From first motors, to wedding transport or a day out in a cherished Grandparent's car, we all have fond memories that involve a vehicle or two.

At Swansway Group, we love to think that each car that passes through our dealerships goes on to make a difference to someone's life.

Cars started to appear in Britain from the late 19th Century but it wasn’t until the 1930s that we really sent the horse and carriage out to pasture as motors took over the roads. Such were the numbers of vehicles that the Highway Code was first introduced in 1931.

So, this is where our story begins. Read on to see the automotive pictures that capture a decade of history in one photo, and hopefully conjure up some warm, fuzzy feelings that remind you of friends, relatives and events through the years.



California, 1930: Car travel revolutionised lives, not just in Britain but worldwide. Families were able to begin to move away from their reliance on public transport for the first time, allowing them to travel further afield for holidays, days out and even for work. The delight on the faces of these happy day trippers says it all!

Following the depression at the beginning of the decade, employment began to improve thanks to the major car, aircraft and electronics industries that sprung up in the Midlands and South of England. Prices were beginning to fall and, following WWI, fashions were more casual, prompting an entirely new, relaxed lifestyle.

Cinema was fast becoming the pastime of choice as men and women alike embraced the glamour of the Hollywood age. Gone with the Wind has a lot to answer for!



​London, 1945: A joyful scene here but this decade started in a very different mood. War was in full swing, with many British cities living under the threat of nightly bombing raids. Despite rationing, by 1943, virtually every household item was in short supply. Yet people pulled together like never before, going about their daily duties regardless of the fear for their own lives and those of their relatives fighting abroad.

No wonder then, at the degree of celebration on VE day, slap bang in the middle of the decade. Everyone, regardless of race, religion or class partied away their worries. Even a disguised, young Princess Elizabeth joined the crowds to celebrate the Allied Victory.

Churchill paid tribute to the long-suffering population, saying: “This is your victory!” Everyone rightly took this as a cue to revel today and rebuild tomorrow.



Brisbane, 1954: Australia welcomed the chance to celebrate a visit from the new head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II - a perfect excuse for a bit of fun following wartime austerity. Prosperity was increasing Down Under, thanks to the steady growth in industry that had occurred since the end of WWII, bolstered by a rush of immigrants encouraged by the UK government.

Hats continued to be the order of the day for every fashionista with women beginning to sport full skirts now that fabric rationing was over. Following the war efforts, women began to turn their attention back to the home with men very definitely being the main breadwinner.

Billed as the Golden Age of Travel, it wasn’t only the Queen who enjoyed aeroplane trips to far reaches in the 1950s. Ordinary people got the taste for international travel too, introducing a more eclectic taste to British culture.​



Wellington, 1964: Such was the popularity of The Beatles that journalists were willing to risk life and limb by hanging out of a moving car to get a shot of the megastars! The ‘swinging 60s’ was an era of rebellion where individuals took their lead from musical heroes who were beginning to buck the trend by using music to communicate beliefs and political messages.

This independence was echoed in fashions of the time, for example the mini skirt, created to liberate women from the more formal garments of earlier years. Later in the decade, the hippy movement brought with it psychedelic prints and loose, laid back clothing - and that was just the men!

Access to these trends was of course allowed by the proliferation of television and pocket radios which also enabled wider communication of contentious issues throughout the globe, such as the Vietnam War. ​



Netherlands, 1970: After the feel-good factor of the previous years, the 1970s kicked off to an optimistic start. New technology in the home (such as microwaves) allowed for more time away from household chores, especially for women who were now heading out to work in their droves. Disco, punk and glam rock trends rose out of this spare time, some gaining more attention than others.

Undistracted by hair, flares and make up, the glamour of Formula One racing continued to enthral all motorheads, particularly with British interest in the form of Stewart and Hunt who butted up against Lauda throughout the decade. Thanks to aerodynamic improvements in the cars, Stewart achieved triple success that wasn’t repeated by a home-grown champ until Lewis Hamilton’s win in 2015!​



Tall, charming and prolific, with a fabulously ‘80s hair-do and moustache, Tom Selleck became the TV Star of the decade as the beloved Thomas Magnum, P.I. in the US crime drama of the same name. Magnum P.I. alongside soap operas Dallas and Dynasty made a huge splash across the pond in Britain, setting in motion a process of the merging of British and American identities into the one we know today.

A few other notes from the 80s: Breakfast TV launched in 1983 as British society inched towards our now familiar 24-hour lifestyle. Increased media coverage at least allowed us to look further than our own doorstep and projects such as Band Aid and Live Aid gave a foreshadowing of the global world economy that was on its way. The explosion of MTV in 1981 saw the music industry facelifted forever, as music videos became an ever-present alongside the decade’s biggest hits!



With the media taking a firm grip of the nation in the 80s, it was technology’s turn to make its impact in the 90s. Gaming began to move out of the arcades in the form of handheld consoles such as Gameboy, and at home with Playstation and Nintendo 64. Mobile phones were no longer huge or brick-like, becoming smaller and!

If Madonna and Michael Jackson ruled the airwaves in the previous decade, home-grown talent took over in the 1990s. Enter Britpop! The likes of Blur, Oasis and Pulp brought social commentary to the common people, as did alternative artists such as Emin and Hirst. Lines between classes began to fade - anyone could be a Millionaire and indeed all were given the chance to do so in the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? game show which first appeared in 1998.



As the millennium turned a new corner, so did technology. It wasn’t just our streets that were up for scrutiny in the ‘noughties’. Reality TV shows proved the nation’s taste for fly-on-the-wall viewing while the ever-increasing use of social media meant that we could share the daily routine of anyone we’ve ever by post by post, leading to the uncomfortable realisation that we are never alone! Friends and businesses continue to be won and lost by a single post or tweet.

This invasion of privacy had its upside however, as it became part of every nation’s toolkit in their fight against terrorism, stepped up following the 9/11 attacks. Amongst this, Brits had other things to shout about - bank bailouts and recession - which also resulted in positive actions as the drive for transparency, sustainability and greener living were put in place to tackle two birds with one stone: cost efficiency and global warming.

More than halfway through this decade of driverless cars and Brexit. What will the remaining years bring? Watch this space!   Have any of these eras struck a chord with you? At Swansway Group, we’d love to hear your stories.

We’re lucky to be involved in helping to make many happy automotive memories every day. Remember to come and visit us at one of Swansway Group’s dealerships whenever you are looking to replace, repair or service your vehicle. We’ll have a cuppa and reminisce together.

Start your search here

  • Find a car Find a car Book a service



Share this article

You May Also Like...