I used to have a Metro. I don’t think there is any record of the fact; not a single photograph I can remember. I got to think about it because on twitter today somebody posted that there are only 10 standard Metro’s left. Which is astounding. Not sure if my Red (obviously) City counted as a standard metro, but it was certainly pretty basic.
Somebody in my year at Oxford Poly used to claim that the Morris Minor was a better car than the Metro. I don’t buy into that rose tinted stuff – by today’s standards the Metro isn’t a great car (arguably the same can be said using the standards of the day). But what I do think about a lot is the total disappearance of whole designs, be they cars, boats or aeroplanes; good, bad or indifferent. The Metro is unlikely to be totally lost any time soon (certainly all the time Keith Waters is campaigning his very neat example), but the erosion of the historical record is definitely underway. Many other designs are on the verge of being totally lost.
I’ll concentrate on two; one an aeroplane and the other a complete marque of Formula Ford. The aeroplane is something that I wanted to build a model of a number of years ago. A competition scale model requires a number of photographs to prove its accuracy. And that’s where the problems started – I could find 4. Google Boulton Paul Bittern and 4 photographs come up. Look further and search the relevant literature and you won’t find any more, although I did manage to buy a drawing from Ebay. (In fairness I haven’t visited the BP archive). So it looks like there is an aeroplane built in the 1920’s and the total remaining evidence is 4 photographs and a drawing of dubious provenance from an online auction site. It has almost totally disappeared, as has all nearly all the associated knowledge. Many other aircraft must have proceeded it into oblivion and many will certainly follow. (A friend of mine rescued the Hawker photo archive from a skip, so the process is obvious.) I’m not sure how much it matters, but it is certainly worth thinking about. I never made the model.
When I was in my early 20’s I had a poster of the late Pete Rogers driving a Formula Ford on my bedroom wall. And the Formula Ford was a Laser, the first FF I wanted to own, though quite quickly the Quest joined that list. Ironically I didn’t ever really want a Van-Diemen. Anyway..
I’m pretty sure I’ve got some pictures of Laser’s at Brands in the 80’s. But beyond that there isn’t much sign of them. The standard reference on FF history – Anatomy and Development of the Formula Ford Race Car – has a small section on Laser.
There were at least 5 cars. The HD85, and the 4 HD87’s. But where are they? Searching the internet comes up with a few hits, one on a discussion forum over 8 years old and one from an older sprint report. But the point is that sightings beyond 2007 are somewhat rare. It wouldn’t take much for Laser to disappear from the record completely.
Its not just Laser, Formula Fords and the odd aircraft. Across the board cars, boats and aeroplanes must be disappearing from the record. The question is “is it important?” And to be 100% honest I’m not sure.. But you do have to wonder where everything goes. There were well over 2000 Van-Diemen’s built. There must have been a similar number of Reynards. Every year for many, many, years a new grid of F3 cars was built. That’s, say, 20 cars every year for over 20 years. 400 F3 cars in the UK alone. That’s a lot of cars and its safe to say that not many are evident. Obviously some have been wrecked, but what has happened to all the others? It seems the forces destroying the historical record are quite strong. Or there are lots of full garages around. Which, possibly, amounts to much the same thing.