Memories : Stanningley, Leeds, 1985

A sight to warm your heart

Memories - Stanningly - Leeds - 1985

It’s March 1985 and we’re standing kerbside in Stanningley, near Leeds. We find ourselves looking at one of those small dealerships that seemed to be part of every community back then, despite many manufacturers’ (including British Leyland back in Filmer Paradise’s era) desire to close them down in favour of larger, out of town gin palaces. Today, that battle has largely been won but, back in 1985, dealers such as Yorkshire Co-Op Society-owned West Yorkshire Motor Group were still very much the norm.

It’s a cool spring day, and for anyone looking to purchase a new or approved-used car from the dealership, it would be a good time to do it. There’s plenty of new metal on offer, following the launch of the Austin Montego and Rover 213/216 the previous year – and a bitter price war is already in progress, with Ford and Vauxhall in particular heavily discounting their cars in order to maintain hard-won market share. Austin Rover’s dealers don’t have the same margins as their rivals, but that’s not going to stop punters going for a strong deal if they can get one.

As can be seen from the image below, it’s a larger dealership than you might think. There are cars on the roof as well as a reasonably spacious showroom. Wondering how enticing shopping for a Metro on that exposed roof in November might appeal?

(Picture: Josh Briody, thanks to Chris Cowin)

Heading in, either listening to Radio 4 hissing and popping on Long Wave, Radio 2 crackling away on Medium Wave, potential buyers will have been reeling from the news that the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike was finally over. The strike had started in Yorkshire a year before, with unofficial action taking place at the Cadeby,  Silverwood,  Kiveton Park, Manvers and Yorkshire Main pits before the rest joined on 5 March 1984 following a ballot voting for industrial action . In the end, and after a battle royal between Margaret Thatcher and Arthur Scargill, more than 142,000 miners were involved, and the outcome would leave a scar across the county that would take decades to heal.

For those tuned into Radio Aire or Radio 1, Philip Bailey and Phil Collins’ Easy Lover is all over the airwaves, eventually taking the number one spot for three straight weeks. Other Top Ten music on heavy rotation were That Ole Devil Called Love by Alison Moyet, Every Time You Go Away by Paul Young (a future American number one) and my favourites, Material Girl, by Madonna and Kiss Me by Stephen ‘Tin Tin’ Duffy…

The hottest ticket on TV is EastEnders which debuted the previous month on BBC1, and had already become its most-watched programme, with the shenanigans of Den and Angie Watts and Pauline and Arthur Fowler helping it trounce Coronation Street in the ratings war.

EastEnders cast 1985

But what about the cars?

What a lovely sight to behold, with it being a case of where to begin. From the left, we have a base-spec Austin Metro languishing around the side of the building. An Austin Maestro – possibly a 1.3L judging by its single door mirror (which lasted until 1997) – isn’t priced, so it has either been sold or is a customer’s car. Alongside it is an Austin Allegro Series 3 1.3L, which managed to survive until 1994 according to the DVLA. This one’s not priced up either – has it been traded for the nearly-new Maestro?

Next up is an interloper – an example of the delightful Audi 80 CD in short-lived fuel-injected 5E form – graces the forecourt. Again, it’s not priced up, which leads me to think it’s either a browser in for a look at the new Rover 216 Vitesse, MG Montego or more likely a Rover SD1. Either that or it’s already been traded in. Wonder what it was chopped-in for, and whether the owner ended up being happy with their choice.

Other lovelies to be spotted in the car park include an Austin Montego (below) behind the Audi, a Mini City alongside it a pair of Rover 200s – I think a 213S and 216SE – with the last of the grouping topped off by an Austin Montego Estate. Today, the building is a Tesco Express, but it did at least spend much of the the 1990s serving time as a used car dealership.

So, was this peak Austin Rover?

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. Great picture from a past era – hard to think it’s 37 years ago! I think the 1.6 versions of the Rover SD3 200 series were actually launched in March ’85. A dealership of this size would be considered normal in those days.

    My former local ARG dealer closed in 2001 and is now demolished & forms part of the Bus / Metro light rail Interchange station.

  2. When seeing this appear in my emails, I almost thought it might have been Isle’s of Stanningley, Commercial Vehicle and Coaches. Leyland and Albion among others.
    Affiliated with Reliance Commercials of Brighouse.

  3. Although I can’t see anything in this photo, this type – and size – of dealership often also sold petrol. These days it’s almost impossible to get fuel anywhere other than supermarkets.

    • Still a few stand lone petrol stations near me, but usually at higher prices than the supermarkets.

    • I live not far away, and seem to remember filling up with petrol here. It had an unusual upper car park accessed by a slope up the side and round the back.

  4. Great story and times when we still thought BL will be around for ever!

    This is one for all you aficionados. Looking for pictures and information relating to Morris Minor and Travellers in the final years of their production at Adderley Park. The production records were apparently ‘destroyed’.

    I would have thought BL would have had to keep production records for warranty and accountancy purposes alone, despite the pant closing, so what has really happened to them, and can build records be re-discovered? Did anyone here work there who might know something about the LCV and Travellers final years?

  5. I wonder if the Allegro was painted in that distinct shade of brown that people associate with the car. For some reason, I can only ever remember late model Allegros being brown, navy blue or white, unless you bought the metallic silver Equipe with its go faster stripes.

    • My dad had a beige Allegro 3 for a short while. I remember them been brown or beige.

      • The Allegro 3 was never known for its bright colours, unlike the original, which could be bought in a very glam rock shade of purple.

    • My Aunt & Uncle had a vermillion Allegro for years, I think it was an early Mk3.

      One of the better colours used on later Allegros was a metallic blue. I think many other BL cars received this paint.

      Earlier on there were some awkward paint colours like the very mid 1970s limeflower. Fiat had a similar shade at the time.

  6. A neighbour in my parent’s street had an Allegro Estate in a light cream colour (similar to Ford’s Sahara beige). It replaced a metallic green Viva SL

  7. My aunts two were in butter bean beige (our name for it) and bright blue. A bloke near us as a kid had a series 3 in red, with a Vinyl roof and gold pinstripes, and looked good.

  8. Sorry but this was not a small family owned dealership chain. It was part of the Yorkshire Co-Op society.

    • That’s interesting, In the North East, the CO-OP also owned a few car dealerships such as Priory Motors (BMW), Northumbria Motors (Renault) etc. All change these days…

      • The Co Op was an enormous empire at one time. They still have their own branded food and dairy products, but they had factories that produced things as diverse as shoe polish and radios. Moving into car sales was probably another profitable niche for the Co Op, particularly selling BMWs.

  9. Here in West Yorkshire the Co-op had everything from car dealerships and petrol stations to supermarkets and department stores

  10. The CO-OP was not really one organisation but several local all joined by a common cause. It was in the 70s, 80s and 90s that much of the co-op became the organisation we know to day under United and CRS joining forces. There are still regional CO-OPS, like Star in Chelmsford who still have two department stores in Essex. The CO-OP ran one business that some people didn’t know was them, the footwear retailer Shoefayre that was sold on to Shoezone.

  11. Adding another image to this page has really added depth to this story. You get a better sense of scale of this dealership, and I can almost smell the synthetic car tiles, freshly printed car brochures and rubbery scent from new tyres, Heaven. I also love the fact there are Metros for sale on the roof. Wonderful! Do dip in again to see what I mean 🙂

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