I’m going to let you into a little secret: I’m not a huge fan of classic car shows. Seeing old cars parked in a field doesn’t really do it for me. A selection of freshly-polished motors in the sterile environment of an exhibition hall doesn’t float my boat.
However, show me a period photo of a petrol station and my heart skips a beat. Which is why the Sainsbury Archive has won the internet. Quite frankly, it’s the best thing to happen to the World Wide Web since Weebl and Bob.
I’m not sure if petrol station voyeurism is a thing, but you can put me down as a sufferer. There’s no need to send help.
Two weeks ago, the Sainsbury Archive uploaded 5,000 images of supermarket car parks. Car Twitter went into a tailspin. It was like stepping back in time to a world that seemed a little more primrose, magnolia and beige. If productivity went down on 14 January 2020, you can blame the Sainsbury Archive.
Less than a week later, the archivists followed it up with images of petrol stations. That was enough to tip me over the edge. The opportunity to see old French cars being filled with four-star is like nectar for the soul. You can almost taste the rich aroma of leaded petrol.
Witness the guy filling his brand new Renault 25 with unleaded. He had no idea that, 30 years later, he’d be making a star appearance on a niche motoring blog. To man in the brown slacks, we salute you.
Check out the Matra Rancho in Stevenage back in 1986. Notice how otherworldly it looked back then – alone in a sea of saloons and hatchbacks.
Please admire the majesty of the petrol station in Norwich with not one, but two Citroën GS models for your viewing pleasure. Pay your respects to the chap filling his Peugeot 309 as he casually perches on the boot like a ‘man at C&A’.
Celebrate the absolute class of the main image above, which is good enough to grace the album cover of an 80s synth-pop group.
Thanks to Liane MacIver, assistant archivist at the Museum of London, PetrolBlog has been given permission to use a handful of images on the site. They’re a brilliant snapshot into everyday life, filled with authenticity and a strange feeling of wistful innocence.
It’s like the difference between seeing animals in the wild or behind fences at the zoo. It’s also why I’ll be going out of my way to buy my Hobnobs from Sainsbury’s for the foreseeable future. Enjoy the photos and be sure to look at the countless others on the Sainsbury Archive website.