It’s deep in the winter of 1975, and we’re looking out of an upstairs window in Huyton, Merseyside, across the A5080 at the Austin-Morris dealership known as B&K Motors. It’s not a great time for the car industry as the effects of the first Energy Crisis of 1973-74 continue to bite, with buyers staying away from the showrooms, and hanging on to their cars for far longer than they might have done in the boom years leading up to it.
The UK has been especially hard-hit, entering a double-dip recession, which has seen many businesses fold, inflation start to hurt and industrial unrest running rampant. If you’re an Austin-Morris dealer like B&K, then 1975 must be really troubling. The Ford Cortina Mk3 is now firmly established as the UK’s best-selling car, and it’s months away from being replaced, undoubtedly by something even more appealing. The Chrysler Alpine launched in September adds modernity to the market sector, while the dashing new Vauxhall Cavalier launched in October would represent nothing less than the complete reinvention of the Griffin in the UK.
Inside the Austin-Morris showroom, just out of shot to the right of this image, would have offered little cheer. The Austin Allegro is the dealer’s most recent all-new product and, not only does it lack sex appeal for potential owners, it’s also proving difficult to get hold of as a consequence of all the car strikes. The Morris Marina Series 2 has just gone on sale, putting right many of the original car’s wrongs, but it’s not enough to turn around Austin-Morris’s fortunes by itself – while the clever Austin Maxi is beginning to look like the product of a bygone era…
So, tell us about the cars
It’s a bit of a grim image, and this hardly looks like an enticing line-up in an era when everyone wanted small, smart cars. But it’s very typical of the used car stock these small, family-run businesses would have held at the time. The used car lot to the left of the picture reflected what was being traded in – but not entirely.
Leading in from the left is a Volkswagen Beetle, next to a pair of Morris Marinas – a Deluxe and a Super. Alongside those are a Marina Series 2, a Renault 12 and a Datsun 120Y. The latter is an interesting car to see at an Austin-Morris dealer and prompts this question: assuming it’s not just been picked up at the local car auction to sell for retail, what had it been part exchanged against? Behind that, you can just about make out a Hillman Imp, and a Bedford CF camper (a Dormobile?) tucked up by the petrol station. Yet another Morris Marina – a Coupe – is by the filling station’s front entrance.
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. Meanwhile, to see what the site where B&K Motors used to reside looks like today, scroll down for a view from Google Streetview.
How it looks today
Thanks to Jim Chong for the photograph
- Concepts and prototypes : Hyundai/Rover Oden (1992) - 9 November 2023
- Opinion : So, maybe the Montego was the best they could do… - 8 November 2023
- The cars : Austin Montego (LM11) development story - 7 November 2023