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TV cops and their classic cars have been a regular feature of our Saturday night viewing since Jack Warner first stepped out in uniform in Dixon of Dock Green more than half a century ago.
Motoring experts at Adrian Flux have been driving down memory lane to reveal some of their favourite crime fighters who co-starred with some very fine pieces of machinery.
You may have to go back in time to remember some of them, and it may surprise you that they are not all sparkling red gas guzzlers like our first offering on the cops’ concours d’elégance …
Ten TV cops and their classic cars
Dave Starsky in Starsky & Hutch: In the American cop show turned feature film the actor Paul Michael Glaser drove a 1975 351 Windsor V8-powered 2-door Gran Torino. It was instantly recognisable because it was fire engine red with white flashing along the sides. The show, which gave the singer David Soul his big break (some say, unfortunately), ran Saturday nights from 1975 to 1979.
Inspector Morse in Morse: The detective played by John Thaw loved a pint of ale, classical music and a classic car. He drove a Mark 2 Jaguar 2.4 L with steel wheels and an Everflex vinyl roof. In the original novels by Colin Dexter, Morse drove a Lancia but Thaw insisted his character should drive a British car in the TV series which was produced between 1987 and 2000.
Lieutenant Columbo in Columbo: The shabbily dressed LAPD detective played by Peter Falk drove a battered 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible. Only 504 were ever produced so he was lucky to get his hands on one, but it had seen better days, rather like Columbo’s dirty old mac. The series began in 1968.
Simon Templar in The Saint: Played by the late great Roger Moore between 1962 and 1969 (before his metamorphosis into James Bond) Templar drove a voluptuous Volvo P1800 coupe. Though strictly speaking, not a cop, The Saint was a modern-day Robin Hood-style adventurer who always fought on the side of good against evil.
Thomas Magnum in Magnum, PI: This hirsute hero lived the high-life in Hawaii from 1990-1998. Played by Tom Selleck, Magnum quaffed Old Düsseldorf beer, Scotch on the rocks and fine wine from his landlord Robin Masters’s cellar. He also helped himself to Masters’ Ferrari 308 GTS when the need arose. Again, not a cop, but a Private Investigator and a darned good one at that.
Ray Doyle in The Professionals: The best known car used by the sharp-shooting, karate kicking CI5 operative played by Martin Shaw from 1977 to 1983 was the Ford Capri 3.0 S. Doyle’s partner Bodie drove a silver Capri in episodes between 78 and 83 and in the first season a silver Mk II with a black vinyl roof and a Series X bodykit was also briefly used. Clearly the Capri was the car for undercover cops to be seen in…
John Steed in The Avengers: The suave bowler-hatted Steed had more wonderful cars than wonderful leading ladies. His signature ride was a vintage green Bentley but in the final season he also drove two yellow Rolls Royces – a 1923 Silver Ghost (pictured) and a 1927 New Phantom. (Out of interest leading ladies in the series that began way back in 1961 included Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, Linda Thorson as Tara King and Joanna Lumley as Purdey in The New Avengers.)
DCI Vera Stanhope in Vera: Launched in May 2011 and set in the rain sodden and unforgiving hills of Northumbria, what else would our unlikely hero choose to drive than a reliable and rather rugged Land Rover Defender? The car was a bit scruffy but built for purpose. Interestingly, the leading lady Brenda Blethyn confessed she did all her own driving scenes because her stunt double in the series was a man with a ginger beard.
Jim Bergerac in Bergerac: No list of TV cops and their classic cars would be complete without John Nettles’ Bergerac. He was an extremely lucky detective who got to hobnob with well-heeled Channel Islanders and solve the occasional mystery in this rather gentle 80s TV series. Oh yes, his car of choice? A stunning deep red 1949 Triumph Roadster 2000.
Gene Hunt in Ashes to Ashes: Strange choice of car for the leading man (Philip Glenister) in this drama which was the follow up to Life on Mars in 2008. The Audi Quattro driven in the show was not available in right-hand drive in the United Kingdom in 1981 when the series was supposedly set. The car seen on screen was in fact a modified 1983 model. Glenister’s response to the revelation of this anomaly: “Who cares? It’s a cool car.”
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TV cops and their classic cars: “Help us with our enquiries…”
Reagan and Carter in the Sweeney? Perhaps Tubbs and Crockett in Miami Vice? Who would be in your list of favourite TV cops and their classic cars?