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Top 10: Classic British police cars

Before the mid-1970s, it seemed as if Britain's police forces bought nothing but British cars. Watch any film or TV programme made between 1945 and 1980, and you'll be treated to a veritable feast of classic British metal afixed with blues and twos, and painted in iconic 'Jam sandwich' livery. The most famous of the lot is probably the Rover SD1, which for people of a certain age, is the police car.

Here, then, are 10 British police cars from through the years - a time when the idea of one of our forces buying a Volvo, Skoda or Hyundai simply wasn't cricket. Some are more recognisable than others, so be prepared for the odd surpsrise...

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Rover 3500 SD1

Although earlier Rovers such as the P4 and P5 were certainly used by various police forces, the P6 and SD1 became almost synonymous with the term 'jam sandwich', referring to dayglo orange stripe carried by motorway patrol cars. one can imagine that the 125mph top speed of a standard 3500 might be dented by the lighting gantry on this 1978 West Yorkshire Police car.

Comments

   on 14 April 2020

I drove this car!

It was based for some of it's life at Gomersal (near Dewsbury) Police Post and was used for both Motorway and also general Road Traffic Patrol.

The SD1 was a big lump of a car and hard work to drive, not least because the Force disabled the power steering so we could 'feel' the car through corners at speed. A good idea but then when it came to parallel parking in a tight space your arms and shoulders got a serious workout!

You're right the lighting gantry as you call it (They were referred to a 'Federals' because that was the name of the manufacturer) did impact on the top speed and acceleration but also the drivetrain did not have the same 'guts' as the earlier models which were fitted with just a 'nipple' blue light and that coupled with a gutsy engine/gearbox meant that the earlier models were a lot quicker.

I once chased a motorcycle down Ainley Bank (near Huddersfield) on the M62. I knew there was another of our cars on the observation ramp halfway down, doing Vascar, and called forward to them to let them know I was coming. As I went past they called and said the motorcycle was too quick for them but they Vascar'ed me and I was doing 137.5 MPH! I got the motorcycle in the end but at some cost as the Gearbox on the SD1 blew up in 5th gear! The auxillary shaft had just twisted and sheared with all the torque that was going on in there.

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