It’s June 1970, and we’re walking up the High Street in Kettering, heading for the town centre, and the delights within. It’s a glorious day and, as can be seen from the sheer number of parked cars, there are plenty of people out shopping. This is a very typical East Midlands market town, with a long-established boot-making industry, and one that’s rapidly modernising thanks to its good travel links. For those who need to go to London, it’s around an hour away by rail on the Midland mainline, whereas drivers have a bit of a convoluted run to either the A1 or the M1.
Although there’s little sign of it here, we’re in a General Election month, and there’s considerable excitement over who’s to form the next Government. On the one hand, the incumbent Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson, is looking set fair for a third straight win but, in the lead up to the big day, the polls have been shifting towards Edward Heath’s Conservatives. As the results became clear on the 19th, the swing to the Tories was enough to see Heath enter government in what promised to be an extremely challenging few years in power.
For fans of the British motor industry, it would be a significant year, with the launch of the Triumph Stag and Range Rover. The Stag has been met with a rapturous response from the press, who love its combination of soundtrack and style (if not its lack of performance), and hope that this new engine is the prelude to Triumph making an entry into Formula 1. The Range Rover also receives an appreciative nod from those who know – this is a useful upward extension of the Rover Company’s model line-up. Who would have guessed that the former would be dead after just 26,000 sales in seven years and with its maker’s reputation in ruins, while the latter would still be made up to 1996?
So, tell us about the cars
This is a nice line-up that shows how much the world has changed in the past 50 years. Nearest the camera is a Gerald Palmer-designed Vauxhall Victor estate ahead of a Mini Van, an Austin 1100 and an Austin A40. Passing them is a lovely Renault 4, which at the time was one of the UK’s biggest-selling imports. Further ahead of that is a Mini Countryman, a Triumph Herald and a Vanden Plas 3 Litre. There’s an Austin A40 Countryman ahead of that and a Ford Prefect to the right, driving away from the camera – but the rest of the cars aren’t clear enough for a reliable identification.
Today, this area is pedestrianised, and the two shops on the left of the image, Fine Fare and Freeman Hardy Willis, have long gone. More’s the pity…. 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. Below is how it looks today, according to Google Steetview.
Thanks to Mike Humble for the period photograph