A delve into summer temperatures in 1983 reveals a shock statistic. 

by Simon Hacker 

On July 21, the lowest temperature ever was recorded, for anywhere in the globe. Just imagine it for a second: minus 89.2 degrees Celsius (or -128.6 F if you insist on such things).

Okay, if we’re being picky it should be pointed out that this nippy nadir was recorded at the Vostok station, which is not your local Eastern European car wash and valet centre but, in fact, a research lab down in Antarctica. Readings began there in 1958 and nothing since 1983 has matched this all-time-low. 

Speaking of all-time lows, the must-see movie at a big screen near you was Octopussy, starring a reluctant Roger Moore (above) and featuring the vocal efforts of Rita Coolidge, singing “All Time High”, which – don’t you just love it when a random link dovetails so nicely? – went down in Bondology as one of the all-time lows for 007 themes. 

If you were going to spend a summer night in a darkened room, incidentally, the most likely reason you’d be there would be to see the film that had collected all the precious metal available for the season: Gandhi.  

And if you preferred to stay in, you may well have chanced upon a short-run police drama being broadcast by ITV. Called Woodentop, it was effectively the pilot for the runaway success we’d all come to know as The Bill, a drama which has supplied the press office of Fiat UK with an infinite supply of affordable celebrity product endorsers and saw detective Frank Burnside, aka actor Chris Ellison (below) on many Fiat PR events. 

Car-wise, this is never a hugely busy time, but Ford commenced production of the Orion, a three-box derivative of the Escort, on July 22. The Orion had a ten-year tenure and sold 3.5m-plus, which is probably the most interesting thing that could be written about it.  As ruthlessly utilitarian as a Slough office block (at least in its first instar), it represented the ever-present need for car makers to at least attempt to cover all customer demands. 

Yes sir/madam, the Sierra is indeed far, far more exciting a drive-home option (as long as you don’t drive it like Neil Kinnock – remember he put his on its roof this July), but the Orion’s belt, so to speak, lies in the fact that it has more boot space. Oh well, who could argue with 3.5m fans?

If you’d ordered yours in time, you could set off down the road on 1 August as the proud owner of the new A plate. The A was spot-on plate psychology for anyone who felt the burning need to parade their ability to buy a new car: what was previously a suffix to denote age became overnight a prefix. 

This system, of course, ran until 2001 when we switched to our new and infinitely more fiddly arrangement. If you want to impress your pub team quiz with deeper knowledge though, it’s worth remembering that along with the new A-plate we now saw the introduction of the Q-plate, too.

The Q prefix would be destined to become something to avoid: it always indicated a car where determination of the age was difficult, but as car crime rose in the later 80s and 90s its use grew – often denoting a model that had been stolen and given a false ID, with the result that the original provenance was impossible to pin down.

Speaking of hot cars, Renault F1 driver Alain Prost was undoubtedly the quickest driver of these summer weeks: he took the top podium place ahead of Nelson Piquet (Brabham BMW) and Patrick Tambay (Ferrari) at the British Grand Prix, completing the 67 laps in 1:24:39. It was the last time the race would ever be held on a Saturday. 

History can’t reveal whether Prost was spurred on by listening to the nation’s then number-one album: Fantastic, by Wham!. One thing’s certain though: having that infernal racket coming out of your dashboard certainly made you want to get a journey over in record time.

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