This is a short post for the early morning. Another longer one will be along shortly.
The image is the front cover of Car magazine from June 1978. I often wonder about that time, or more precisely, 1979. Prompting this is the image of the Senator and the assumptions built into Car’s headline. I’d really like to go back to hang about 1978 and 1979 and see if really was the threshold time it seems now to be.
Of course, at the time it probably looked like the last ten years were being repeated with minor variations. That it was a turning point only seemed really clear to me in 2008.
It’s a funny period, 1979/1979 – the short 1970s were fading away. The 80s didn’t start until 1983. Flared trousers and loud shirts had gone to be replaced by some of the oddest fabrics fashion ever threw up (I could not find examples, alas). Some of the 1970s hung about, watered down and tired.
Trousers were still pretty flarey and the long haircuts were still in use. I have a children´s book by Shirley Hughes, written in 1978 (I think) and all the dads and mums in the book still sports high-street 70s style and have long hair (including the dads). The 1960s are still there, in 1978.
That somehow brings me to the Opel Senator on the front cover of Car forty years ago. Is the riveted-on chrome trim on the front of the car not a hold-over from the cheery times before the oil crises? If we look inside the car the upholstery is in dark, rich blue and mustard and bordeaux – colourways that echoed the startling richness of the 1960s still.
Car claimed the Senator would scare Rover. Rover, note. Not Audi. At that time Rover had one car: the SD1 in its various guises. I have a road-test somewhere where the two are matched. I can’t remember the victor. In any case, Opel survived the longest. The Rover turned out to be a bigger failure than the Senator which sold in decent numbers for another decade and a half in various forms while Rover decided to churn out Hondas with grilles and walnut trim in unlikely places.
If Thatcher hadn’t won the 1979 general election and if Ronald Reagan hadn’t won in 1980 then maybe Opel would have clung on to the top tier of cars. The way I understand it, the European mass-market car makers benefitted enormously from a strong welfare state and strong unions (the UK is different, I know). Thatcher’s revolution pulled the rug from under the feet of the affluent working class whose cars were the Granada and Senator as much as the Cortina and Ascona.
Where does Audi fit into this narrative?