Memories : Manchester, March 1979

Manchester March 1979

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.

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
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18 Comments

  1. Note the rather nice Ford Granada Mark 1 with the vinyl roof, must be a Ghia or GXL model, and the Volkswagen camper, which in 1979 was still a cheap used buy and hadn’t reached cult status.
    One thing that was round the corner from the Winter of Discontent that owners of the bigger cars would find a pain was the second energy crisis. OK we never experienced the huge queues for petrol that some American states suffered during the spring and early summer of 1979, but petrol would rocket from 76 pence a gallon at the start of the year to £ 1.18 by July.

  2. In the relaunch of Blankety Blank they’re still giving away the chequebook and pen – how many these days know what a chequebook is?

    Wish they’d bring back Tomorrow’s World…

    • I still know what a cheque book is! I’ve used lots since the Pandemic due to the Dairy suspending milk money cash collections and they prefer payment by Cheque – believe it or not…

  3. What’s the car behind the Princess on the right hand side? I’m thinking Vanden Plas 4litre R, but it’s really hard to tell

  4. I can remember Manchester Central being used as a car park before it’s transformation into G-MEX.

    Around 20 years ago I often visited with my late Dad to attend CD fairs that used to be held there.

    In recent years I’ve been going to the annual Comic Cons,

  5. I can remember the G-MEX was a regular appearance on TV back in the day, with the retired pro 5 a side completion being on Granstand.

  6. Notable that the cars are all off a certain size, no Minis or Fiestas here!

    On the right next to the XJS a W123 Mercedes, back in the day when Mercs were classy and rare!

    • I suppose if you had a biggish motor you saught out carparks with bigger spaces like this rather than the tight multi storey like at the Arndale.

  7. I only recently found out that Blankety Blank had a strict seating plan. Front row: a strong male actor in the middle flanked on his right by a pretty actress and on his left – in the ‘idiot seat’ – usually a dumb blonde. Back row: a comedienne in the middle, and on her right a witty but less dominant funny man, and on her left an eccentric personality such as Patrick Moore.

    And I thought Bradley Walsh did a good job in the recent Xmas reboot of the show…

  8. It’s a Morris 1800 Mk1. The Morris versions (introduced in 1966) had, rather oddly, a tail lamp that differed in detail from the original Austin.
    On the Morris the horizontal tail light cluster wraps round and ends in an “arrow” pointing towards the front of the car – as seen in that Manchester picture.
    On the original Austin version – the horizontal tail light cluster is basically the same, but the end is squared-off rather than pointed.
    As people liked to say in the ’60s & ’70s “Not many people know that” : )

    • Exactly 🙂 I don’t have aMk1 in the family, but for the sake of curiosity have a rear lamp of the Morris and Austin somewhere in my spares stash…

      Being at least 12 years old in the picture was quite an achievement back in the day. Cars do last so much longer these days – hard to believe that none of the daily drivers in my family is less then 20 years old by now.

  9. Is there any chance future versions of this feature could have a bigger – or more hi-res – version of the photo ? It would solve a lot of identification problems.

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