Forty years ago, Edric was a kid on the backseat of a Vauxhall, somewhere in old-time Orchard Road.
Edric remembers the venerable Vauxhall Viva from his childhood – a car that couldn’t accelerate hard or brake heavily.
AMONG the many sepiatinted photos circulating online during the recent wave of SG50 nostalgia was one of the old Fitzpatrick’s supermarket along Orchard Road. Petrolhead that I am, this pic didn’t so much dredge up memories of the supermarket itself, but of motoring in the mid-1970s. Specifically, of riding in the (vinyl-clad) backseat of my mum’s ancient Vauxhall Viva (registration number SE1514) as she drove us to that Fitzpatrick’s for the weekly grocery run.
Never mind child seats, even rear seatbelts were unheard of then, so I was completely and blissfully unrestrained. But with its 1.1-litre engine delivering less power than the average vacuum cleaner these days, and with drum brakes all round, the Viva was incapable of either hard acceleration or heavy braking anyway. Neither was there any air-con. Some other cars of that era had little dash-mounted fans, but my mum’s Viva was devoid of even that luxury. So for ventilation in the muggy weather, we relied on an open front quarter-window (remember those?), with the glass carefully angled to direct onrushing air towards the occupants.
MAIN PHOTO SPH LIBRARY
The airflow depended on the car being in motion in the first place, but that wasn’t a problem because traffi c was almost always free-flowing – there were far fewer cars around, so traffi c jams were a rarity. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the pace on the roads was much more leisurely. High-powered cars were virtually non-existent, and everyone was more or less resigned to crawling away from the lights, working their way laboriously through their 4-speed manual gearboxes to get up to cruising speed (which would be in the region of 40- 50km/h, not the 70-80km/h of today), and thereafter just sort of bumbling along with the flow.
In fact, there were not even that many traffi c lights around. Many junctions still consisted of roundabouts, which, because of the low traffi c volume, were still a viable traffi c-control measure back then. So a drive in the 1970s was something to be enjoyed, not tolerated. We would arrive at our destination relaxed and cheery after our leisurely, congestionfree commute. And once there, my mum would pull straight into one of the many empty spaces in the big lot right in front of the supermarket – no need to navigate a dingy multi-storey hunting for a carpark lot. Imagine that: Freely available street-level parking, right at the heart of Orchard Road. Those were the days.
Whoever it was who posted that fitzpatrick’s supermarket photo, edric would like to thank the person for sparking the memories.