Memories : London, September 1978

London 1978

Welcome to Trafalgar Square London, and what is regarded as being one of the most iconic and recognisable locations in the city. This photograph typifies all of those shots we took all over the capital, and will no doubt be joined by images of Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge. Right now, it’s busy, the traffic is flowing better than normal, and people are going about their business.

For Bulgarian dissident writer and broadcaster, Georgi Ivanov Markov, September 1978 would prove to be fatal, with the method of his death seemingly straight out of the pages of a John le Carré Cold War thriller. After defecting from the East in 1968, he ended up living in London and working as a broadcaster and journalist for the BBC World Service among others. He would use these platforms to attack his home country’s Government at every opportunity and, as his wife Annabel commented later, he was regularly, ‘smearing mud on the people in the inner circles.’

It’s the method of Georgi Markov’s assassination THAT makes international headlines. The Guardian initially reports that he died from, ‘a puncture mark which was found on Mr Markov’s thigh, but the fact that his death did not lead to a post-mortem examination immediately may mean that the police are sceptical about Mr Markov’s known fears of the Bulgarian secret agents.’ In January 1979, Scotland Yard subsequently issued a statement that said, ‘Mr Markov has died of toxaemia caused by the implantation of a metal pellet containing ricin, and that it is quite impossible that this was done by Mr Markov himself.’

Annabel Markov was in no doubt over who was responsible. She recalled her husband’s view about the umbrella, telling the BBC’s Panorama programme in April, 1979: ‘He felt a jab in his thigh. He looked around and there was a man behind him who’d apologised and dropped an umbrella. I got the impression as he told the story that the jab hadn’t been inflicted by the umbrella but that the man had dropped the umbrella as cover to hide his face.’ To this day, no one has been charged for Markov’s assassination, but the general consensus is that he was killed by the Bulgarian Secret Service, or the State Intelligence Agency (SIA).

Observer 1979
The legacy of Georgi Markov (click the image to open a new page)

So, tell us about the cars

It’s London so you can expect to see the latest and best cars on British roads – and this image doesn’t disappoint on that score. It’s interesting that this image, taken by Flickr user pszz, manages to capture the chaos and motion of Trafalgar Square. Leaving the image is an Audi 100 (C2) in GL 5E trim, with a Peugeot 604 STi chasing it down. Interestingly, there’s another Audi 100 (an Avant) behind that – interesting because they were so rare in the UK at the time.

I rather like the image of the Bedford HA van in bright red aggressively jockeying for position alongside a pair of Austin FX4 taxis, which are such a mainstay of the London cityscape. It’s followed by a Daimler DS420 limousine, no doubt occupied by some mid-level dignitary.

The bright yellow Vauxhall Cavalier Mk1 in GL spec is a colourful addition, and somewhat of a contrast to the more sober-looking BMC 1800 (ADO17) behind. Other cars to check out among the FX4s and Routemasters are an Austin Allegro Series 2, Ford Escort Mk2, Citroën CX Safari and Bedford CF van (delivering Evening Standards?).

If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below.

Keith Adams


  1. Back in those days I always thought the Peugeot 604 looked a classy, understated car. Too big for me but I liked them. But I did have a Mk1 Cavalier 1900 and at the time it was the best car I’d ever driven.

    • I’d hardly say the Daimler Limousine would be occupied by a mid-level dignitary – unless you regarded HM the Queen Mother as mid-level !!

  2. Also see the orange 240/260 estate in the middle of that traffic. The junction has changed now with traffic both ways. Is that a BT yellow Commer van at the back?

        • I have seen one UK brochure depicting an 80 CD with front quarterlights, but I can confirm that no UK RHD Audi 80s had front quarterlights fitted – and this is, of course, a UK RHD-spec car in the photo 🙂

          • Also rarely seen here, the cars which have them may originally have been destined for Italy – with opening front quarter lights. Or Audi 4000s of course 🙂 But the car on the photo was so obviously an 100, I did not look too closely on the details. The (at the time rather cool) bronze tinted glass hints at GLS or GL5E spec – a big point in the brochures at the time.

  3. That photo is a forecast of modern London, where Audis are commonplace!

    The Bentley T series is a rarity, as Bentleys in that era were a bit pointless really, seeing that they drove exactly the same as the Rollers. A wild guess, but is that a Datsun Cherry behind it?

    • Close scrutiny of the Bentley T series suggests it bears the number plate LM1 , which I feel has to relate to the Lord Mayor of London – not of course to be confused with the political morons who call themselves mayor of London

  4. The Cavalier GL could be in Signal Yellow or perhaps the later Jamaica yellow? Certainly a colour that stood out. It has to be said in the late 70s the Cavalier droop snoot front end looked modern compared to other marques

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