Wednesday May 3, 2017
This is far from an exclusive list of the high-performance vehicles that police forces used for traffic cars, undercover pursuits or as a high-profile deterrent to would-be Nigel Mansells. But it does give an idea of the sheer variety of machinery used by the forces of law and order in the UK and abroad…
5) Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
At the beginning of the 1980s, drivers in the North West were very wise to adhere to the speed limit when they saw a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus in their rear-view mirror. A few constabularies used the Sunbeam as a Panda Car but the TASS (Traffic Area Support Services) unit of Greater Manchester Police employed a six-strong fleet of the DHOC engine Lotus. They were all finished in standard colours, as the plan was to use innocuous-looking cars that could respond at speed to an emergency. Their equipment included a detachable blue beacon, a ‘Police/Stop’ sign on the back parcel shelf and two-tone horns. The Talbots were eventually replaced by Ford Escort XR3is.
4) Ford Capri 3000 GT Mk. I
In the early 1970s, Lancashire County Constabulary used eight Ford Capri 3000 GTs to patrol the extensive motorway network on their patch. The DayGlo orange paint finish aided their visibility and was also a safety factor when officers were attending an accident or a breakdown, especially at night. In the 1960s there had been a tragic incident when a policeman was killed when on motorway duties and forces began to experiment with varied colour schemes for their previously all-white cars. The Lancashire GTs lacked the fake side air scoops that came with the ‘L’ pack and the ‘sports wheels’ of the ‘R’ option - but their officers still apparently vied to drive them.
3) Daimler SP250 ‘Dart’
1961 saw the London Metropolitan Police introduce the first of 26 Daimler SP250 ‘Dart’ patrol cars that would serve as a deterrent to ton up boys and speeding motorists in general. The Daimler traffic cars were recognisable via their Winkworth bell (of course) and antenna for the Pye police radio system – they were also deployed with their hoods down so that driver and wireless operators were ‘clearly visible to motorists who might be tempted to break the speed limit’. All were fitted with automatic transmission, for ease of driving in the capital – and to allow both hands to be kept on the wheel during a chase – while the hubcaps were usually removed as they sometimes would fly off when the SP250 was travelling at a high speed.
2) Citroën SM
At the end of 1972, the BRI (Rapid Response Brigade) of the Gendarmerie placed an order for two new patrol cars that would deter all Renault 16TS and Peugeot 504 drivers from all thoughts of speed. At the beginning of the following year, the Citroën SM entered police service and were joined by three more examples of the Maserati powered Grand Tourer by the end of 1973. These were deployed on autoroute duties. The SMs were maintained by the factory and the engines were changed every 100,000 kilometres before the Citroëns were decommissioned into private ownership. This French TV news bulletin is a rare chance to see the great car in action.
1) Ferrari 250 GTE
As the tale goes, in 1962 the President of Italy wished to show his appreciation for the sterling work of the Squadra Mobile, the anti-organised-crime unit of Rome. Their response, ‘how about a Ferrari?’ was apparently intended as a joke but in the event, they received two 250 GTEs. One was involved in an accident during its evaluation but the other car embarked on patrol duties in December ’62. On 2nd March of 1964, the Ferrari pursued bandits in a red Alfa Romeo 2600 Berlina down the Spanish Steps, resulting in arrests, a very worse for wear Alfa – and both the 250 GTE and its driver Maresciallo Armando Spatafora becoming national legends.