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Homepage. This page: A magazine written for the hands-on type of motorist in the sixties.

Popular Motoring magazine.

Here goes with another once-commonplace car magazine from the 1960s, titled "Popular Motoring". The two copies here date to April 1965 and February 1969, although the very first copy was introduced in April of 1962. A Ford Consul Classic (reg. 854 WTW for numbers followers) features on the cover of issue number one. Fast forward three years, to 1965, and a bevy of interesting cars, most of which were common sights on British roads of the day, get their moment of fame on the cover, as shown below. These include such delights as the Fiat 850 and 500, the Sunbeam Rapier, a bright red MG 1100, and the good old Moggie Minor to name a few.
A contemporary of Car Mechanics, and put together in a neighbouring office within the Mercury House Publications Ltd building, Popular Motoring presented a broader spectrum of articles than CM, including buyer's guides and DIY advice, while Car Mechanics tended to focus more fully on the latter.
The 1969 copy I've scanned below features a Honda N600, a car subject to a road test in this month's issue. Although we many not have realised it at the time, the invasion of cheap, reliable and well-screwed-together Japanese cars was under way. The PM road tester acknowledge's this small car's arrival by titling the article "The nippy little Jap attack on the small car market", I'm sure there's a play on words in there somewhere.
Two magazines covers

A peek inside the April 1965 issue.

As mentioned already, PM magazine fielded a broad array of articles within its pages. The editorial for instance in April '65 takes a look at the new Renault 16, then as if to demonstrate tbe varied interests of the writers involved, continues with a story about off-road trialling, before returning to road cars with the Imp-based Singer Chamois. Variety indeed.
The latest news in the world of motoring then follows on, introducing the reader to the new Mazda Cosmo - a Wankel-engined sportscar - and changes taking place at University Motors' garage in Southgate, whereby motorists had to now serve themselves with fuel prior to paying in a kiosk. This enabled the garage owner to reduce the number of staff he had to employ, permitting a two-pence-per-gallon reduction in the cost of fuel. A glimpse into the future of petrol retailing undoubtably.
Buying advice can be found in a number of places within this copy. Page 75 for instance puts Ford's Mk3 Zodiac under the spotlight, with a two page article debating the merits and otherwise of a featured car, a 1963 example with 15,000 miles on the clock, for which UKP1,000 was being asked. Other than the likely fuel bills and depreciation expectations associated with a car of this size, the PM team gave the car their vote of approval. As a roomy high-speed cruiser, with 90+ being a comfortable figure to speed along at on suitable roads, the old Zodiac had a lot going for it, its thirst for premium grade petrol aside.
Several pages back a car more suited to the family man or woman was reviewed, in the pleasant-enough form of a Hillman Super Minx. The example under test was on the market for UKP769, reasonable enough for a car of its qualities. In fact the PM reviewers were most complimentary regarding the Hillman, deciding in many ways it was a cut above the rest in terms of fit and finish, with niceties such as the lack of grease nipples, drawing praise. A car with "... an immediate appeal to lady drivers" the reader is advised.
The headline feature though for April is the "12 car test", where twelve very different cars were appraised and their pluses and minuses recorded. The results for the more popular cars now in preservation can be summarised as follows, I wonder how they compare to the views of current owners today?
Make & Model. The Good. The Not-So-Good.
Sunbeam Rapier. Solid appearance, finish, air of quality, lack of noise, excellent side vision due to lack of pillars, handling, brakes, provision of starter handle. Performance lacking for a "sports saloon", carburation issues leading to stalling, heavy low-speed steering, restricted rear legroom.
Morris Minor 1000. Improved power from the 1098cc engine, safe handling, quick and positive gearbox, under-bonnet access, fold-down rear seat, reliability, low running costs. Old-fashioned body styling, uninspired range of colours available, large steering wheel for a small car, cramped rear legroom, limited boot space.
Volvo 121. Solid design, good comfort on long journeys, good performance, standard fitment of "extras" such as seat belts, radiator blind, carpet under-felting, plus reliability. "Niggling economies" inside for a car of this price, old-fashioned styling, tricky to park, axle hop under hard braking or acceleration on corners.
MG 1100. Excellent comfort, good fuel consumption, first class brakes, amazing amount of interior space, full-width parcel shelf and glovebox, and ease of cleaning. Although fast "nothing of the real MG about it", very soft suspension can cause sickness in passengers, Mini-like driving position, noisy fan, on-limit handling.
Ford Anglia 1200 (105E). Smart appearance, rear window that keeps clean, peppy performance, excellent all-synchro gearbox, heater, opening rear quarterlights, handling. Brakes very poor, axle hop on bumpy corners, rear seat legroom, poor fuel consumption, feel-less steering, noise, controls too far from the belted-in driver.
Ford Cortina Mk1 (automatic). Gearbox, ease of driving, roomy interior, heater, silence inside, good engine performance, light and safe steering, easy-to-clean styling. Heavy fuel consumption if driven hard, differential play, large transmission hump in the front, awkward lights switch, axle hop.
Austin 1800. Safe handling, good performance, interior comfort and space, large boot and spare wheel stored beneath the floor, soundproofing, brakes, standard of finish. Low-geared steering, and steering wheel position, access to controls and handbrake when wearing a seat belt, noisy idling of the engine, unpredictable brake servo.
Austin-Healey Sprite Mk3. Value for money, performance and economy, brakes, handling, steering, gearbox, comfortable seats, easy-to-erect hood, draught-free wind-up door windows. Only space for one passenger (rear compartment only suitable for small children), small boot, engine accessibility when compared to other BMC cars, fuel smell inside the cabin.
The remainder of the content is the usual mixture of letters, accessory advice, general motoring matters, and tips on maintenance for the have-a-go weekend DIY-ers out there amongst its readership. Articles aimed at the oily-nailed reader include servicing advice on the Triumph Spitfire, Mini clutch replacement, tips on replacing the differential in a Morris Minor, headlamp adjustment, and undertaking a de-coke (remember those?) on the Rover 90 and its compatriots. Handy reading, even today.

To the 1969 copy of Popular Motoring now.

The 1969 copy of Popular Motoring is noticeably lighter than its earlier brother, 74 as opposed to 98 pages in fact. The headline road test is of course on the Honda N600, of which the scribe is suitably praiseworthy. Elsewhere in this issue the mysteries of BMC 1100 ownership for the aspiring buyer are unravelled ("... most cars with a monocoque type of structure are not badly affected by rust and the 1100 is such a car..."), while various articles and "car clinics" ensure that the home mechanic doesn't feel left out.
Modified Hillman Hunter car

Tuned-up Hillman - the "Master Hunter".

Those with a tendency to bolt go-faster goodies on to their car may well have headed for page 61 first of all, the column headed "HOT ROD". Here Ian Wearing discusses the subject of engine tuning. The star of this month's column was a re-worked Hillman Hunter, offered by Rootes main dealer Davenport Vernon. Wearing describes the Master Hunter as a "tarted-up Hunter with a Rapier engine". The modifications included fitment of a second Stromberg carb, and a hotter camshaft. Roadholding was improved thanks to the use of Cosmic alloy wheels (with G800 tyres), while outside the car features an upgrade thanks to a contrasting colour flash down each side, and across the bootlid and bonnet. Inside a rev counter has been attached to the top of the dashboard, while a 15in steering wheel displaces the original. Reclining seats hold the driver and front passenger in place during hard cornering, while servo assistance to the braking helps reign in the Hunter's extra ooooommphhhh.
The modified car's 0-60 time was recorded at 12 seconds or thereabouts, with a top speed a shade under the "ton". Bar a few reservations regarding the car's suspension, and its ability to cope with exuberant motoring styles, the writer was by and large in favour of the Master Hunter. Did many get built I wonder? The tested car was registered ABH 7F, maybe someone remembers taking it for a test from this High Wycombe-based dealership?
Bar the odd reference to tweaked cars like the Hunter, the content sticks by and large to the family motorist's interests. If anything the magazine appears to be heading more into the world of DIY by this time, with less emphasis placed on buying guides (both new and secondhand). By the early/mid 1970s this publication had been re-named "Popular Motoring & Practical Car Maintenance", perhaps as a result of this percieved shift in emphasis. Quite when the magazine disappeared for good I'm not sure, it's content probably ended up being absorbed into another title altogether.
Return to the car magazines section, to read about other publications like this.

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