Monday November 4, 2019
If you watch virtually any British police drama of the 1970s, you might have the idea that every vehicle that was not a Flying Squad Ford Consul GT was a Rover P6B or a Triumph 2.5 PI Mk. II.
However, one vehicle that was equally associated with law enforcement was the BLMC ADO16 Panda Car. You might have encountered one in a road safety demonstration at the local school, or even as part of an arrest of a gang of telephone box vandals.
In the early part of the decade the London Met acquired a fleet of entry-level two-door Austin 1100 to replace their Morris Minors, and today Lee Jones is the proud owner of two very rare survivors, both dating from 1972.
Lee came across EOP 243 L in 2006 ‘when I bought it on eBay for £250’. The condition was best described as “rugged” – ‘She had been hand-painted in a form of “Sandglow Gold”, the front valance had been patched, there was quite a bit of primer, and she was missing a front bumper’.
But at least the Austin was MOTed, and it did manage the journey long from Henley on Thames to Pontypool. ‘I didn’t know then she was ex-police although I did notice there was a zip in the headlining’.
Restoration commenced almost immediately – ‘it was a bit slow at first because I can’t weld myself – so why on earth did I buy an ADO16, I still ask myself! A good friend did a substantial amount of welding over the next 12 – 18 months’.
Regarding the car’s background, ‘some history did come with the Austin. She was originally stationed in Vienna as an embassy vehicle before returning to the UK in 1975’.
As far Lee knows, the 1100 then entered the service of the London Metropolitan Police, and she was probably demobbed around 1979.
The Rothbath family bought EOP 243 L, and it was still in their ownership when Mr. Jones encountered Austin over 25 years later.
On learning of the 1100’s past, Lee decided to return it to its Met livery, with ‘another friend carrying out the re-spray in “Bermuda Blue” with the doors in “Police White”’.
The roof box was sourced from Vaughan Millard a gentleman who works in the film and TV industry’, and she is also fitted with the correct Pye radio (‘I came by that on eBay’).
During the refurbishment Lee was given much assistance by Rik Franks at the Metropolitan Police Museum and was greatly helped by the Blue Light Vehicle Preservation Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/659176797451444/
If such a fine 1100 was not enough, Lee came by a second Met ADO16 in December of last year. ‘I acquired her from a gentleman called Terry Wells in Middlesex’.
The Austin entered police service circa 1972 and Lee is keen to discover when she was de-commissioned – and whether JGY 854 K appeared on screen in The Sweeney, along with several other 1100s. He plans to return her to her original state – ‘she is already finished in “Bermuda Blue”’.
EOP 243 L, of course, has enjoyed her own screen career with appearances in A Very English Scandal and Endeavour. She is also to feature in the latest series of The Crown.
Both Austins are a fascinating reminder of a lost world when a “Unit Beat” police car would be fitted with a minimum of emergency warning equipment.‘I was told that the Supervisor’s vehicles were equipped with a blue flashing lamp’, but the 1100 Pandas featured neither a siren nor a bell.
Today EOP 243 L is used by Avon and Somerset Police to raise funds for the Prince’s Trust and, in Lee’s words, both cars ‘bring back memories’ to anyone who sees them at a classic show.
With Thanks To: Lee Jones
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