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Gallery: UK automotive history

2012-06-01 11:56

AN INDICATION OF CHANGE: Modern flashing indicators replaced the need for hand signals or as pictured above, "Trafficators".

LONDON, England – From the introduction of flashing indicators, the launch of the iconic Mini to petrol- rationing in the Suez crisis, Queen Elizabeth II has many pivotal moments in the UK’s automotive history.

As the UK celebrates the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we look at some key automotive events through her 60 year reign.


1954 January 1: Flashing turn indicators became legal on Britain's cars, taking over from hand signals and “trafficators” which rose like pointers from what would eventually be called “B pillars”.

1954 June 1: Standard introduced Britain's first diesel engine, a version of the Vanguard, powered by a two-litre engine, derived from that used in the Ferguson tractor which Standard also built.

1956 December: Petrol-rationing was introduced as a result of the Suez canal crisis that closed the waterway to oil tankers. It remained in force until May 1957.

1958 July 10: Britain's first parking meters were installed in London's Grosvenor Square. Charges were R0.05c for half an hour and R0.10c for an hour.

1958 December: The first stretch of motorway in Britain was opened, the 13.1km long Preston by-pass, which is today part of the M6.

1959 August:  A “triumph of front-wheel-drive packaging”, the British Motor Corporation’s Mini Minor, was launched for the  equivalent of R6554.

1961: Jaguar launched its E-Type which Enzo Ferrari called “the most beautiful car in the world”.

1964 January: Paddy Hopkirk and Henry Liddon earned the British Motor Corporation its first victory in the Monte Carlo Rally in their Mini Cooper S. The pundits had scoffed at the car's entry.

1964 June 1: Production began at Vauxhall's new factory at Ellesmere Port on Merseyside. The plant will build the seventh generation Astra which means more than five-million vehicles will have been produced in 2012.

1967 January 1: A 130km/h speed limit was introduced on Britain's roads.

1967 October 9: Breathalyser tests were introduced for British drivers. This specified that if a driver's alcohol limit was found to exceed 80mg/100ml of blood, the individual would be liable for prosecution.

1974 January 1: A 80km/h speed limit was introduced on Britain's roads to conserve fuel supplies.

1974 May: The world's first catalysts in vehicle exhausts to control pollution were produced by Johnson Matthey in Royston, Hertfordshire.

1976: The Lotus Esprit supercar went into production. Outstripping its own sales forecast, the Elise was introduced in 1996 and by 2011 Lotus had built more than 90 000 sports cars.

1977 February 6: A Rolls-Royce Phantom VI is presented by to the Queen by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders for her Silver Jubilee.

1978 March:  Ford’s Bridgend plant in Wales commenced engine production and its annual capacity has since doubled to a million engines to date. Ford’s Dagenham Diesel Centre opened in 2003.

1980 October 22: The last MGB, a pewter-coloured GT, was assembled at Abingdon. More than a half-million MGB units were built since its introduction in 1962.

1984 July: Nissan’s facility in Sunderland is opened and it would become the UK’s largest car manufacturing plant.

1986 February 19: British Leyland built the five-millionth original Mini.

1992 October 8: Honda's Swindon factory begins production and by February 2008 produced its two-millionth vehicle.

1992 December: The Toyota factory at Burnaston, Derbyshire, begins car production.

1995 October 1: Petrol was no longer sold in gallons but litres.

1998: VW purchased Bentley in Crewe and Rolls-Royce joined the BMW stable, both quintessentially British marques continue to be a success in markets around the globe.

2001 April 26: BMW began production of Mini Cooper and Mini at its Oxford plant, investing a further  R6.5-billion in 2011 and celebrated the two-millionth Oxford-built Mini in the same year.

2002 January 25: Nissan opens its European Design Centre in London.

2002 May 27: Bentley presented Queen Elizabeth with a new official state limousine on behalf of the UK motor industry. It is the fifth official state vehicle.

2003 February 17: The London congestion charge was introduced.

2004 April: Ford completed construction of London’s first wind park, constructing two giant wind turbines at its Dagenham plant.

2009 December: The UK Automotive Council was established to enable government and industry to work closely in key technology areas to sustain levels of investment in skills, jobs and innovation.

2010 November 4: Jaguar Land Rover’s Solihull plant produced the millionth Range Rover.

2011 July 11:
Production began on the MP4-12C at McLaren’s plant in Woking.

2011 December: The year concludes with diesel cars taking a record 50.6% of the UK new car market and alternative-fuelled vehicles sell a record 25 456 units as average new car CO2 emissions fall by more than 23% since 2000.

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