IN a thrilling high-tech future, a happy queue of passengers prepares to board an enormous hovercraft at either Southampton or the Isle of Wight.

They’ve just stepped, refreshed, from an ultra-modern shuttle bus, and watch as a small fleet of cars and vans departs the vessel’s cavernous vehicle deck.

Perhaps the hovercraft operator found space in their brochures to mention that every nut, bolt and panel of the machine had been made in South Marston.

Welcome to 1967, as envisaged in an Adver article three years earlier, complete with an artist’s impression created on a drawing board with a pencil rather than on a computer with some software.

Sadly, the craft would not make the leap from that drawing board into reality.

An Adver story in March of 1964 began: “A new hovercraft - the VA-4.

“Vickers-Armstrongs’ concept of the craft to operate the proposed service between Southampton and the Isle of Wight - has reached the advanced design project stage at the engineering works at South Marston.

“It will be 130ft long with a 66ft beam, and it will weight 130 tons with a payload of 49 tons. The VA-4 will have a capacity as a car ferry of 23 vehicles and 180 passengers, and converted into a purely passenger craft would carry 500 people.

“It is to be equipped with side-loading hatches, giving a broad loading area for vehicles, and will have a cruising speed of 67 knots.

“On the routes between Southampton and the Isle of Wight it should average 50 knots. It is planned to make the crossing of the Solent in less than eight minutes.”

The VA-4 was to come with two engines as standard, but purchasers would have the option of a third power plant for routes with heavy seas.

At the time, hovercraft were believed by many to be the versatile public transport of the future.

Vickers-Armstrongs, as already recalled in Rewind, were at the forefront of the technology, and scored a world first for Swindon when its VA-3 spearheaded the first paying passenger hovercraft service.

It was across the Dee Estuary between Hoylake on the Wirral and Rhyl in North Wales, and ran during the latter part of 1963 until the machine was damaged by foul weather.

Later in the decade, rising fuel prices helped to put paid to the notion of mass hovercraft travel.

Back in 1964, we had confidently asserted that two VA-4s might be in service by 1967, and that fares would be the same as those on existing car ferries.