It’s 15 October 1987, and we’re in the early months of the third term of Margaret Thatcher’s Tory premiership. Prosperity is returning to the UK after a stinging period of uncertainty and unemployment and, as so many tired TV list shows like to remind us, this is the heart of the yuppie/red Porsche/big shoulder pads/brick-sized mobile phone era. One thing that not so many of them dwell on is the UK’s growing North-South divide – and, on this day, it’s wider than ever.
The North-South divide wasn’t an economic one, nor was it a social one. Mother nature was dealing out one of her curved balls, sending in a storm to batter Kent and the South East of England, taking 18 lives in the process. For the lady loading up her Rover 216 Vitesse at Sainsbury’s with a trolley full of shopping, the events down south may as well have been a million miles away.
Most people who were around during the Great Storm of 1987 will remember it for being the one that BBC Weatherman Michael Fish managed to mis-forecast in that afternoon’s bulletin. For many, it was referred to as a hurricane in the early days, but after fevered debate, it wasn’t categorised as one as it never originated in the tropics. Today, such weather events seem almost commonplace – maybe a sign of ongoing climate change.
So, tell us about the cars
The mix of cars at the Oldham branch of Sainsbury’s shows that us Northerners were a sensible bunch in the 1980s. What you don’t see much of is prestige metal – although that could well be down to the fact of this being a Thursday afternoon. The Rover SD3, of course, was quite aspirational at the time after having been successfully facelifted – ending up on the same shopping lists as the Ford Orion 1.6i Ghia and even the BMW 316. Maybe things would be different on a Saturday morning when all the Manchester commuters were having the weekend off and topping up their groceries.
On the same row as the SD3 is what looks like a post-1984 Austin Metro Vanden Plas on aftermarket wheeltrims (maybe missing its headrest pads) or maybe an HLS. In the row ahead, we have (from left to right), a post-1980 Datsun Violet, Mini Clubman in Russet Brown, BMW 7 Series, Yugo 45, Renault 5 and Austin Metro five-door. In the row behind that, a Ford Fiesta Ghia, Peugeot 309, Ford Fiesta, Austin Metro City X, Toyota Carina and Lada 1300 with vinyl roof. There’s also a Datsun/Nissan Laurel on show further back – what a thing of sheer, brutal ugliness that would have been to behold! Simpler times indeed…
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