded in looking like a Wrangler ad, not a Harvard dropout at all. Shucks.

Taxi theme tune takes me right back.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room