Tuesday January 21, 2020
The year is 1977, and the people of Southampton are still amazed by the recently opened Sainsbury’s hypermarket in the Lordshill district. Some say that this is the biggest news to hit the city since the Silver Jubilee celebrations or the FA Cup Victory of the previous year.
Others say it is as impressive as Benny Hill topping the Hit Parade with Ernie back in 1971, although countless shoppers are more interested in stocking up on the own-brand caramel whip or the new apple-scented perfumed shampoo.
This priceless image is just one of the thousands held by the Sainsbury archive - https://sainsburyarchive.org.uk/archive , and it has the power to bring back the past.
Forty-two years ago, hypermarkets were still regarded as exotic in the UK and to any Sotonian used to the branch in Bitterne (as favoured by my family), the Lordshill store appeared almost trans-Atlantic in its scope.
At that time, you might still encounter Open All Hours/Two Ronnies “Four Candles” style shops in remote suburbs, so the new Sainsbury seemed genuinely exciting.
Rather incredibly, one line of vehicles in the car park solely consists of Rootes and Chrysler UK products. Nearest the camera is that “Southern Rentals” Avenger Estate with the eye-catching two-tone paint finish and the Pentastar badging of the post-1976 model.
The white saloon is a very early Hillman Avenger and to its left is the unmistakable profile of the “Arrow”, seen here in Hunter guise.
As for the Humber Sceptre towards the rear of the shot, it is even more distinctive with its “Late Period Teddy Boy” looks and many – including myself – regard it as one of the most appealing mid-size saloons of the 1960s.
Lined up by the shop windows, we encounter a Triumph Spitfire and – this being the 1970s – a Ford Cortina Mk. III that had only recently been succeeded by the Mk. IV.
Moving rightwards we encounter a Bedford HA, a light commercial that was produced until as late as 1983 and a popular choice for the city’s window cleaners and jobbing handymen.
The ADO 16 was a still-ubiquitous sight in the late 1970s as were the two older models. Today an FD-series Vauxhall Victor Estate is a rare and highly coveted classic, but then it was the sort of dependable second-hand car you would regularly encounter in The Daily Echo.
The light blue Ford Corsair has the C-pillar extractor vents of a later version but lacks the 2000E’s flamboyant vinyl roof.
Finally, we have the rear of a Ford Escort Estate and a Japanese rival in the form of a third-generation Toyota Corolla.
But for me, the car that encapsulates the image is the silver Cortina Mk. II that is departing Sainsbury’s – a type of vehicle that could still be found on thousands of driveways.
Those responsible for television programmes and films set in the 1970s often forget the sheer volume of cars from the previous decade that were still in service.
And all this makes me crave a cup of own-brand tea and read of Autocar to learn of the wonders of the Ford Granada Ghia Mk. II…
WITH THANKS TO:
The Sainsbury Archive, Museum of London Docklands: