Family saloon cars from the 1960s - uk

Austin A60 Cambridge, 1964
The facelifted Austin A60 Cambridge

Although the Cortina and 1100 offered most of the requirements of a five seater family saloon of the sixties, most of the major manufacturers produced a slightly bigger and better equipped car along traditional lines throughout the decade.

BMC offered the Farina styled Morris Oxford and Austin Cambridge saloons throughout the decade. These were popular with more conservative buyers and no sixties street scene would be complete without one of these cars. Originally launched in 1959 as the Morris Oxford Series V and Austin A55 Mk 2 Cambridge - the A55 Mk1 was styled completely differently, although had similar engine and running gear. These cars were rather long and narrow looking with large tail fins. Originally they were fitted with a 1489cc engine and managed a top speed of 78mph. Inside, the Austin was quite plain. The Morris was slightly more glamorous. It looked like a restrained American fifties saloon (very restrained that is, but the impression is there, nonetheless). They were extremely roomy inside - much roomier than the equivalent modern car.

Both cars were given a facelift in 1961. The models became the Morris Oxford Series VI and the Austin A60 Cambridge. Improvements included a larger engine, 1622cc, a longer wheelbase and wider track. The overall result was a much better car. The wider track significantly improved road holding. Both cars could now reach 80mph and accelerated from 0 to 60mph in 21.4 seconds. Not spectacular, but respectable for the time. Externally both models had new grills and less prominent fins. The Austin Cambridge often featured a flash along the bodywork of contrasting colour to the paintwork. It was also given a wood effect dashboard, which was a significant improvement over the plain, painted metal affair of the earlier car. In this form both cars remained unchanged for the remainder of the decade. The Austin was withdrawn in 1969 and the Morris in 1971 - to be replaced by the Morris Marina.

Alongside these cars were more sporting and luxurious versions produced under other BMC badges. The Wolseley 15/60 and 16/60 were mechanically similar to the Austin A55 and A60. They were distinguished by the make's famous illuminated badge and traditional grill and a rather striking two-tone paint job, when specified. Inside, the Wolseley was luxuriously trimmed with a full wood veneered facia and door cappings, high quality leather seats and deep pile carpeting. Selling in 1967 for £868, as opposed to £804 for the deluxe version of the Cambridge, it was good value for money.

Riley 4/72
Riley 4/72

For the more sporting driver BMC offered a choice between the MG Magnette Mk IV and the Riley 4/72 both at £916. These cars had a twin carburettor version of the 1622cc engine and could reach a maximum speed of 86mph. Additionally, the cars were trimmed to a very high standard - hence the premium over the Wolseley in price. Both were face lifted versions of a previous incarnation based on the original Farina saloons - the MG Magnette Mk III and Riley 4/68. The MG in particular was not well received by MG fans. The car replaced the Magnette ZB which handled well and was well liked. The Farina versions were far less sporty in their handling characteristics and were not really a proper sports saloon. Having said this, they were popular with the general public and outsold the original Magnette. Both were stylish and upmarket family saloons.

BMC made a clean break with the past in their medium sized saloon cars in 1964 when they introduced the Austin 1800. This was another Issigonis design - front wheel drive, transverse engine. Originally it had been intended as a replacement for the A60, but with the availability of the 1800cc B-series engine designed for the new MGB sports car, it just grew whilst on the drawing board. The result was a very spacious and comfortable saloon. It was fast too, with a top speed of 90mph. Unfortunately, the styling was not to everyone's taste. It lacked the crisp neatness of the 1100 series. Inside it was rather plain, although the deluxe version has leather seats.

The 1800 did not sell as well as expected. The A60 range still appealed to conservative buyers. The 1800 possibly did not have quite the right image. With better styling and interior, it could have done much better. It offered more space than most 3 litre saloons of the era.

Vauxhall offered the Victor saloon in various guises throughout the sixties. At the beginning of the decade, Vauxhall were still selling a restrained version of the Victor of the late 1950s. This car was a scaled-down version of General Motors products in the US. In its original form, the Victor sported large amounts of chrome and had more than a passing resemblance to a 1956 Chevrolet. The styling was not to everyone's tastes and on top of that, the car had a reputation for rust, which the Company found hard to live down.

In 1961, this ageing and by now unfashionable model, was replaced by the restyled FB series. These cars were much more restrained in style and bore no resemblance to the outgoing model. Vauxhall were keen to lose their reputation for rust and these new Victors were undersealed from new and the sills were injected with wax. These cars were available as standard, super and deluxe. In Vauxhall's hierarchy deluxe was top of the range. In Ford's super was - the Cortina super was top of the range. The deluxe Victor offered a touch of luxury with a walnut facia and leather seats.

In February of 1962, the Victor range was topped by a high performance version the VX 4/90. This car had a top speed of 88mph and could reach 60mph from rest in 16.9 seconds. Externally it was identified with a contrasting side flash. Inside the car was well trimmed with leather seats and walnut facia and cappings. The VX 4/90 was in direct competition with BMCs Riley 4/68 and MG Magnette.

Vauxhall replaced the FB four years later, in 1965, with the FC Victor. These cars were of a squarer profile and very much the fashion of the mid-sixties. The square profile was relieved by gently curving doors and side windows, which gave considerably more interior space over the previous Victor. The VX 4/90 was also carried over into the new models. Once again, it was stylish and well equipped and carried over the characteristic side flash.

Hillman Super Minx
Hillman Super Minx

Rootes Group (Hillman, Singer, Sunbeam and Humber) offered cars in this class as well. Most notable was the Hillman Super Minx. This car, which was a development of the more basic Hillman Minx, was launched in 1961. It had unusual outward sloping fins at the back and oval tail lights. Rootes, like BMC, were keen on badge engineering and produced two luxury versions of the Super-Minx - the Humber Sceptre and the Singer Vogue. The Singer Vogue was a better trimmed version of the Super-Minx. The Humber Sceptre was quite special. It was meant to be a proper luxury saloon in the Humber tradition, but of compact size. Inside it was well trimmed. Although wood and leather did not feature, it was of high quality and stylish design. Externally it had a different roof line, but the main difference was under the bonnet. The Sceptre had a high compression version of the 1592cc engine fitted to the two lesser cars with a light alloy head as used in the Sunbeam Rapier sports saloon. This meant the Sceptre was a genuine 90mph car. The Sceptre was quite expensive, selling for £1029 in 1965.

Alongside the Super Minx, Ro's mainstay in the 1950s. It was given a restyle for the new decade and continued to sell well.

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

Mid Century ★ Facts & Figures ★ Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ Mid Century ★ Facts & Figures ★ Collectibles ★