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Top Five British Sitcom Cars

Written by Andy Roberts

This is an absolutely personal, biased and subjective list of British sitcom cars that made an impact on the younger me.

I might have equally chosen Vyvyan’s Anglia 105E from The Young Ones or the Ford Granada Mk.1 Estate from George and Mildred but these five particular vehicles still linger in my memory – once seen on our rented DER colour television, never to be forgotten…

 

5) Lucky Feller – Heinkel Kabine

Which was the London Weekend Television sitcom that featured David Jason driving a three-wheeler five years before the first episode of Only Fools and Horses? Lucky Feller ran for only a single season in 1976 yet some of us of a certain age still have vague memoires of ‘that comedy with a Heinkel Kabine in the opening credits’.

4) Cowboys – Jaguar Mk. IX

The Gaffer and his Rover P6B in urgent need of restoration are still fondly recalled by many but Thames TV’s Cowboys, which ran between 1980 and 1981, deserves a mention. The star was the great Roy Kinnear as one Joe Jones, owner of both the world’s least reputable construction firm and the most down-at-heel Jaguar Mk. IX ever to be sighted on the television screen. There was also the bonus of a memorably catchy theme song – ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong’.

3) The Good Life – Volvo 145 De Luxe

Had The Good Life been made ten years earlier, Margo Ledbetter would have almost certainly ordered Jerry to buy a new Humber Hawk Estate but by the mid-1970s the Volvo was the ideal form of transport – solid, respectable, more reliable than a Triumph 2000 and with no taint of the Ford Granada’s flashiness. The same 145 also appeared in the BBC post-apocalyptic drama The Survivors, a programme which was almost certainly not on Margo’s approved viewing list.

2) Some Mother’s Do ‘Ave Em – Morris Minor 1000 and Hillman Imp

There were only 22 episodes over five years, Frank Spencer uttered the line ‘ooh Betty’ only once and there is no way on earth that a semi-dead Morris would have been worth £800 even in 1973. Yet the sheer artistry of Cliffhanger cannot be underestimated, for in an age of CGI it is incredible to note that yes that really was Michael Crawford hanging from a 1957 Morris at Hurlstone Point, near Swanage. The car may have been fastened to a pair of hidden railway sleepers and the actor wore a concealed harness but the risks were still immense. My own favourite edition is the 1975 Christmas Special, in which Frank’s driving test concludes with an early Imp driving into the sea; the stunt team chose the Hillman because of the safety factor in its rear engine layout

1) Fawlty Towers – Austin Maxi 1750

Not, you will note, the 1966 Austin 1100 Countryman as quite enough has been written about that notable AD016. For me, the most interesting car in the series is the Fawltys’ Austin Maxi; Basil, with his delusions of being the next David Niven, would have probably favoured a Bentley Mk. VI or an Alvis Grey Lady but Sybil would have ordered/demanded a more ‘practical’ recent model. At least the Maxi was British-built, which would have appealed to Basil’s own warped sense of patriotism, even if its reliability was not on par with one of those cars made by the Germans. PS All BL fans should view the second series episode The Anniversary as it guest-stars a Wolseley ‘Wedge’.

 

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