Motoring - was it better back in the day?

Blog post posted on 01/09/20 |
I’m sure like me during lockdown you spent some time tidying things up, recycling & repurposing. After sorting through some old photographic slides my mother sent me an envelope containing a print picture that just got me wondering, was motoring really better back in the day or are we simply looking through rose-tinted glasses?

You will have seen the picture, a very young Shaun aged around two or three years old sitting on the bonnet of a lovely red and white Triumph Herald, see I’m doing it already, the glasses are on!   Apparently, we were travelling from the Midlands way up north and just stopped, turning just off the A1 to find a place to put down the picnic blanket, just imagine trying that now!  I don’t really remember the Triumph Herald, but I did like being in the car and helping my father to drive, operating any controls I could reach.  This was the 1960’s and those things called seat belts were still very rare.  I loved being in the car so much mum used to place a large cushion on the handbrake so I could sit on it and be close to them and of course see out more clearly.  Much better than standing up in the rear seat waving at the other motorists.  I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward a few more years and we have the Ford Corsair 1500, column change gears and a front bench seat.  Excellent no more large cushions for me as the handbrake is an umbrella type under the dashboard.   I do remember helping my father fit the Britax ‘static’ seat belts to the Corsair.  Luckily it was a 1965 model and by then the law made it mandatory to fit the mountings for seat belts, the actual seat belts were still optional extras!  Of course, that was only in the front seats, no mountings or belts in the rear for a long time yet. I mean we always carried our eggs carefully home from the shops but children……no let them wriggle, play and stand just where they like, better still sit on the knee of the front seat passenger, as they can hold on to you if there is a crash!

Fast forward again and as a father myself what a difference with my children in a modern car.  Rear-facing baby carrier, mandatory rear seat belts, front facing child seat with a five-point harness, ISOFIX seat fixings of course, then booster cushions and an adult seat belt.  Did anyone else teach your children that the car just will not start if the seat belts are not fastened correctly? The things we told our children eh.

So, is motoring better now that we have all the seats covered with inertia reel seat belts with pre-tensioners, head restraints, anti-submarine seats, cars with anti-lock braking systems, traction control, halogen or LED headlights, side intrusion protection, airbags and a veritable host of other extras? 

Motoring is certainly much safer for vehicle occupants than in the 1960’s due to all the various safety features fitted to modern vehicles.  The driving standards however, well that is another question! Modern drivers also don’t need to master the art of double declutching as we have synchromesh, or using the gearbox to actually slow the car as the brakes were at best marginal, vacuum wipers anyone?   Those rose-tinted glasses are getting all misty eyed remembering all these wonderful things that 1960’s drivers had as standard!   

Back in the day, roads were not congested, you could picnic just off the A1, cars were simple, children could do what they liked, and cushions could be placed on handbrakes to become a handy seat. Thankfully, some things have changed for the better. 

Enjoy the drive!

Shaun Cronin