A chance find restores lost memories of 1974.
Rummaging around in an old shoe box of negatives recently looking for something completely different, I came across these two gems from about 1974. One of the many things I love about photography is the ability of a simple black & white image to take the mind straight back to a damp hillside in Wales, or a long weekend towing an old car.
My 1948 Land Rover is semi retired now and only used on the occasional sunny Sunday for a drive to the pub, but back in the early 1970’s it was my only vehicle and had to fulfil all transport duties. There are many things I had forgotten over the intervening 40 years, but these two simple pictures reminded me of the details of life back then.
One major thing I had forgotten was that I had fitted a Series 2 engine for a bit more ‘go’ - if that can ever be the correct word to describe the power output of the Rover 80 engine! It was a relatively simple upgrade requiring modified engine mounts and a bronze bush to allow the gearbox to mate with the younger flywheel. As the previous engine was the original 1600 cc one with a burnt out exhaust valve the difference in performance was colossal. The other thing I had forgotten was the awful home made hard top, pop riveted together using the hood sticks as a foundation. I had inherited it with another Land Rover and in a vain attempt to keep the rain out fitted it to mine. All it managed to do was increase the noise level inside and distribute the rain in a different way, but as the canvas tilt was rotten it was a reasonable solution to the problem until I bought a new tilt in the 1980’s which is on it to this day.
For a couple of summers we dragged a caravan to Borth in Wales behind the 80 inch and would venture up into the hills using Forestry Commission tracks which is where the first picture was taken. Back then there did not seem to be any restriction on where you could drive and we would take a picnic out for the day and on hot days swim in a lake up at the top. I seem to remember coasting most of the way back down to conserve fuel as we had no money!
The towing photo is one of many I have recording epic tows across the land. My pal John Littlejohn had a burgeoning business restoring old cars in Leicestershire and the pair of us would hire a trailer and head off to collect customers cars. This was a lovely Jaguar XK120 Roadster languishing in a barn in Llanfrynach, just east of Brecon. It was a days haul just to get there with an empty trailer so we ended up sleeping in the barn on a couple of camp beds we had taken with us. First thing in the morning we loaded up and headed not for Leicestershire, but to Cambridge where another friend, Rob Attwood was having his 21st birthday party!
I pity the queue of traffic that must have been stuck behind us, the old Series 2 engine doing it’s best to haul a two and a half ton load up and down the winding Welsh roads, but after a long day we finally pulled into Fen Ditton, just outside Cambridge where Rob lived. No doubt stinking of oil, petrol fumes and body odour we dumped the Land Rover and trailer, complete with XK on the road outside his house we partied until the small hours and again, dug out the camp beds to eventually sleep on.
Late the next morning we finally pointed the rig west for the final haul to Leicestershire. There was no A14 in those days, just the winding A428 and we arrived back at John’s workshop as it was getting dark. First thing on Monday morning the Land Rover had to get me to work, which would have been okay as I had a fairly undemanding job then.
I do wonder how today's digital images will stand the test of time and whether in 2053 photographs of today will still be visible. I already have CDs barely ten years old that refuse to work, so despite all of us taking far more photographs than we can possibly have time to look at, will the old photos our children will be searching for actually be rarer that those from our youth? Will Facebook, Flickr and Dropbox still be there in forty years time? Somehow I doubt it. The good news is that 6x4 inch prints from digital images are remarkably good value and require only daylight to be viewed. Hopefully that resource will be around for a while.
Pure nostagia. A 2 year old Matt Savage perfects standing on one leg on a hillside in Wales.
Party animals. A long weekend spent towing an XK 120 from Wales and pulling in a 21st Birthday Party on the return journey.