|Gay and colourful. Oh yes.|
But Britain always has been a country divided by class, and decades ago in the 50s and 60s this demarcation between working class motorcyclists and middle class - or aspiring middle class - car owners was clearly visible in the advertising of the era.
Whilst car buyers were seduced with posters showing luxury travel, with even an Austin Mini owner being promised regal levels of social status, motorcycle buyers were fobbed off with cheapo black and white adverts blathering on about craftsmanship and tradition.
The harsh truth was that whilst BSA-Triumph, AMC, Norton, Velocette and others were already on a downhill trajectory in the early 60s BMC's Mini was a glimpse of the future. Cars were modern, fun and sexy. Motorcycles reminded people of the war, rationing, make do and mend.
60s cars like the Ford Anglia or Cortina, or the first Vauxhall Viva also offered the working class man a leg up into the middle class lifestyle. You might not suddenly fit in down at the golf club in a Cortina, but you had definitely left the world of pie `n' peas at the local pub behind if you could afford a new car. You had, like Bob Ferris in The Likely Lads sitcom, set your sights on surburbia - upward social mobility.
|King for a day in a Mini.|
Whilst the car manufacturers brochures and adverts were full of chubby-cheeked, well fed types, sporting the latest fashions and pictured outside new houses, or golf clubs, the sad, drab people sat on motorcycles wore cloth caps, massive, medieval style gauntlets or waxed Belstaffs.
That was all the better to cope with the vile weather they must endure because they were too poor to afford a car. The advertising message was clear; motorcycles are for low class blokes, men who get coated in grease and sweat at work.
However, managerial types and professional men should buy a nice, sensible motor car, wear a suit and tie and always remember to marry a woman who can bake a decent cake and arrange flowers correctly in a vase.
Bikes Are Fun - Sell The Fun, Not the Misery
Although the US importers of Norton, Triumph and to a lesser extent BSA, all tried `sexing up' the marques in the late 60s with a parade of bathing beauties draped over the bikes, the advertising back in Blighty remained stubbornly rooted in its working class ghetto.
Right up until the final sorry collapse of NVT (Norton Villiers Triumph) in the mid 1970s, the products were sold on their traditional engineering points, alleged handling advantage over Japanese rivals, or ever declining racetrack success.
In the end, reminding their customers that somehow, they weren't quite up to the mark socially, or economically, helped send the British bike makers out of business. True, Japanese machines were much more reliable and often faster, but Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki all sold their bikes as something classless, entry tickets to a life of personal freedom and above all else, FUN.