Top 10 best cars from British TV shows
Shahzad Sheikh – AKA Brown Car Guy – is an automotive journalist with three decades of experience on various titles including the Middle East edition of CAR Magazine and Used Car Buyer.
To some extent your affection and enthusiasm for the automobile was shaped by the telly you grew up watching, and the cars featured on your favourite programmes, which were usually squealing around corners and crashing through a stack of empty boxes errantly placed deliberately in their path.
You thus received your auto-inspiration and motor-education through the glowing cathode ray tube in a box sat in the centre of your front room. Well I did. You probably perceived it through the pixels of a plasma screen or LCD screwed to the wall.
Can you recall the first car that somehow instantly ignited the octane in your veins, transfixed your attention and caused your hands to involuntarily mime wild steering and far too many gear-changes? And does it feature in my list of the Top 10 great cars from British TV shows – let me know in the comments!
Jaguar Mark II – Inspector Morse
The Jaguar Mark II frequently appeared in movies and TV largely due to its real-world popularity with both the police and gangsters. Jaguar's famous slogan was 'Grace, Space and Pace' – its more dubious clientele were perhaps less interested in grace but more in having space enough to carry heavies with sawed-off shotguns and a boot full of loot, with pace enough to outrun the plod.
And it gained its most abiding TV fame in the hands of a policeman – one Detective Chief Inspector Morse who drove a burgundy Mark II. The character drove a Lancia in the novels, but John Thaw, who played Morse, opted for the British saloon. The actual car was sold in 2005 to a business man who ended up going to prison a few years later due to financial fraud!
FAB 1 Pink Rolls-Royce – Thunderbirds
A futuristic, highly modified six-wheeled Rolls-Royce with a bullet-proof canopy, a central driving position and belonging to, of course, none other than Lady Penelope in the hit children's supermarionation show, Thunderbirds.
As a schoolboy I was highly conflicted about loving a pink car owned by a female character! Well at least it was driven by her chauffeur and butler, Parker, who looked like an uncle of mine.
There have been several versions of this car across movies and an animated reboot, but the controlled aggression and beautiful elegance of the original, reflecting Penelope herself, perseveres. Hmm... is it possible to have a crush on a string puppet?
Audi ur-Quattro – Ashes to Ashes
The fact that a TV detective says 'Fire up the Quattro' as his rallying call would be enough to elevate any car's status in a cop show (in this case retro time-travel series Ashes to Ashes), the fact that the car itself is an absolute legend of road and rally, is almost too much to cope with.
It didn't matter that being set in 1981, it should have been left-hand-drive (the car used is a 1983 model). There were two Quattros used in the series, one of which was auctioned for Children in Need for nearly £40k. The other has bullet holes in it!
Reliant Regal Supervan – Only Fools and Horses
The flea-bitten yellow hauler used by Del Boy and Rodney in the cult classic, Only Fools and Horses, is a Reliant Regal Supervan. Across the many years the series aired, several were used including a 1969 Supervan II and later 72 and 73 Supervan III models. There are a vast number of replicas some of which purport to be genuine cars from the show.
It's frankly a terrible vehicle by any reckoning, but it's brightly coloured body and fake fur-lined interior contrasted with its decrepit condition and epitomised the irrepressible optimism of Del Boy and his unerring assertion that, this time next year, they'd be millionaires.
Volvo P1800 – The Saint
For The Saint's 'hero car' the producers wanted an E-Type but Jaguar declined. Volvo had just launched the P1800 and was happy to provide two cars to the show. Roger Moore who played 'The Saint', Simon Templar, before going on to become James Bond, loved driving the P1800 so much, he bought one for himself!
It's frankly the sexiest car Volvo has ever made and yet remains true to the Swedish car companies values of robust quality. A 1966 example has been driven a record-breaking 3.2 million miles up to last year.
Mini 1000 – Mr Bean
The Mini is probably the second most featured car on film and TV ever (the Ford Mustang being number one) and yet aside from the classic movie, The Italian Job, there is one other appearance that has been a fan favourite since the 1990s. Every time you see a citron-green Mini with a matte black bonnet you just know it's Mr Bean's car!
Rowan Atkinson's famous creation drove a 1977 British Leyland Mini 1000 Mark 4 (after the original orange 1969 BMC Morris Mini was damaged off-screen). One of the Minis used for Mr Bean was auctioned last year for $70,000.
Lotus 7 – The Prisoner
The Prisoner is about as weird as TV shows get. It mixed the spy and thriller genres with sci-fi and fantasy and painted the whole thing in psychedelic surrealism with allegorical story-telling that would've gone way over my head.
However it featured a Seven – not a Caterham, but an actual Lotus Seven S2. It only ever appeared once in the opening title sequence driven by the main character played by Patrick McGoohan. Bearing the plate KAR 120C, with a bright yellow nosecone and green fuselage, it was actually a Lotus demonstrator, sold shortly afterwards; so Caterham supplied a lookalike for the car's second brief appearance in the final episode.
Jaguar XJS – The Saint, The New Avengers
When Ian Ogilvy took over from Moore as the new 'Saint', Simon Templar finally got his Jag – and it was a magnificent white XJS. The car also appeared in The New Avengers as Gambit's car (cool name!) this time in red.
The long bonnet, protruding headlights and signature flying buttresses set it apart and gave it real style and presence. The Saint's car was actually a development model and a rare V12 with a manual box!
Ford Capri – The Professionals, Minder, Only Fools and Horses
The Ford Capri is the British Mustang, so it's hardly surprising it has appeared on film and TV so often. In Minder's opening sequence titular character Terry McCann appears to buy a white Capri. Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses owns an outlandishly tacky green Capri.
Most famously the 3.0 S Mk III Capri was used by lead characters Bodie and Doyle in the hit series, The Professionals. They got one each, in silver and gold, and frequently found themselves sideways or having to vault over the bonnet.
Broadspeed Jaguar XJ12 Coupe – The New Avengers
The deadly but bon vivant character of John Steed in The Avengers and The New Avengers TV show (played with unwavering charm by Patrick Macnee) drove a Rover SD1, a Range Rover and this: a one-off bespoke two-door 1976 Jaguar XJ 12 coupe that was essentially a road-going version of the Broadspeed racing car!
It was actually the eighth XJ-C 12 made and a Jaguar development car, fitted with a Broadspeed body kit and extra wide wheels allegedly making it difficult to drive. It looked mean yet elegant, severe yet swift, potent yet restrained. Rediscovered a few years ago in poor condition and sold for £62,000 in 2015, it is currently undergoing restoration.