They say you learn something new every day. Today I had lunch with some “vintage” PR practitioners, who worked in the UK motor industry in the 1960s. In discussing the way things were back then, I learned that it was common practice to airlift cars across the Channel.
I apologise for the quality of this image, but it shows a very young Gethin Bradley (4th from right) with a number of key motoring journalists preparing for such a PR event in 1961.
Apparently this plane, operated by Silver City Airways, could accommodate several vehicles. The company began transporting passengers and their cars between the UK and Europe in 1948, with operations stepping up after investing £400,000 in the first post-war airport in the country at Lydd in 1956. The fare was £25 for a car and £4 per passenger with 137,000 cars and half a million passengers using the service between 1953 and 1957.
I cannot imagine anyone contemplating taking cars on a routine PR event by air these days. Apart from concerns over the carbon footprint, cost would be prohibitive. Instead, any PR practitioners organising a driving event to Europe would use the ferry or Eurotunnel.
Back in 1961, I understand it wasn’t feasible to use the ferry because they operated as lo-lo vessels (lift on, lift off using cranes), rather than the modern ro-ro (roll on, roll off) set-up. This meant the operation was slow and very expensive. Also, according to Wikipedia, before travellng by sea:
Automobiles had their gas tanks emptied and their batteries disconnected before being hoisted into the ship’s hold, where they were chocked and secured. This process was tedious and difficult, vehicles were subject to damage, and could not be used for routine travel.
Sometimes PR practices don’t seem to have changed much over the years and then you are reminded of logistical limitations that reveal an entirely different world.
Gethin also informed me that back in the day, of course, there were no credit cards, meaning such events needed to be funded with cash advances from the company. He recalls the bean-counters commenting whenever he needed to obtain such monies – “back again, Mr Bradley”.