Motoring milestones: a look back in time


Depending on when you were born, you could argue at great length that pretty much every decade in the last 50 years has seen important milestones in the motoring world.

But, looking back, the 1960s and 1970s saw some of the most defining moments in the automotive world. Here, we've delved into the history books to pick six that we think really should be remembered...


The first motorway might have been built in 1958 and the M1 in 1959, but it was the growth of the network in the early '60s that was the real milestone. Between 1960-63, the M60, M5, M6 and A1(M) were hastily installed to connect the far-flung parts of England, while Scotland joined the party with the M8 in 1967. They make our list because they made getting places easier. That is, of course, until there's a crash.

70mph speed limit

Just as Britain was experiencing newfound freedom on the nation's motorways, along came a law to spoil the party. Due to increased pressure from critics, transport minister Tom Fraser introduced a temporary limit of 70mph. When Barbara Castle became transport minister in 1967 she introduced the Road Safety Act and with it made the 70mph limit permanent, breathalysers the norm, and seat belts mandatory. But the figures speak for themselves: By 2000 there were three times the number of cars on the roads, but deaths were half that of 1965.

Creation of British Leyland

1968 saw the creation of a monster. The merger of British Motor Holdings – which included the British Motor Corporation and Jaguar/Daimler – and the Leyland Motor Corporation (incorporating Leyland Trucks and Buses, Rover, and Triumph) saw the birth of British Leyland Motor Corporation. In the same year BLMC built its one millionth car, showing just how big it had become. The idea of all of Britain's major car companies together in one state-owned melee sounded like a good one at the time, but we all know it was anything but...

Oil Crisis

Political unrest in the Middle East saw Arab oil producing states cutting supplies to the West in October 1973. The USA and parts of Europe had a total embargo on oil, while countries like the UK had supplies, but prices rose fourfold overnight. Factor in rising tensions with the miners, and Britain's economy was crippled. Never again would we see pre-crisis fuel prices, and many believe it spawned the popularity of small cars, which has been growing ever since.

Golf GTI

We had to include a car in this list of milestones and the Golf GTI really was a landmark of the 1970s worth noting. Britain was perfectly happy with the standard Golf's sensible attitude, but a dedicated group of VW engineers wasn't. They set about making a 'hot' version which eventually led to the car being introduced to market in 1976. While there had been hot hatches before it (Talbot Sunbeam Lotus for example) the GTI was the first that combined practicality and reliability in a package that blew drivers' socks off. Brits absolutely loved it.

These are the milestones we think are worth noting, but what about you? Have we forgotten any, or left out some you would have included? Let us know by posting your comments below.