Supplements Supplanted By Sunroofs!

Special Editions from the 1980s

1986 Nissan Sunny. favcars

Should you have been in the market to purchase a new vehicle in Berkshire just over thirty years ago, you had only to buy The Observer newspaper and locate the twenty eight page Motoring Supplement. From Section D’s headline (B and C dealing with sport and finance one guesses), matters boded well – readers being informed of the £552 million of joint Renault and Giugiaro money funnelled into project X53 – the 19.

Also included was a nicely written test report of the 1.8 litre 8-valve Passat GT (with 118bhp and sunroof as standard) and plenty of information regarding the impending arrival of the ‘F’ plate on August 1st 1988. I passed my driving test two days later and was fully charged to buy my first motor.

With surprising detail for page six, we are shown a Nissan GSX coupé; 16 valves, 125mph capability and good statistics: Nissan have (had) 420 UK dealers and in 1987 sold 36,518 Sunnys – 4,194 coupé shaped. I passed my driving test in a ‘D’ (1986) plate Sunny hatchback.

Image: The author

My main interest lies with the advertisements, the much missed (and frequently misguided) rhetoric resulting in indulgent, flowery and downright scandalous use of language to tempt you to purchase from a particular brand or dealer – today! Exclamation marks are funny little creatures, are they not? Certain areas of the printed press delight in their use to, well, exclaim something better, more worthy and most probably, sexier! For after all, we all understand that sex sells sunroofs, so why not adorn that sentence with an inverted I?

Sands of Burnham offered Citroën AXs (price not mentioned) with a minimum £500 part exchange value, PLUS! With all these extras free, it resembles a Saturday night Generation Game conveyor belt (for those under forty, ask your parents): AA Membership, petrol for the first thousand miles, pinstripes and sunroof. And with it being summer, throw in a parasol, table and chairs, a beach bag containing beach ball, two T-shirts (size not mentioned), two pairs of sunglasses along with a solitary bottle of sun tan lotion! With the AX boot now full, might madam be interested in a larger car? One does wonder if Berkshire local refuse tips had a plethora of summer gear come October…

Punctuation pedants, look away now… Image: The Author

City Ford of Slough opted for something more succinct: “Come and see the RS range!” Well, they did have both Escort and Sierra.

Not all adverts require embellishment, but why let that stop you? Take Concorde Fiat garage’s fondness for the ‘F’ word; employed as often as possible when purchasing your new Uno on an ‘F’ plate: with a deep breath, free radio cassette, free mud flaps, free number plates, free AA Membership, free overlay carpets, free coach lines, free road tax (Three months duty rolled in at £27.50 with a full year costing £100) and of course, FREE sunroof!  With 0% finance deals and a £99 deposit, that’s one concatenation to form up for! It would appear the dealer closed some time ago.

Courts Garage of Iver once sold Lancias under the tag line “Not so much used as experienced.” A Prisma 1600ie, Corfu white, low mileage being a highlight. And not an exclamation mark in sight; bravo!

For more home grown wares, Lex Mead of Maidenhead proffered yet more striped and sunroofed specials with variants of Metro and Maestro but let the side down last moment with their “come down to test drive it!

Sunroof ahoy! Metro Gala special edition. Image: hatchheaven

Remaining with Austin Rover, the Slough Motor Company had a delightful (small) black and white picture of the Fabulous Metro Mystere for only £29 per week in white. Sunroof? Optional. Whereas the Maestro Mirage came in two pounds a week cheaper with sunroof standard! Also included were those body mouldings and duo-tone paint. Were we so gullible regarding these specials? With attractive pricing and a market hell bent on providing something that will soon leak, peel off or fade, it would appear so; just in time for the G-plate, sir!

Cowies of Slough were Griffin purveyors with that teeth sucking tagline, once driven forever smitten. Offering Astra and Belmont, you do have to question their motive here: “You may well wonder what improvements we could possibly make to these two Vauxhall’s. And so did we.” Excluding the inevitable finance deals no mention is made as to any improvements. Perhaps Luton had run out of pin stripes and sunroofs?

The Author

Concluding our reverie back to my most earliest days of potential car purchasing when such main dealers were way out of my league, we have now to check out the less salubrious scales where most values fell significantly below a thousand pounds. Subjected to small squares containing no pictures and such purity in depth with (for example) 1981 Escort £450. No colour mentioned, nor mileage, lady owners, financial wriggle room or heaven forbid, sunroofs here.

Could an advert that succinct be somehow more innocent, less wieldy than today’s rampaging PCP deals and home delivery services? One didn’t enquire upon this no doubt pristine example, although my first car was a rusty red 1978 MkII Escort bought from a chap who knew a fellow who knew my dad who unfurled the £250 asking price to which I paid him back – at £25 per week. Word of mouth ads – cost nowt; almost as much as the cars value…

And then to those equally obscure ads for vehicle collectors in the scrap form, as opposed to expanding one’s portfolio. Containing just a contact number, “We’ll pay cash for any car, MOT or fail” these clandestine operations (probably still in operation unlike some of the big dealers) can be detected, shifting crabwise in the shadows. Why, it’s a veritable scene worthy of a TV police drama; car chassis and rusted parts strewn over a sprawling open field site, cigarette smoke clouding judgments, masking identities and there, by the inevitable Portakabin, a lone, moustached figure enquiring if they have an Uno sunroof for his F-plate model. His is leaking…

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

14 thoughts on “Supplements Supplanted By Sunroofs!”

  1. Good morning, Andrew. Those were the days. I remember the adds and all the options thrown in, together with the striping and special edition badge. I think Citroën had a different exclusive of the BX every other week, or so it seemed.

  2. Good morning Andrew and thanks for bringing back a flood of memories from when I first arrived in London. I recall that the Fiat Uno and Vauxhall Nova were two cars that were frequently subjected to the indignities of dealer special editions. An acquaintance of mine had a black Uno ‘Spur’ special edition with the obligatory glass sunroof and pinstripe which ended in a ‘Spur’ logo, the latter being the name of the dealership that supplied the car. Neither ‘enhancement’ improved the car in any meaningful way. The sunroof generated intolerable wind noise when open and leaked when closed!

    These dealer special editions seem to have died out in more recent times. I wonder if manufacturers frowned upon them as ‘cheapening’ the image of the brand (which they did). In similar vein, Nobody, apart from some dedicated customisers, accessorizes their cars anymore. DTW covered the demise of the car accessory store back in 2020.


  3. Special editions still exist though without the vinyl stickers and dealer-fit ashtray extension. As with everything, vertical integration is the key, with dealer indentured to manufacturers as opposed to being middle-people with an interest in both parties. As with all things, there´s bad and good in it. I suppose one can expect a more professional style and also a more impersonal one. The Prisma reference brings to mind the slogan “You just can´t pass Ambrose Glass”, a Lancia dealer on the posher foothills of the Dublin mountains. And really, that is precisely where a Lancia would most feel at home in Ireland: posh mountains, as close to the Alpine socio-topological environment as one might get in Ireland.

    1. Shady dealings in the motor trade? I can scarcely believe it. Thank goodness it’s an isolated case – car dealers would be in danger of losing their impeccable reputation, otherwise.

  4. Anyone fancy an FSO, courtesy of Swithland Motors and Samantha Fox (at 1:36)? You were guaranteed a £1,400 trade-in and a sunroof.

  5. I’ve always been a sucker for a sunroof. My very first car had a webasto vinyl sunroof, remember those, and I was hooked. I had an aftermarket pop up sunroof fitted to my Dolomite in the 80’s. My first new car was an Uno in ‘86 but I couldn’t stretch the extra cash for the sunroof 😥, next 2 cars were Metro’s with sunroofs 🤣. A lot of my cars following have had sunroofs, ticking the option over other less important to me options. Looking at second hand cars, a sunroof is high up on the must have list. 👍🏻

    1. Me too. I´ve owned seven cars, and five of them had sunroofs (Primera, Prelude, Volvo 850, BMW 328i and BMW 530i). The ones that broke down? the BMWs, of course…
      When I buy an used car it´s one of my favourite extras; but sunroofs aren´t popular in Spain and they are hard to find.

    2. Sunroofs are less satisfying for the driver and front seat passenger when the opening is entirely behind one’s head due to the length, angle, and curvature of contemporary A-pillars. And who is actually enjoying a full glass roof that is heavily tinted? I think the idea to extend the windscreen into the roof may have merit (Tesla Model X, Lucid Air), but again, it must be heavily tinted for comfort and safety.

      Why can’t the level of tint be controlled to the occupants’ desires? Proprietors of this technology seem to be selling a film that is applied to the surface of the glass. I guess this is why OEMs don’t offer it, even in the most expensive cars.

    3. Hello gooddog, I recall Opel had an extended windscreen that continued, uninterrupted, in to the roof, but it didn’t catch on. It was inconvenient if one had to have a new ‘screen.

      Variable tint technology does exist.

    4. I never had a car with sunroof. I can’t stand the shut lines on the roof, or the turbulence when the roof is open. I like convertibles, though.

    5. I’ve never really been convinced by sunroofs, but the factory item in my W201 190E was a lovely piece of engineering and worked faultlessly, without a great deal of wind noise when open. I would never have thought to specify it, but the car was a cancelled order so I took it as it was. I think the almost universal fitment of air-conditioning has largely killed off demand for sunroofs.

  6. Hello Andrew
    Thank you for taking us back to what seems like a more simple time for us car buyers. I passed my test in a Sunny too as far as I can recall!
    I admit to buying a brand new Ford Fiesta- probably a Mk 1 – from a local Main Dealer that is sadly now defunct. The car had an 11oo cc engine, was white and had black and grey vinyl ” go faster” stripes and a black rear spoiler. The deal maker was a large discount but no sunroof! I think it ended it’s days having passed from my wife to our son and then to our daughter before rust finally killed it.
    I have had sunroofs in other cars, both Company and purchased privately, but suffered with lack of headroom with my long back. Nowadays air conditioning does the job for me.

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