It’s February 1965, and one of around 4000 car dealers selling British cars to a willing local market is about to deliver an interesting line-up of Standard-Triumph, Rootes Group and BMC cars to its customers. The gloriously-named Lavender Hill Garage in Enfield was a typical multi-franchise car dealer that would have enjoyed the luxury of a loyal and local customer base, who bought with two things in mind – the locality of the premises and that the cars were proudly British.
The world 55 years ago was rather different to the one of today, but as far as car owners are concerned, getting the latest registration plate on their cars was a matter of pride. The weather might have been dull as the new cars all resplendent with their ‘MMM’ plates, but as the cars glistened on The Ridgeway, the dulcet tones of Gerry and The Pacemakers’ Ferry Cross The Mersey and You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling either by The Righteous Brothers or Cilla Black (depending on which station the petrol station’s Philips transistor radio was tuned into) crackling in the background completed this wonderful slice of British suburbia.
For, yes, Lavender Hill Garage could sell you petrol at around 25p per gallon, allow you join the RAC, service your car (every 3000 miles including replenishing those all-important grease points) and sell you a new Standard-Triumph or Rootes Group car. So, just why there four Austin 1100s in the line-up is anyone’s guess, as we can’t see any evidence of the trusted BMC rosette in this image. The Triumph Herald and Hillman Minx we get, but the Austin 1100s and Cambridge Farina we can’t explain.
However, as all the cars are displaying sequential MMM 163C to MMM167C ‘plates (the Farina’s registration doesn’t appear to be part of the grouping), this is clearly a posed group publicity shot.
1965: a big year in and out of the car industry
There were plenty of other things to keep us occupied in 1965. There was a changing of the guard in Westminster as Winston Churchill shuffled off this mortal coil to great pomp and circumstance, while Edward Heath became leader of the Conservative opposition replacing Sir Alec Douglas-Home who resigned. In sport, Sir Stanley Matthews gave up being a professional footballer at the ripe old age of 50. It was truly the end of an era.
The Vietnam War was starting to ramp up as President Lyndon Johnson sent 3500 Marines to Vietnam just a month after this photograph was taken, seeing the first US combat troops to arrive in the country. By the end of the year, there 120,000 troops engaged in the Vietnamese War and the USA found itself plunged into an unwinnable war.
For us drivers, the imposition of the 70mph speed limit on motorways ushered in a new era of road safety focus, even if and AC Cobra and Jaguar E-type drivers might have not been impressed. New cars launched in 1965 included the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, Renault 16, Riley Kestrel, Wolseley 1100, MGB GT and the brilliant Triumph 1300. It was a rich-seam of automotive talent which promised a brighter, front-wheel driven future for us all.
What about Lavender Hill Garage. Surely somewhere like that doesn’t exist anymore? Well, it looks like it lasted as an independent Rover dealer right up to the end, although today, it’s now split into a petrol station (left) and a used car dealership (right). We wonder what treasures are to be found inside? If you know this busy petrol station, garage or dealership, past or present, do leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Top photo supplied by Chris Cowin, the above one, via www.lavenderhillgarage.co.uk