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 Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday June 16, 2003


Mike Ford with a Robin Reliant
70s cars are making a comeback

Leaks, ropey suspension and rotting bodies - 1970s cars were unreliable and had a reputation for poor quality. But for some, 70s cars are the only cars to be seen in.

The MG Midget, the Triumph Spitfire and the Robin Reliant - for one group in the West Midlands, this is their idea of car heaven.

John Astley, Malcolm Greenly and James Edge are 70s cars fanatics and members of the Triumph Sporting Club.

They are preparing to take James' Triumph Spitfire to compete at the National Restoration Show.


The group spend a great deal of time and an even greater deal of money restoring these elderly motors to their former glory and according to car dealer Mike Ford - they're not the only ones.

"The 70s now is the boom section within the industry," says Mike.

"I'm finding far more interest now in 70s cars than 50s and really 60s."

Car industry in the 1970s
From the production line of the 70s to a collectors club in 2003

It is not just the sporty numbers that are attracting attention - the infamous 'Plastic Pig' - also known as a Robin Reliant has its own fan base.

The car that has spent so long being the butt of many jokes originally attracted motorists through its licence requirements. The three wheeler car could be driven on a motorbike licence.

"It's amazing how often cars that have been ridiculed become quite collectable," says Mike.

Labour of love

It may be difficult to understand the attraction of these notoriously unreliable vehicles, but for James it is all about nostalgia.

James used to own a Spitfire in the 60s. Forty years on and he is restoring the car of his youth and recapturing some of his own.

Mark Gray of the Rover P6 Club
Mark Gray and the Rover P6 Club win the highly sought after trophy

For others, car restoration is a hobby plain and simple. Some fish, some watch football and some restore cars - at least they try to.

James' day at the restoration is not going as well as they hoped. The car's
suspension needs fixing but is proving difficult.

To make matters worse, the car is James' only means of getting home - if he doesn't fix the car, he is in for a long walk!

"I wish I'd never started, especially today," says John Astley. "Not one thing has gone right."

To add insult to injury - the Rover P6 Club snatch the coveted restoration prize.

Dodgy motors

James may be disappointed but he has nothing to be ashamed about. 1970s cars were beset with faults.

Car manufacturers in the 1970s were plagued by disputes and quality suffered as a result. Factories churned out substandard cars plagued by all manner of problems.

But apparently it is not all down to poor production techniques.

Andy Robertson in an old car
Andy ensures that his cars go out in a blaze of glory

"A lot of the problems were caused by the manufacturers not educating the buyer, or the supplier as to how to keep the car," says Mike.

Rest in peace

Andy Robertson is a huge fan of 70s cars too. But while James spends painstaking hours restoring his, Andy spends a few adrenaline fuelled hours smashing them up.

Andy is a banger racer.

"The cars we get for racing are too far gone, they are past collectors rebuilding them," says Andy.

"We give them their last bit of life they're going to have. They go out in a blaze of glory."

Little white lie

Getting hold of the cars is not always easy and owners are often reluctant to sell their beloved motor to be smashed up in a rally. The solution? Don't mention it!

"I usually tell them my dad's got one and I need some spare parts for it," fibs Andy.

70s cars - love them or loathe them, they are certainly generating a lot of interest.

Whether its labour of love restorations or action packed rallies, 70s cars have got years more mileage ahead of them.

And if James is still struggling with the suspension - we might know someone interested in taking it off his hands…!

See also ...

BBC: Motoring

On the rest of the web
Club Triumph
Reliant Owners Club
Rover P6 Drivers Club
P6 Rover Owners Club
National Restoration Show

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