Cars - and choice - got bigger over the years

Joseph Bulmer

Paul Jolly, classic car specialist and valuer:

The second week of September brings a noticeable absence of large 4x4 holiday traffic on our roads.

We can be pleased and sad in equal measure. Pleased for congestion reasons but sad for the loss of energy and revenue the visitors bring.

Holidaymakers 50 years ago came in the Austin/Morris 1100 and Ford Cortina. These could easily accommodate a family of five.

The five-door hatchback emerged with the Renault 16 and Austin Maxi among them although for extra space, most opted for estate car variants. Roof racks were commonplace.

The Morris 1100 was just 12ft 2ins and the Maxi a foot longer. Even the capacious Austin 1800 which easily seated six, was well under 14ft.

The Mini had four seats and was just 10ft.

However, today a common sight is the Audi Q7 which is just vast - 16ft 5in from nose to tail - yet only seats five.

That is Rolls Royce Silver Shadow dimensions!

It is also 18ins wider than the Morris 1100 before taking into account its door mirrors!

Most manufacturers now offer a large 4x4. Even Porsche, Bentley and Jaguar access this lucrative market.

Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs) originated with the Renault Espace in the 1980s and are very useful load carriers for large families as are the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) with their high ground clearance affording better visibility, ease of entry and possibly four-wheel drive, albeit with off-road limitations.

This trend for significantly bigger cars started in 1970 with the Range Rover.

Drivers of such machines, if not familiar to our narrow lanes, become paralysed with fear once their parking sensors and proximity detectors go berserk threatening imminent and impending doom because of a stray bramble!

Just switch them off and rely on your own judgement is my advice.

Undoubtedly these leviathans are much safer in the event of an accident and are far better equipped, more comfortable and ultimately more capable than the motor car of the 1970s.

Cars got bigger over the years but actually it is choice that got bigger.

More of us just choose to and can afford to go bigger.