Cars in Film : The New Avengers

In making The New Avengers, co-producer Brian Clemens desperately wanted to showcase the products of British Leyland. Thus, the three protagonists – Steed, Gambit and Purdey – were seen driving various Jaguars, a brace of Range Rovers, Rover SD1s, a couple of TR7s and an MGB.

Even when the action moved abroad (firstly to France, and later to Canada), the British flag was still proudly flown. However, Clemens has since related that filming with the cars was always something of a trial. Breakdowns were a regular occurrence, even to the point that two identical examples of Gambit’s red XJS had to be kept on-hand in order to ensure that at least one of them was ready for action.

Furthermore, this also meant that the pre-production Rover SD1 provided by Leyland was much less in evidence than was originally intended, thus undermining a potential publicity coup. Clemens nevertheless persisted with Leyland cars to the end, and even began to shoot his next project – The Professionals – with them, before throwing in the towel and switching his allegiance to Ford.

Episode: Obsession
Episode: Hostage
Episode: Dirtier by the Dozen

Episode: The Midas Touch
Episode: K is for Kill, Part 1: The Tiger Awakes

Episode: Hostage
Episode: The Lion and the Unicorn
Episode: The Lion and the Unicorn
Angels of Death
Episode: Sleepers

Episode: Trap
Episode: Trap
Episode: Sleepers
Steed, a wideboy?
With his vintage Bentley (as used in The Avengers) now consigned to his garage, Steed could be seen driving this wide-bodied Jaguar XJ Coupe. And according to Dave Matthews’ excellent New Avengers website, it wasn’t just the bodywork which had been altered: apparently this was a genuine racing Jaguar capable of almost 200mph, and requiring a great deal of skill to drive tidily.
High and mighty
When he wasn’t driving his Jaguar, this early Range Rover was Steed’s choice of transport, and was probably used to a greater extent overall during the series.
Missed opportunity
This Rover SD1 was to have been Steed’s main car for the series; it’s “P” registration gives a clue to the fact that it was a pre-production model, on loan from Leyland. However, reliability problems meant that it only featured in a handful of epidodes. Still, it got a second bite at the cherry when it became George Cowley’s car for the early episodes of The Professionals (with craftily modified number plates).
Sporting chance
Purdey always drove something sporty, and for most of the time it was this MGB, although she would no doubt have been grateful for the use of Steed or Gambit’s Range Rover in a scene where she had to drive it through a field. She later switched to a TR7 for a few episodes, but it appears that as with Steed’s SD1, its on-screen time was curtailed by various reliability problems.
Opening gambit
Like Steed, Gambit had both a Jaguar (see below) and a Range Rover at his disposal. Without looking at the registrations you’d be hard pressed to tell that his Range Rover was some five years newer than Steed’s, such was the lack of model development during the early Seventies. The two Rangies occasionally appeared together, and Gambit’s one may later have been used in some episodes of The Professionals.
Cutting to the chase
Gambit’s XJS featured prominently in the chase sequence which played behind the opening credits to early episodes of the show, which must have pleased Leyland Cars no end. However, Dave Matthews reports that two identical cars had to be used for the series due to the just-launched Jaguar’s, erm, artistic temperament…
Second chance
The first series of the New Avengers was a jointly financed by a French production company, which resulted in some episodes being set in France. While there, Steed got to drive another SD1, while Purdey and Gambit had to make do with the back seat of a Citroën CX taxi…
Role reversal
The second series was part-funded from Canada, so the last few episodes were filmed out there. In something of a role reversal, Purdey shared a yellow XJS with Steed, while Gambit took on this red TR7, which appears to have been inspired by Starsky’s Ford Torino. It may even have provided the inspiration for the nine Coca-Cola/Levis TR7s which were given away as competition prizes the following year.
A garage to die for
A rare glimpse inside Steed’s capacious garage reveals Purdey’s TR7 parked alongside his own Jaguar XJC and Rover SD1. Steed’s Range Rover was kept in a separate garage block, which presumably also housed his vintage 4½-litre Bentley…
Very important passenger
Nothing quite says VIP like a Daimler DS420. This one is waiting for a bishop, but it could just as easily have been a diplomat, president or crown prince.
The versatile Maxi
This Maxi appears to have been an important standby for the production team. Evidently registered at the same time as Steed’s SD1 and Purdey’s MGB, it appeared in the same scene as the DS420 featured above, and was also erroneously used as set-dressing in a flashback scene which was supposed to be set in 1965. The car was later used in a couple of episodes of The Professionals.
Getting crabby
This Austin 2200 is being driven erratically by a drugged government minister, and will soon be crashed. Another eposide featured a Wolseley ‘Crab as transport for a major visiting an army base, and a glimpse of the Landcrab’s big brother, the Austin 3-litre, could be caught in a car park scene.
Getting to the point
Yes, even in the 1970s, long after indicators had become de rigueur, some die-hard drivers still insisted on using hand signals. This chap isn’t going anywhere, though, having been put to sleep by a nerve gas attack on part of London. His ten-year-old Mini seems to have survived in remarkably good condition, but will sadly have been written off by Purdey in a car chase by the end of the episode.
Westminster shabby
This Austin Westminster has clearly seen better days, but is nevertheless being used by an agent who is meeting up with some Russian counterparts – who just happen to be using a similarly-styled Peugeot 404. How confusing. However, the (new) Avengers are on the case, and some none-too-shabby driving ensues, even if the action is confined to the car park…
Driven off the road…
This Land Rover was briefly used by an agent working with the New Avengers to infiltrate a mansion inhabited by a Chinese drugs baron. After the agent is shot trying to leave the property, he can be seen driving the Landie erratically, until he loses consciousness and rolls it gently into a tree.
(Car)parks and gardens
Here, Steed and Gambit can be seen running past a Triumph 1300, which just happens to be parked alongside a house whose garden has been used as an escape route by a member of a drugs racket just moments before. The pursuit ends at the top of a nearby multi-storey car park, where sharp-eyed viewers were rewarded with a brief glimpse of a 18-22 series wedge of some description.
Fashion statement?
Seen parked outside Purdey’s place in a fashionable part of London (which can probably be taken to mean the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea), this Marina was caught by the camera in a scene where Steed and Gambit arrive to rescue Purdey, only to find that she has already left, heading for Gambit’s pad.

This page was contributed by Declan Berridge

Declan Berridge

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