As the country mourns the death of the Queen, explores what motoring looked like in 1952 when she ascended the throne.

During her 70-year reign, she would have witnessed many developments within the automotive industry that have led us to where we are today. 

British production

Britain’s six largest car manufacturers in 1952 were Austin, Morris, Standard, Jaguar, Rover, and Triumph.

During that time, 52% of the world’s exported cars were UK produced and the average British car production was 37,334. 

This was because of two key factors during this time: the overseas car manufacturers were struggling to meet demand and the UK government-controlled steel production. The production of cars within this time period helped British cars become popular overseas.

But it was becoming clear there was no way the British car industry could compete with the American giants of General Motors and Ford.

The British Motor Corporation (BMC) was founded in 1952 to save the country’s automotive industry. It was made up of Austin and Morris and later on; it bought Jaguar and Triumph too.

The BMC had a big impact on the automotive industry in Britain, as it became one of the largest producers of cars in Europe by the 1960s.

Who owned a car?

In 1952, less than 30% of the distance travelled in Britain was by car. This was because car ownership only being available to those with affluence. It was very rare for a working-class British family to own a car.

The country spent the early 1950s recovering from WW2, meaning disposable income was at an all-time low. Only 1 in 20 people in the UK owned cars, but prices of new cars were coming down to become more affordable for the working class.

Popular Cars

Although cars were luxury items, many could not afford them. The popularity of cars was unaffected.

1952’s the most popular car was the Morris Minor. 70 years ago it would have cost you around £631 to buy from new, which was equivalent to 20 month’s salary for the average worker.

Now we can’t talk about cars available when the Queen came to the throne without mentioning the Land Rover, which was one of her favourites.

The Land Rover 80″ series one was revolutionary when it was released, as it could be driven on the road and off. It became popular in both the army and the farming fraternity.


The 1950s also marks when Formula one was first established, so when the Queen ascended the throne it was only into its third season.

When the races were first established Princess Elizabeth, her father King George VI, her mother Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret attended the first F1 championship at Silverstone. This is the only time that reigning British monarchs have attended motor racing.

Over the last 70 years, F1 cars have developed considerably. This does not mean the first cars that raced were slow. They could accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in about four seconds, and their estimated top speed was 290 km/h.


Throughout the Queen’s 70-year reign, she saw the development of cars both on and off the track.


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