Monday October 28, 2019
What is the most famous Ford Capri in the history of British cinema and television?
Some might argue that it is SPU 806 M, the 3000 GT Mk. II “driven” by John Wayne in Brannigan
In reality, it was the ace stunt driver Frank Henson behind the wheel.
Others might argue it is one of the eight Capris used by The Professionals, especially in Strato Silver 3.0S Mk. III guise.
We will discount the “Pratmobile” 2.0 GL of the later editions of Only Fools and Horses as by that time the show in decline.
But for many Britons, especially those of us who remember three-channel television, the most famous screen Capri is a white 2.0S Mk. II, registration SLE 71 R, which was first seen shortly after 2100hrs on Monday 29th October 1979.
Minder was to be one of the first major new shows on ITV following the technicians’ strike, and the opening credits looked promising.
Firstly, they took place in a Hammersmith car lot, one stocked with such bargains as an Audi 100 C1, a Fiat 132 and what looked like a Ford Escort Mk. II Harrier.
Secondly, it starred Dennis “Sgt. Carter from The Sweeney”, who seems to be appraising a second-hand Capri.
And thirdly, the main supporting actor is the great George Cole, the master character actor who could portray a wide boy or a gentleman with equal élan.
Arthur Daley is very much in the former category, but he has definitive pretentions as to the latter – hence the mock-Savile Row suits and the six-year-old Jaguar XJ6 4.2 Litre Series 2.
As for Terry McCann, he would drive several Capris during seven seasons of Minder, but SLE 71 R is the best-remembered example.
Euston Films originally thought McCann would use the Escort Harrier before they realised that Arthur was highly unlikely to let him drive such a desirable car.
A used second-generation Capri was as much as poor “Terence” could expect from an employer who once sold a consignment of one-legged chickens – ‘they're easier to catch’.
He also claimed of his car stock that ‘every one’s a go-er!’ which was not strictly true, particularly in the case of a 910-series Datsun Bluebird with grass sprouting on the bodywork.
The early episode Come in T-64, Your Time is Ticking Away has Arthur loaning Terry to a minicab firm and loaning him the world’s most dilapidated Austin A60 Cambridge.
Minder also featured any number of guest stars, and many soon-to-be-famous actors, including Robbie Coltrane and Peter Capaldi.
The moment when RC’s hairdresser attempts to sell Chisholm a “Burt Reynolds” hairpiece is a highlight of 1980s television.
Another fascinating aspect of re-watching Minder is the array of now ultra-rare low-key saloons allotted to Sergeants Chisholm and Rycott - Ford Cortina Mk. Vs, Talbot Solaras, Morris Marinas and Hillman Avengers, the last two colliding in the pursuit of Daley.
George Cole thought Daley ‘wasn’t the nicest of men.
But he was a very enjoyable character, and I loved playing him’.
And here are Terry and Arthur at their finest.