It’s mid-March 1979, and the UK is bracing itself for a heavy snowfall. It’s a cold and bleak time as the after effects of the Winter of Discontent are going to live with us for a while longer. The dying embers of Jim Callaghan’s Labour Government prepares itself with what promises to be a rout in the upcoming General Election, with Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives holding on to a consistent 20% lead in the polls.
Still, it isn’t all doom and gloom as the hottest programme on TV is lighting up so many people’s Thursday evenings. Blankety Blank first aired on 18 January 1979 and is already one of the highest-rated programmes – Terry Wogan and his famous wand-like microphone lighten up the dark evenings, as do the famously cheap star prizes. Having said that, the consolation prize of a Blankety Blank chequebook and pen for the losing contestants are much more fun. Tonight’s contestants are George Baker, Lennie Bennett, Lorraine Chase, Judy Cornwell, Wendy Craig, Bill Tidy…
Thursday night is always the best night for BBC1 viewers, with the nightly Nationwide being followed up by Tomorrow’s World at 6.55pm and Top of The Pops at 7.20. It’s a winning programme lineup that would remain largely intact thoughout the 1980s and well into the ’90s. Blankety Blank would go on to be hosted by Les Dawson, Paul O’Grady, David Walliams, and in the most recent attempt at a relaunch, by Bradley Walsh. For us, Blankety Blank would always be about Terry Wogan.
So, tell us about the cars
This little lineup was to be found at the former Manchester Central Railway station. In 1979, this once magnificent Victorian building was in some state of disrepair, being used primarily as a car park for the City Centre. It had been opened in 1880, and most famously was used as the terminus for the Midland Pullman. In 1963, it was made Grade II listed, but was closed to passengers in 1969 as its use fell by the wayside.
It would find later usage as a conference centre, originally known as the G-MEX before becoming Manchester Central – and, in 2020, was converted into a Nightingale Hospital to deal with people severely affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) virus.
It’s a nice line-up of cars which reflected the mixed usage this station car park attracted. Closest to the camera is an early example of a BMC 1800 (hard to tell if it’s an Austin or Morris from here) parked alongside what looks like an almost-new Rover SD1. Other notables include a Jensen Interceptor, Jaguar XJ-S, and a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. As you’d expect for a Northern city, the mix of cars is less heavily biased towards British Leyland than you’d expect in the Midlands, with plenty of Fords and a smattering of Vauxhalls. Today, it’s a pleasure to spend time looking at the image.
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