Tag Archives: motor vehicle

British Auto Legends

A new set of stamps issued today celebrates some of the most stylish and ‘cool’ British motor vehicles revered throughout the world. 2013 sees the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Royce, motoring and aviation pioneer who founded Rolls-Royce with Charles Stewart Rolls. It is also the centenary of the founding of Aston Martin.

The stamp issue British Auto Legends explores two kinds of legendary cars – the thoroughbreds from the 1960s and 70s, many of which feature in experts’ lists of the greatest cars of all time, and four British workhorses – all classic and iconic vehicles.

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds

British Auto Legends - The Workhorses - 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail; Austin FX4, London Taxi; Ford Anglia, Police; Land Rover, Coastguard.

British Auto Legends – The Workhorses – 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail; Austin FX4, London Taxi; Ford Anglia, Police; Land Rover, Coastguard.

Superb examples of the six thoroughbreds were located in virtually factory fresh conditions, and all were photographed by the expert car photographer James Mann, involving specialist lighting and set up to capture the classic lines of the vehicles.

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Jaguar E-Type, 1961

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Jaguar E-Type, 1961

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1965

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, 1965

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - 1st Class: Aston Martin DB5, 1963

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – 1st Class: Aston Martin DB5, 1963

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28: MG MGB, 1962

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28: MG MGB, 1962

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28: Morgan Plus 8, 1968

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28: Morgan Plus 8, 1968

British Auto Legends - The Thoroughbreds - £1.28 Lotus Esprit, 1976

British Auto Legends – The Thoroughbreds – £1.28 Lotus Esprit, 1976

One of the workhorses, the Morris Minor van in Royal Mail livery, is the contribution to the PostEurop theme of 2013 (the Post Van).

British Auto Legends - The Workhorses - 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail

British Auto Legends – The Workhorses – 1st Class: Morris Minor Van, Royal Mail

For a country of such small geographical stature, Great Britain’s role in shaping the history of the automobile cannot be underestimated. From the kernel of the ‘horseless carriage’, grew an industry that once accounted for a quarter of the world’s car production and almost half of all vehicle exports. Today, car manufacturing remains a significant part of the British economy with several marques currently enjoying record sales. However, the road to prominence was littered with potholes.

An astonishing 221 firms entered the industry between 1901 and 1905. From this jumping off point, the British motor industry began to flourish, with the likes of Herbert Austin and William Morris applying mass production techniques as they bid to bring motoring to the masses. However, it was only after the end of Second World War that the UK truly became a car manufacturing powerhouse.

Initially afflicted by shortages of raw materials, the British motor industry soon found its feet as governmental controls channelled the supply of steel to firms that exported 50 per centlater 75 per cent – of production. The term ‘Export or Die’ was seared into the collective consciousness.

By contrast, France, Italy and Germany’s motor industries had suffered grievously and took considerably longer to recover from the conflict. British firms were all too happy to exploit this situation and export sales surged with demand in Europe, as well as North America, resulting in record production figures. Add in commonwealth countries where there was a ready-made market and it is little wonder that the British motor industry was in the driving seat.

Unfortunately, this situation could not last. A mixture of political intrigue, shotgun weddings between former rivals and union unrest served to bring the industry to its knees. Sell-offs and plant closures would become watchwords in decades to come, culminating in the collapse of MG Rover in 2005. Yet for all the pain and pratfalls, the British motor industry continued to build landmark classics while also creating and exploiting niche markets – this is the nation that invented the sports car after all.

Today, there are just seven volume producers and they are all foreign owned. Nevertheless, these and other, smaller manufacturers continue to build cars that appeal on the global stage; brands that marry style with ingenuity and quality with refinement.

The British Auto Legends stamps can be ordered online at www.royalmail.com/autolegends and by phone on 08457 641 641. They are also available in Post Office Branches across the UK.

Postal Vehicles

When people come on one of our Museum Store tours they often remark on the wide range of postal vehicles we have in our collection. The vehicles we care for range from bicycles and motorcycles to large delivery vans.

Today’s Royal Mail vehicles fleet is sourced for a small number of suppliers, but in the early days a great many manufacturers were used. It would be impossible for us to collect and maintain an example of every different type, but we do have photographic records and other material related to many of these vehicles in the Royal Mail Archive.

Recently we uploaded a small number of photographs showing some unusual and interesting postal vehicles to our Flickr site. Amongst these are the first motor vehicle used for mails in Scotland and a Motor Parcel Coach, both dating from circa 1908.

First motor vehicle used for mails in Scotland, c. 1908. (POST 118/5725)

First motor vehicle used for mails in Scotland, c. 1908. (POST 118/5725)

Also of interest are postal vehicles in interesting settings, such as the General Post Office (GPO) trolley basket parked at the base of the Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway in Devon and a Postbus parked near spectacular cliffs on the coast of Barra in the Outer Hebrides.

Lynmouth cliff railway and General Post Office trolley basket, Devon. (POST 118/1300)

Lynmouth cliff railway and General Post Office trolley basket, Devon. (POST 118/1300)

Finally, petrolheads may be interested in several images from the GPO repair shop in Harrow showing mechanics at work servicing vehicles.

For more on postal vehicles see our online exhibition Moving the Mail.