Fab and groovy man! 1967 will forever be remembered for the summer of love, for hippies and love-ins, the Torrey Canyon Disaster, Jimi Hendrix, Sergeant Pepper, pirate radio, Radio 1 and the Six Day War.
In Britain both homosexuality and abortion were de-criminalised – although, in the case of homosexuality, decades of criminalisation meant it took a long time for long held negative public attitudes to dissipate.
Calls for the legalisation of drugs
In those hedonistic times, the London-based liberal intelligentsia thought that cannabis was the next item on the agenda to be legalised. In July 1967, 64 public figures put their names to a two-page advertisement in The Times newspaper calling for cannabis to be made legal. It wasn’t and all the exercise seemed to do was to give the Police drug squad a list of probable users to work their way through…
If you believe the myth, everybody was on dope, LSD and pot while indulging in free love. Everybody seemed to want to go to San Francisco which was extolled as some sort of paradise.
British pop stars from London and Northern cities began wearing loud clothes and adopting ludicrous, laid-back American slang to keep up with the times.
And Britain led the way…
The Swinging Sixties were well and truly underway… in London. For all the talk of the dawn of a brave new world, the hippy movements cry of ‘turn on, tune in and drop out,’ the hippy lifestyle seemed to consist of not working, subsisting at the taxpayers’ cost and consuming illegal drugs.
The reality was that, away from a small area in the capital, it was business as usual in the provinces where Flower Power hardly permeated the daily grind. People had to earn a living to pay their way in the world, and they could not do this if they were incapacitated by illicit narcotics.
Pirate radio was outlawed, ostensibly because the pirates interfered with the signals of the emergency services, but perhaps because the ruling Labour Party resented unregulated radio in private hands. The creation of BBC Radio 1 acted as an establishment filter that purified the playlists of anything that might corrupt Britain’s youth in the years to come.
The cars that shaped a big year
For the British motor industry it was a year of recovery from the traumas of 1966 but, near the year’s end, the pound was devalued. Jaguar, with the resources of British Motor Holdings at its disposal, ploughed ahead with developing the XJ4 saloon while Rover, now part of the Leyland Motor Corporation, unveiled the now iconic GM-designed V8 in the P5B saloon.
In April 1967, British Motor Holdings announced a disastrous £7.5 million half-year loss and the Mk2 version of the Ford Cortina usurped the BMC ADO16 1100 as Britain’s best selling car. This sent the analysts scurrying to their typewriters to pronounce on what, in their view, was wrong with BMH and how they would rectify matters. By October, the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was prodding BMH and Leyland to get together, with the Sir Donald Stokes-led truck makers as the favoured party.
We also saw the introduction of the FD-generation Vauxhall Victor. It was offered with engines up to 2.0 litres and boasted Americanised styling (long before the Ford Cortina MkIII) – that upped the game for family cars, setting the template for the 1970s repmobiles. Remember, this was one of the first cars with a cambelt instead of a chain for smoother running.
British Motor Holdings – on the mend?
One man who knew what was wrong with British Motor Holdings, and was actually doing something about it, was its Managing Director, Joe Edwards, and he spent 1967 reorganising the company and hiring skilled new people to revitalise the firm.
Probably the most important new car of the year was the 1300 version of the BMC ADO16. Other cars may have been newer and more exiting, but the larger-engined version of an established favourite was what the market wanted.
The year could be seen as a public relations battle between BMH and Leyland, with each firm competing to show investors, the Government and the City how they were getting their respective acts together. BMH suffered from strikes and financial problems while Leyland was profitable and the hawkish Lewis Whyte seemed to galvanise his colleagues on the Leyland board into thinking above their station and pushing hard for a merger that would favour their company.
So that was 1967, was it really 50 years ago?