Memories : Southport, 1973

Southport 1973

We’re in the magically colourful world of vintage postcards, and find ourselves looking down at Southport’s promenade and King’s Gardens from the upper floors of one of the grand hotels that attracts people to this popular Lancashire resort. As is traditional, the colours have been touched-up somewhat to make this seaside resort look even lovelier to the recipient of this postcard and, as such, it casts an interesting glow on some of the cars – and scenery – depicted in this image.

But for now, the summer of 1973 looks especially summery. The cars are packed along the promenade, and there are plenty of people happily wandering around the gardens taking in the sights and sounds. As seaside resorts go, Southport is genteel and just a little bit posh compared with its brash cousin Blackpool, across the Ribble Estuary. Along here, you won’t find Kiss-Me-Quick hats and candy floss, just lots of green space and beach.

The latest James Bond film, Live and Let Die (below) has hit the screens, and is proving to be a something of a success given that it’s the first appearance in role by Roger Moore. The franchise needed a kick up the backside anyway, following Sean Connery’s flip-flopping out and back in the role as MI6’s most deadly double-oh agent. Moore brought English humour and a lighter touch to the role, although it should be said that Connery’s swansong (for now) Diamonds are Forever from 1971 had already unsubtly introduced the comedy one-liners to the franchise. In short, it captures the mood of the moment perfectly – the grim reality of the 1970s have yet to hit…

James Bond Live and Let Die

So, tell us about the cars

In the centre, turning right, we’re led by a Mini, the world’s yellowest Jaguar XJ6 and we’re not sure what the blue car is behind it. Can you tell what it is? Alongside that is a Mini Van speeding by, while parked on the left is a long train of holiday makers’ cars. From left to right, we have a Ford Cortina Mk2, a Volkswagen Beetle, a Ford Prefect, a Hillman Hunter Estate and a Hillman Avenger, which in this lineup looks both super-modern and highly desirable.

Ahead of that is a BMC 1100 of indeterminate make, a Ford 105E Anglia, a Ford Escort Mk1 estate, a pair of Rover P6s, a Morris Marina, and – we think – a Vauxhall Victor, a Mini and a Volkswagen Beetle. Driving by is a Rover P4 – and, from there, the cars are too blurred to identify reliably.

It’s a nice insight into what we were all driving almost 50 years ago – there were so many estate cars, and where have they all gone? There’s a jolly innocence about this image that has been enhanced by the unsubtle recolouring in it. Within months, the world economy would take a severe downturn thanks to the effects of the Energy Crisis that followed the imposition of an oil embargo by the OPEC (Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) as a result of Western World’s support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. In the following years, petrol price rises, crippling inflation, three-day weeks and electricity blackouts would become some of the decade’s most memorable facts of life.

Here’s how it looks now

Although the basic layout and view hasn’t changed much, Southport is now part of Merseyside, and the King’s Gardens now has a cute model railway, that opened in 1996. It’s still also rather genteel compared with Blackpool – but, then, most places are. 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

18 Comments

  1. I love the scooter in the Google Maps still. It looks as if it might have a kick start pedal on the offside. Or is it just the stand? Who was the original photo by? It should be on the back – perhaps Judge’s of Hastings, who seemed to have a near monopoly with seaside postcards. Trust Google to choose a cloudy day!

  2. I’ve been looking on Flickr at someone’s collection of postcards, many of the older colour ones have had the colours tweaked a bit especially the yellows & reds. Sometimes they have been retouched, often painting cars in brighter colours.

  3. Even allowing for the colour touch up (which makes the yellow seem more of a Renault yellow to me) it’s definitely another world when people would choose to buy an executive car like that XJ6 in such a bright colour!

    • My neighbour when I was a kid had a white XJ with Red leather! The 70s were a decade of dubious tastes – the driver is probably in flairs, tanktop and platforms or a rather large winged suit with wearing a kipper – or all three judging by my pictures of my old man back then!

  4. Gotta love an estate car, the practical holdall and load lugger, fading from fashion now with all the SUVs and ‘lifestyle’ estates with limited practical space. I am and always have been a huge fan ot the estate of any variety having owned such diverse examples as Mini Clubman and VW Passat. My ‘estates’ of late have gone 4×4 with my much loved Discovery 2 now replaced with Freelander 2. Simple, robust and practical!

    • Estates still have a following for people who like the upright look, which makes them ideal for carrying dogs and furniture. I’m quite a fan of the latest Mini Clubman, with its four doors and twin opening doors at the back, which is a nod to the original Mini estate, but far bigger inside and powered by a rather nice 1.5 turbo engine. Now if my numbers are to come up and the coronavirus crisis passes.

  5. In 1973 I had just passed my test and was driving my company’s Cortina MKIII Estates, an Escort & Avenger Estate. The Cortina seemed huge back then. I didn’t buy a car till ’75. How car technology has changed since then but is no more enjoyable!

    I have to agree I prefer the look of an Estate car to a Crossover / SUV. Recent examples of Focus & Astra in particular

  6. These old pics are brilliant. Thanks Keith. The write up you add along with them is also brilliant.

    I can’t decide the the blue car you mentioned is a Farina or a Ford Consul Classic. There was a similar blue for the Consul and it had the wings at the back.

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