SO one day in the mid 1960s, waiting at traffic lights in Darlington’s High Row when a photographer just happened to be standing in the middle of the road with his camera, there was a remarkable line up of vehicles: a peculiar three wheeler, a very rare saloon, an intriguing foreigner and a bus.

“That No 3 bus is the one I used get from town to Cockerton where I lived,” says David Pickup.

The picture is from this month’s exhibition in the Centre for Local Studies, where there are loads of old cars in old streets on display, in Darlington library, and it featured here last week.


The Northern Echo: Today's front cover is an amazing picture of High Row with the three-wheeler on the left looking ready for lift-off. Is this a real production vehicle or has someone just taken a saw to the undercarriage? Our old car spotters may like to identify thePrebend Row, about 1965. Picture courtesy of the Darlington Centre for Local Studies

The three-wheeler looked as if it got going too fast, a gust of wind under its bonnet would cause it to take-off. Its identity fooled no one.

“It’s a Bond,” said Mike Crawley. “It was introduced post-war as a step up from a motor cycle, and as it only had three wheels, it could be driven by anyone who just had a motor cycle licence.”

The Northern Echo: A Bond MinicarA Bond Minicar - did you play polo with them?

Peter Daniels in Bishop Auckland said: “It is a Bond 250G Minicar Estate. The Mark G was introduced in 1961. It was made by Sharps Commercials Ltd of Preston.

“The first Bond Minicar was produced in 1949, featured a 122cc Villiers 2-stroke, air cooled motorcycle engine, had a top speed of 30 mph and no reverse gear; this was considered unnecessary as the engine and front wheel assembly would turn through 90 degrees.

“The Mk G had a Villiers 250cc engine and four gears, and as reverse gear was offered as an option although the vehicle retained that 90 degree steering lock so it could turn in its own length.


“Top speed was claimed to be just over 60 mph, but despite the new, semi-hydraulic braking system and improved suspension, I would not have felt comfortable as a passenger in one travelling at that speed!

“I believe that numbers-first registration would make this a 1963-registered vehicle.” Registered in Leeds, apparently.

The Northern Echo: Clive and Andrea Steggel, of Northwich, Cheshire, in 2019 when they drove a Bond Minicar to Lake Bled in Slovenia, for charity. They recreated a journey made 60 years earlier in a Bond by racing driver Claude Tipper

Paul Stretton added: “Between 1961 and 1966, and just over 3,000 of the Mark G Minicar Estate were made. They were designed by an aeronautical designer/engineer called Lawrie Bond, and more than 24,000 of his cars were made until Reliant (of Robin & Scimitar fame) bought the company out in 1969.”

The Northern Echo: A curious fact: in 1965, when he had finished inventing three-wheeler cars, Laurie Bond bought the Bowes Moor Hotel on the A66 which billed itself as England's highest hotel. He was often first at the scene of the many appalling accidents on theA curious fact: in 1965, when he had finished inventing three-wheeler cars, Laurie Bond bought the Bowes Moor Hotel on the A66 which billed itself as England's highest hotel. He was often first at the scene of the many appalling accidents on the trans-Pennine road, armed with his camera. He left the hotel in 1974, a few months before he died. The hotel closed in 2012 and was converted into a private house

Many people pointed out the main advantage of the three-wheeler: it had a purchase tax of 25 per cent on it whereas a four-wheeler was taxed at 55 per cent. However, in November 1962, the tax rates were equalised and the bottom fell out of the three-wheeler market.

“The next car, VYX 472, is a Ford Consul Mk 2 Highline model (so called because they brought out a “Lowline” model later, with a lower roof), registered in London in December 1958,” said Andrew Raine.

Gerald Burnett pointed out that the rear is very low and if you look closely, you can see it appears to be towing a trailer.

“These were produced from 1956 to 1962, and they were popular despite having vacuum operated windscreen wipers which meant the faster you went the quicker the wipers worked,” said Paul Stretton. “Conversely, the slower you went the slower they worked – not everything about old cars is great.”

Behind the Consul is an unusual, 100mph Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire 346, of which only 7,697 were ever built. They featured a silver sphinx, the symbol of silence, sitting on top of their grille.

“Armstrong Siddeley produced cars from 1919 to 1960, and this was their final model,” said Phil Hunt, of Barningham. “These were very up-market cars.

“The Armstrong name was from the Tyneside armaments manufacturers. In 1935 the aircraft pioneer Tommy Sopwith, who owned a sporting estate in Arkengarthdale, bought the company and a strong aircraft business continued until the company finally disappeared in 1977 into British Aerospace.”

In the centre of the picture is a car with a foreign numberplate – it appears to say C38585. Most of our old car correspondents identified it as an Opel Rekord, made in Germany by a company owned by General Motors. General Motors also owned Vauxhall in this country, and the Vauxhall Victor was very similar to the Opel Rekord.

Mike Crawley pointed out that there was an Opel dealer in Whessoe Road so it could have come from there, although the numberplate suggests it is a foreign tourist visiting the sights of Darlington.

“The one that interests me is the bus,” said Thomas W Spresser. “It is a Guy engined Roe centre entrance body.”

“The bus is a 1951 registration from Darlington,” said Andrew Raine. “It is a Guy Arab III chassis with, I think, a body by the coachbuilder Charles H Roe of Leeds.”

Stephen Auster and Mark Cooper were among the correspondents on this very important topic. Our spotters were also tasked with identifying cars on a second picture from last week, but we shall come to that in the near future.