1969 Redux – key moments from a key year



1969. There was something in the air. Fifty or so years ago the tectonic plates of history were grinding each upon each. Man was landing on the moon whilst the Vietnam war had taken a turn for the worst after the Tet Offensive. A couple of successive summers of love had infused our cultural forms with a lysergic afterglow. Woodstock gathered the hippy clans while Charlie Manson was assembling his own bunch of mad-eyed acolytes. In California, the epicentre of the shifts that were afoot, vineyards were producing once-in-a-lifetime vintages of untold alcoholic content and abundance, while surfers had ridden the most consistently big, powerful waves they had ever experienced. In Europe meanwhile, four hairy scousers were hard at work in a studio in Abbey Road, West London, The students had been practicing barricade building for over a year and talking about the revolution. And in car design ateliers the world over, folks were penning some of the most futuristic designs ever imagined. The ideas that were being sketched on the drawing boards had little to do with the economic realities of the time – in a sense the economic travails and the apocalyptic atmosphere seemed to create a tangible energy of its own. Like today, the mainstream industry was in contortions and there was huge government intervention in the auto industry. Everywhere there were gathered a vanguard of visionaries doing work that would define what our cars would look like in the dreams of our futures. The Mercedes C111 (above) was straight out of the dream diary, while the Adams Probe, with the guts of a Hillman Imp, a science-fiction like sensibility and an acreage of fibreglass, was a milestone that would be taken as a point of reference for kit car manufacturers like Marcos in the subsequent decades. Lamborghini had just launched the Miura Roadster, while the most notable release of the year from British state-run manufacturer Leyland was…hold your breath… the Austin Maxi. It was clear that the global industry had its feet in the gutter, but its head remained firmly in the clouds. The lesson? No matter how bad things appear to be you’ve got to keep on dreaming.