In the early post-war years in Britain, money was short, rationing was still a facet of daily life, and cars tended to be remakes or tweaks of pre-war models.

In short, life could be pretty grey.

The national preoccupation to export in order to replenish the national coffers became the consuming focus of British car manufacturers. America was a significant target market, leading to the subtle (and often not-so-subtle) Americanisation of newer designs. Most Brits had to content themselves with biding their time on dealer waiting lists if they had the money to buy new; the majority of new cars had the steering wheel on the wrong side and were heading across the Pond.

Five years on and the fifties brought new hope for motorists. Petrol rationing was finally lifted (though fuel tax was high).


In May 1951, King George opened the Festival of Britain, a national exhibition that drew in millions before it closed in September. Designed to showcase the best of Britain and its Commonwealth, and to look forward rather than back, it helped to foster a new optimism and a fresh, contemporary national style. Grey was out. Colour was in.

The fifties would also see the birth of a raft of automotive legends: the land Rover, the Jaguar XK140, the Vauxhall Cresta, the AC Ace, the Austin Healey 3000 and the Triumph Herald to name but a very few.

The nation was shocked in February 1952 when George VI, the King who had remained in his nation's heavily bombed capital throughout the wartime years, died in his sleep at the age of only 56 years. He had worked tirelessly to boost the morale of the nation and had become a hugely popular rallying point for the British peoples.

He was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Elizabeth II, who was crowned on 2nd June, 1953. As the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were driven to Buckingham Palace in the State Coach, they were watched by 27million people on television, and countless thousands of people on the streets. Coronation fever swept the nation and the Commonwealth.  

JF MacPherson

Fleet Street, London, during the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1953

Fleet Street during the Coronation in 1953

Image: Anthony Harrison

The Festival of Britain 1951 Image from Opringle at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via
Gordon Thomas receiving the 1953 Tour of Britain winners cup. Copyright Dave Crosby.jpg

Gordon Thomas, winer of the 1953 Tour of Britain

Image: Dave Crosby

The Festival of Britain 1951

Image: Opringle at English Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

A Year in Cars

A snapshot of some of the cars built in Britain at the time of the Coronation of 1953

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