TO MANY, the 1930s was the decade Britain fell in love with the car.

By 1932 the UK had overtaken France as Europe’s largest car producer.

By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 two million cars were on the road thanks to motors becoming more affordable for the middle classes.

And these fascinating Argus pictures of Brighton’s Thirties car hotspots from The Keep archive in Falmer show just how popular cars were becoming in the city.

The Argus: A showroom near the Royal York Buildings in 1938. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The Keep A showroom near the Royal York Buildings in 1938. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The Keep

The photo above gives a glimpse of one of the city centre’s most glamorous showrooms in 1938, standing next to the Royal York buildings.

Originally built in the 1860s, it was converted into a modern showroom in 1926 by a Mr Newman, who slapped a commercial lift on the back to get his vehicles on to the upper floor.

It sold all manner of luxuries no longer in production including Lagondas, Alvises, and Jowetts.

Though the Lace House office block now stands on the site, a trace of the old showroom remains: a black ceramic cat which has been climbing the building’s southwest corner for 70 years.

The Argus: A Rolls-Royce in Lewes Crescent, 1937A Rolls-Royce in Lewes Crescent, 1937

But the souped-up motors of the Thirties were not just for comfort - they also attracted Britain’s first speed demons.

Among the crowd parked around the souped-up Riley in the picture at the top is one J. Abbott - most likely the cigarette-toting cool customer leaning on the car.

Mr Abbott was one of 34 Brits entering the 1936 Monte Carlo Rally, an annual dash from all corners of Europe to Monaco.

The speedster’s choice of car would have seemed a smart one at the time.

Two years before, Riley drivers had finished second and third in Le Mans.

But Mr Abbott was not so successful.

Of the 72 racers who finished the race to Monte Carlo, he came 69th.

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