Blinded by the Insignia on the M1 motorway

Major Waffle 00s cars
A Vauxhall Insignia was spotted in Blinded by the Light, a film set in the 1980s. This highlights the perils of watching films when you're a car enthusiast.

“Don’t look at the motorway.”

“Don’t look at the motorway.”

“Don’t look at the motorway.”

“Don’t look at the motorway.”


One minute I’m lost in a haze of 1980s nostalgia, the next minute I’m wondering how a second-generation Vauxhall Insignia had managed to use the M1 motorway as some kind of time-travelling conveyor belt.

I was watching – and enjoying – Blinded by the Light, the film in which a Luton teenager finds his voice through the music of Bruce Springsteen. It’s a good film – you should watch it.

And here endeth the world’s shortest film review. Stand aside, Mark Kermode.

As is so often the case in period films, cars are a prominent feature in Blinded by the Light. Whether it’s the family Vauxhall Viva HC (well, this is Luton) or the Bedford van (did I tell you it’s set in Luton?), the cars are as essential as the music, the Maggie Thatcher references and the Wham!, Bananarama and Madonna haircuts in setting a scene.

There’s also an Austin Allegro and a Morris Marina – those go-to classics for any self-respecting 70s or 80s films set in Britain.

But here’s the thing. As a car enthusiast, you never really manage to switch off in a movie set in the 20th century. And as much as I enjoyed Blinded by the Light, there were moments when the 80s escapism was punctured like a pogo stick through a spacehopper.

The problems began in the opening scene. We find two young lads – one with a Raleigh Chopper (it’s the 1980s, dontcha know?) – with the M1 motorway in the background to serve as a metaphor for escaping the tedium of life in a provincial town.

I can’t tell you a great deal about the scene, as I spent most of the time wondering why the motorway was filled with a stream of silver and grey German cars and not yellow and beige BL relics.

Later, Javed (the Bruce-loving teenager) is driven to a Luton college in his father’s Viva. There’s an E-reg Saab 900 outside the entrance, which would have been a brand new car in 1987. Pretty swish for a town ravaged by job cuts at the Vauxhall plant.

Saab 900 in Blinded by the Light

But that’s not the problem. The issue is why the Saab 900 had a missing petrol filler flap. For the next two minutes, that’s all I could ponder. Moment, gone. Space hopper, punctured.

Worse was to come. During a scene that shifted the film perilously close to a musical, we find Javed serenading his girlfriend Eliza with the help of a Bruce Springsteen number. I think the song was Thunder Road, but I can’t be 100 per cent certain, because I was still thinking about THAT. BLOODY. FUEL. FLAP.

You might think that a scene set at Luton market would be safe from car nerdism, but the action moves away from the stalls and into the town centre.

But that’s not before we find Rob Brydon dressed like Cliff Richard from the Wired for Sound video and with Del Boy’s street trader patter.

I could sense that the action would end up on a motorway bridge. Why wouldn’t it? The M1 had a small but significant part to play in the film. Sure enough, the stars of Thunder Road ended up dancing along a bridge over Bedfordshire’s very own thundering road.

I told myself to avoid looking at the motorway. It would spoil the moment. Kill the mood.

But there it was, racing on the streets below, a grey second-generation Vauxhall Insignia. No brilliant disguise, just a slice of Vauxhall’s present to counter the yellow Viva of its past. Bubble, burst.

It’s a shame, because the producers went to great lengths to create a faithful interpretation of Luton life in the 1980s. The shops, the music, the haircuts, the television, the furniture and fashion. But did they think the nation's car nerds would fail to notice the new millennium traffic on the M1?

M1 motorway in Blinded by the Light

In the great scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, not least because Blinded by the Light is a triumph of feel-good vibes and originality. But it highlights what the average car enthusiast has to go through when watching a film.

For us, a clear indicator during a period when ambers ruled the road can make a difference between a good film and a great film. A post-facelift car in a pre-facelift era can take you out of the zone and back to reality. A VW Beetle spotted in multiple scenes can shift your attention away from the dialogue and to the laziness of the continuity director.

It’s why it’s a joy when shows like Stranger Things and Chernobyl recognise the importance of cars and allow us to enjoy the moment like the rest of our friends who don’t appreciate the role of cars in films.

But I’ll say one thing for the folks behind Blinded by the Light: they did very well to secure footage of cars actually moving on the M1 through Bedfordshire and not stuck in a stream of nose-to-tail traffic. Give the guys and gals an Oscar.