Memories : Cumbernauld, October 1975

Cumbernauld 1975

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Welcome to Cumbernauld – a town made famous for its controversial architecture and subsequently forming a characterful backdrop to the film Gregory’s Girl. The concrete settlement we know today rose from the formation of a designated New Town in December 1955.

It was a town designed to rehouse residents from deprived areas of Glasgow, conceived with lots of green spaces, communal social areas and centralised shopping and services. The planned population was 50,000, which was later ungraded to 70,000 after the area was expanded to include new land – and the design was for satellite neighbourhoods to be clustered around the town centre you see above.

Design-wise, Cumbernauld didn’t cover itself in glory. It won the ‘Plook on a Plinth’ award for terrible architecture, as well as the public vote in the Channel 4 series Demolition, which advocated flattening the entire town centre, describing it as the worst building in Britain. In fairness, much of that original shopping centre has now gone, although what remains is a fascinating insight into how poorly this complex has aged.

To get a further insight to the hopes and dreams of its designers, you’ll want to watch Cumbernauld: Town For Tomorrow, which is now online in its entirety.

So, tell us about the cars

In October 1975, the average British car park was rammed with UK-built cars, and this one is no exception. The Golden Eagle Hotel guests were a discerning lot because, alongside the Cortinas, Marinas and Vivas, are some interesting imports. That obviously reflects Scottish tastes, which traditionally were more outward looking than English ones, with a higher percentage of imports sold.

So, looking at the third row from the right, you’ll find a Saab 96, Opel Manta A and Renault 10.  A couple of cars away from that threesome is a Saab 99, too, which looks right at home in 1975 – and yet completely timeless today. Facing that car is another Saab 99 and a Renault 5 – sold by Scotland’s most popular importer in 1975.

Other noteworthy cars include the early BMC 1100 and 1800 as well as a Chrysler 180, which somehow looks more stylish now than it did new. The Vauxhall Victor FD looks great towards the rear of the car park, while it’s hard not to smile when you clock that there’s a Mazda 1000 in there, too. Surprisingly popular then, almost extinct now.

If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below.

Keith Adams

26 Comments

  1. What was (is?) it about so-called town planners, and so-called architects? The Stasi school of design? I went round Cumbernauld in the 1990s, and was not impressed.

  2. A truly hideous style of architecture Brutalism has a lot to answer for.I lived near Basingstoke and when that town was chosen as an overspill for London. What was depicted in the artist’s impressions looked wonderful a brand new town centre that promised the shopping experience of the future. New housing estates and industrial use were proposed all linked by a dual carriageway ring road that linked to the M3 motorway promised rapid travel around and in and out of the town. Of course when the works were completed reality proved that the town centre was actually quite cramped and intimidating and did not age well, the housing estates didn’t work out either and many of the new employers didn’t stay that long either. Both Basingstoke and Cumbernaud stand as monuments to the arrogance of architects and town planners who oversaw these awful developments which people were forced to live and work in.

  3. Interesting film… Did anyone else pick the continuity error? At 12:30 the Glasgow-registered BMC 1100 (CGA645B) pulls in to park next to a red Hillman Imp (CGA 416B); however, by the time the 1100 has got into the parking slot, the car alongside has become a red Jaguar Mk II and by the time the people get out of the 1100, the Jaguar has magically transformed itself back into an Imp…

    The Loganair Britten-Norman Islander-2A doing it’s very bumpy take-off roll (at 20.15) didn’t last very long in the UK, being de-registered on 12/12/72 and relocated to the West Indies where, as J6-SLW, it was written off near Union Island, St Vincent and The Grenadines, after a crashing into water on 12/7/90.

    As an observation on the efficacy of town planners, if one wants to see an early post-war example of their handiwork, one only has to look at Coventry. It started off ok with the original Precinct, but went rapidly downhill after that. Sadly, the town planners achieved what the Luftwaffe couldn’t, in that they ripped the heart out of the city.

  4. Cumbernauld is a bloody awful design. The town centre architecture is some of the worst brutalised that the world has been inflicted with. It was funny how this conversation appeared in another chat a week or so ago. The New Towns became play things for architects, and the CNT allowed a lot of bad arrive. Living in Basildon, you see the original buildings through to the late 60s and they are quite conventional. However after then, the designs went weird, construction methods became more bizarre and places like Five Links became no go zone’s due to poor design making them easy places for crime. This hasn’t changed, as Beechwood Village (a created name for what people knew as Craylands) started off with some traditional looking buildings, but with prefab wooded structures. Take a look at the new designs, they look like they have dropped off a space ship!

  5. Regarding the promo Film… it reminds me of a similar production I worked on in 1974 for Washington Dev Corporation. That was made in the same style (covering schools, new housing, shopping centres, job creation, outdoor recreation, nightlife etc) Looks dated now (like the cars) with the passage of time… but there again it’s over 50 years ago!

  6. In the late 1970s I had a Saab 99 in that green colour; not a bad car. Very comfortable and smooth but no power steering, making it as heavy as a tank to go round corners……but at that time I’d never experienced power steering in anything, so I just accepted it as normal.

    And I always liked those Chrysler 180s; they looked classy in an understated way, although I never drove one.

    And there’s not mention so far of the VW K70 – pale blue, next to the Renault 10. One of VW’s notable failures.

    • The only thing VW about the K70 was the badge it was an entirely NSU design, due to flagging sales of the 411/2 VW decided to rebadge it,the K70 didn’t last long being replaced by the Passat another design adapted from sister company Audi. I rather liked the K70 compared to the type 4 cars which looked rather lumpy and old fashioned with their rear mounted air cooled cengines,it looked modern with it’s upright styling and large glass area. VW didn’t seem to know what to do with the car,an estate car had been designed by NSU but VW didn’t go with it and the car faded from the company’s product line.

      • A sad failure because I remember thinking that they were a good looking saloon. They also came in some attractive metallic greens and blues.

  7. Think your mistaken, that’s an Opel Manta A as Keith described. The K70 was not really a VW, but an NSU which VW pulled just before release and rebranded it as theirs. Not a bad car, it was just undersold by VW, who wanted its dealers touch their own designed products.

    • I see what you mean about the Opel Manta. I was thinking of Opel Manta Mk2, whereas the photo is of a Mk1.

    • The K70 was really a Ro80 with a squared up nose & a conventional engine. VW only used the K70 as a gap filler in their range until the Passat was in regular production. Supposedly the only common part with the rest of the VW range was the oil filter!

  8. Would it be OK to feature this picture in the 1100 Club’s magazine, Idle Chatter, Keith? We have a regular ‘Memory Man’ slot and he would love to work with it! Many thanks 🙂

  9. @ KC – Having worked at Chrysler’s Whitley design facility in the late 1960’s, I would agree that the Chrysler 180 (originally the Simca 180) was a quietly classy-looking car in its day. However, when the car was belatedly released onto the Australian market in 1975 as the (KB) Chrysler Centura, in addition to the 2.0 litre 4-cyl motor, it was also fitted with a choice of two 6-cyl Hemi engines, being of 3.5 or 4.0-litre capacity, producing 122 hp or 142 hp respectively. This was achieved by lengthening the nose of the vehicle and whilst either six endowed the car with extremely good torque and acceleration, it was something of a lead-tipped arrow, in that the additional front end weight gave it substantial understeer.

    Further, the steering geometry was wrong, resulting in a car that had zero caster action, meaning that the steering wheel did not self-centre after a corner. This in turn caused a lot of frantic arm-twirling, a somewhat less-than-desirable characteristic, especially as there was no power steering! Add to that the fact that the car was very light in the rear combined to make its wet-weather roadholding somewhat problematic. Chrysler Australia experimented with fitting a 5.2-litre V8 into the Centura, but thankfully that project never made it into production. The Centura was only on the market 1975-78; sales of the sixes outstripped the fours at a 4:1 ratio. Given this fact, with the introduction of the KC Centura in June 1977, it was understandable that the 2.0-litre and 3.5-litre engines were dropped, leaving the 4.0-litre engine to cary the flag.

  10. I’m surprised there are no Hillman Imps in the car park, as many Scots bought these for patriotic reasons as the car was made in Linwood. I do remember being in Scotland in 1981, and seeing far more Chrysler/ Talbot Avengers and Sunbeams than in England due to the cars being made at Linwood when the Imp was phased out in 1976.

    • They are probably parked up on the long approach roads to the town centre, back ends up with steam billowing out! Well that’s my damilys experience of ’em. They still loved them though, so much so my Uncle has bought one to bring back to life

  11. I always considered the Imp Californian & Sunbeam Stiletto to be quite good looking cars with their pseudo Coupe design.

    To this day I recall my brother collecting me from senior school in his Hillman Imp and putting his foot down on the near empty coastal road (3 miles). We arrived home in a few minutes! The Imp used to emit a high pitch whine at speed!

  12. Let’s not forget the Atkinson Borderer with the Fridgelink trailer just outside the fence. The Borderer was the first choice for many long distance operators in the 1970s.
    This one could even be a new truck in 1975. Still a British Truck but probably a Cummins 220 engine at this stage. Just about the time when Mercedes, Volvo and Scania were starting to make an impact being more modern, more comfortable and much more powerful than most Atkinsons, ERFs, Fodens or Leylands available at the time.

    • What is the brown car behind the yellow Renault 5? The front looks like an Opel Kadett C, but the roofline is different.

      • The brown car behind is a Marina! The one two to the right is a Cortina. The light car next to the Marina I think is a two door Mk3 Cortina, but next to that, the red coloured car not sure.

  13. Talking Pictures TV is currently showing the Look At Life series including one on steeplejacks in London – really scary lack of health and safety but the buildings they are putting up immediately look drab, dreadful and very cheaply made – what were they thinking of in the 60’s? Rocking the Mazda and blue Renault with the part vinyl roof.

  14. It’s interesting that some new towns were better than others. Cramlington near Newcastle avoided being coveted in concrete and tower blocks, unlike nearby Killingworth, and comprised mostly of low rise private and council housing and has become a popular town for commuters into Newcastle and while a bit soulless has avoided the contempt places like Cumbernauld developed.

  15. My folks had a 1980 Chrysler 180 2l when I was little. I liked it but it was always wet inside (solution was to drill holes in the floorpan, apparently!) and rusted so badly that you could put your finger through the wing with little effort when it was only six years old. I remember being told off for that one! I still love the shape and would love to see another in the metal again, let alone see one moving.

    It was replaced with a K10 Nissan Micra and my dad loved it so much, he bought another to replace it three years later. That stayed with us until it was driven into the ground.

    I suppose town planners did what they thought was the right thing at the time but a lot of what they did has been undone now. Or, what they saw as old back then would be deemed historic destruction and lost forever.

    • @ Mr Steve, my next door neighbour had a metallic green Chrysler 2 Litre in the eighties. It was picked up for next to nothing at three years old as nobody wanted them and managed to last until 1985 when rust started to take hold and the car was difficult to maintain as parts were rare and expensive. Always remember it being a comfortable cat with velour seats and plenty of room. Before the Chrysler, he had another Chrysler oddity, the Irish made Chrysler Hunter, again very cheap to buy at the end of the seventies as this was an old design that had been axed. Never was a passenger in this car, but it looked OK with the four headlamp front end and didn’t seem to rust much.

  16. No one spotted the black Maxi in front of the building? Interestingly about 1/2 of all the cars on this picture would never have been sold in Germany… Today it would be more difficult to spot the origin of a picture by just looking at the type of cars. Architecture is still serving this purpose very well though…

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