Chad Bryan, Gleaner Writer
The economic boom of the post-World War 2 (1939-1945) era, which lasted from 1945 upon till the early 1970s, represented a significant change in the automobile industry for western countries as new and better technology led to more innovative and improved vehicles. Yet it was the 1960s that brought about the automotive game and market changers to Jamaica.
Although the first automobile was brought to Jamaica independently in 1903, English racehorse breeder, John Leyden, the country benefitted from trading partners England and the United States, following the Second World War, to supply it with vehicles that became popular within the country.
Well-known automobile entrepreneur and past president of the Jamaica Classic Car Club (JCCC), Andre Hylton, explained that, "after World War 2, Jamaica traded heavily with England and America, and so much of the American and British cars were brought in; cars we believed in". Richard Simpson, also a past president of the JCCC, seemed to echo Hylton's sentiment when he stated, "we were a British colony at the time, so naturally we would have adopted these English vehicles".
The shift to Japanese cars came afterwards, in the 1970s, when the demand for more economic cars rose. This was also in the period of the oil crisis, which effectively put an end to the muscle car, huge engine displacement era in the USA, when marquee makes Camaro (Chevrolet) and Mustang (Ford) were among the top cubic inches duellers.
"There had been a general restriction on Japanese cars and the Manley Government lifted the restriction on those cars so that United Motors, now Toyota Jamaica, could import those vehicles. A need for more economic cars was in demand and the Oldsmobile was a gas guzzler," said Hylton.
During the 1960s, family vehicles that became popular in Jamaica included the Morris Oxford, Austin Cambridge, Singer, Vogue, Hillman Hunter, Ford Cortina, Zephyr, Corsair and Escort. The Morris Oxford and the Austin Cambridge (renowned in Jamaica for their use as Yellow and Checker Cabs) as well as a few other 1960 cars, some not popular in Jamaica at the time, adopted the same basic car design. This design became the best-selling medium size saloon car design outside of the Volkswagen beetle. These cars were rectangular in shape and some had fin-like protrusions at the rear.
Running counter to the fin-like styling and the defined rectangular shape family cars, popular 1960s sports car such as the Austin Healey, MGB, Jaguar E-Type and the Triumph TR3 had a narrower and slender body, unique to sports cars of the age.
Though no Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV) existed or vehicle that hardly fit the classification, the Ford Cortina Station wagon, the Plymouth Woody Wagon and the Land Rover Jeep were a few of the vehicles which offered motorists extra space or four-wheel drive options.
the 1980s the Russian-made Lada was popular in Jamaica, at a time when
there were restrictions on car imports into the country. Then came the
1990s with the relaxation of those restrictions and the Japanese influx
began in earnest and continues to this