Cars in Film : The Professionals

CI5 was the fictional criminal intelligence department set up chiefly to counter the emerging threat of international terrorism in the early 1970s.

Described as being “the toughest crime-fighting organisation in the world… like the FBI, CIA and Interpol all rolled into one”, its officers were drawn from the elite of the country’s police forces and armed services, with an all-encompassing brief which meant that they could take control of any incident which attracted their attention. Chief George Cowley (memorably played by Gordon Jackson) had a force of 40 at his disposal, but throughout the series – which ran from 1977 to 1983 – the action concentrated almost exclusively on his top agents, Bodie (Lewis Collins) and Doyle (Martin Shaw), although many well-known character actors would turn up as guest stars.

Many people’s memories of the series will be dominated by its use of Ford vehicles – notably Cowley’s Granada, Bodie’s Capri 3.0S and Doyle’s Escort RS2000 – but it was not always thus. This gallery bears testament to the fact that the early episodes of the show relied heavily on a variety of Leyland cars, with clear evidence of the involvement of BL’s publicity department in the supply of at least some of the vehicles. Indeed, the series was produced by Mark 1 Productions (the same people who had produced its forerunner, The New Avengers, which also made extensive use of Leyland cars) but it seems that souring relations between the two companies meant that the partnership’s days were numbered from the outset.

Episode: Long Shot
Episode: Long Shot
Episode: Where the Jungle Ends
Episode: Private Madness, Public Danger
Episode: Old Dog with New Tricks
Episode: Private Madness, Public Danger
Episode: Long Shot
Episode: Long Shot
Episode: Where the Jungle Ends
Episode: Killer With a Long Arm
Episode: Old Dog with New Tricks
Episode: When the Heat Cools Off
Episode: Where the Jungle Ends
Episode: Private Madness, Public Danger
Episode: Heroes
Episode: Heroes
Episode: Old Dog with New Tricks
Episode: Private Madness, Public Danger
Episode: Heroes
Episode: Killer With a Long Arm
Episode: Heroes
Episode: Where the Jungle Ends
Episode: Long Shot
Taken from the US trailer
Good boy Rover

Perhaps more readily associated with the Ford Capri he drove in later episodes, Doyle started out in the series driving this brown Rover P6. He later graduated to a Triumph TR7 (see below) before defecting to Ford. Here he is seen driving past a parked Austin A40 Farina en route to deal with a hostage situation. The police could also be seen in the odd P6, although the big Triumphs were used far more widely in the series.

Bad boy Rover

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, so if Ray Doyle could drive a P6, then so could the people out to kill his boss, Cowley. Incidentally, the assassin – Ramos – was played somewhat uncovincingly by a rather incongruous-looking Roger Lloyd Pack – better known as the dim-witted Trigger from “Only Fools and Horses”…

Bodie’s Dolly

Underlining the early BL connection, Bodie drove this very smart Triumph Dolomite Sprint (before catching the Ford bug). In fact, the P6 and the Sprint suited the respective characters of Doyle and Bodie quite well at this stage, in each case the former being the more laid back while the latter was sharply dressed and always ready for action.

Seven up

A few episodes into the first season, Doyle switched his P6 for a TR7, perhaps looking for some of the glamour that Bodie had found with his Sprint. The car can be seen being driven in anger on occasions, as in this scene, belying its image as being a bit of a hairdresser’s car.

From Solihull to Cowley

In the early days, Cowley’s transport of choice was this Rover SD1 (seen here pulling up behind a dark green Maxi). The car’s gravitas came in handy in this episode, where Cowley passes himself off as the Home Secretary. Incidentally, the R-suffix registration was created by hastily modifying the car’s original numberplate (MOC 229P) – a trick worthy of the BL publicity department themselves…

Red Wedge

In one episode, Cowley turns up in this rather basic-looking Princess. (Presumably his SD1 was at the menders that day.) In another episode, he can be seen driving a more upmarket black Princess, as he parks it across the road from Doyle’s TR7.

Heading for trouble

A millionaire’s daughter drives home through the leafy lanes of South Bucks with the wind in her hair and not a care in the world. Little does she know that she is about to kidnapped in order to persuade her father to harbour the aforementioned assassin, Ramos. That numberplate has a very familiar ring to it…

That’s rich?

So, you’re one of the world’s ten richest men and your choice of transport is… an XJ saloon. Could happen, I suppose, especially if the old adage that nobody got rich by wasting money holds true. Here, hitman Ramos gives CI5 the slip by driving off in disguise, leading Doyle to believe that the car is being driven by its millionaire owner.

ADO16s galore

You can tell it’s the Seventies when a variety of 1100/1300s can be seen casually parked in the background or just driving by. In this pan shot, a civilian-registered ex-army truck carries its villainous cargo past two of them parked in a row, the latter being the desirable 1300GT version – complete with vinyl roof, but sadly missing its oh-so-period go-faster hubcaps.

Dodgy motor

Hang on, what’s a Series 1 XJ6 doing on an S-plate? Surely they weren’t that hard to shift? Nope, it’s more likely to be the production team playing about with the registrations again, to give the impression that the car is a current model. Need I mention the ubiquitous ADO16 slipping past in the background? (Oops! I just did!) And that’s the front wing of a “woody” Mini Clubman estate, just visible on the right of the shot.

Triumph of good over evil

A pair of MkII Triumph 2.5 area cars sit parked in the yard of a police station that is about to placed under seige. This model could often be seen on police duty during the first season of The Professionals, with three or four of them sometimes turning up en masse. But as with the Rover P6 (see above), that didn’t stop the villains using them as well…

Grace, space, pace

A flashback to the summer of 1971, when Doyle was still with the police, provides an opportunity to see an 1100 Panda car in operation. Here it is pulling up alongside a villain’s XJ6 saloon, which might just be the same one that was seen wearing false numberplates in another episode (see above). In this case, both cars are wearing K-plates (introduced August 1971), which means they would have been brand new at the time…

Going nowhere… fast

Odd as it may seem today, the Allegro was the natural successor to the 1100 (and Morris Minor) for Panda car duty, and sure enough the police ordered over 650 of them at launch-time. This one is about to reach the end of the line, having come under machine gun fire while in pursuit of a particularly nasty set of baddies. The two officers in the front seats would not be going home for tea that evening, either…

Appointment with doom

The production team really don’t seem to have liked Allegros very much! Having written off the Panda car in one episode (above), this one – whose driver has unwittingly been drinking beer that’s been spiked with an halucinogenic drug – is about to be involved in a head-on collision with a police Granada. Oh, and spot the Herald in the background…

Clean shot

This chap’s car-washing session is about to be rudely interrupted by Bodie and Doyle, who manage to save his life by getting him out of the way of a volley of bullets fired by a gang of villains in a passing Jaguar. And you thought drive-by shootings were a modern phenomenon…

DC Plod

The two hapless Detective Constables in this Maxi arrive at a hotel to warn a pair of newly-weds who were witnesses to a violent crime that their lives are in danger. However, having been told where to find the couple, the coppers take such a leisurely stroll that the newly-weds end up getting shot anyway. Perhaps if the cops had arrived in something a little more dynamic the couple would have stood a better chance…

That’s more like it!

Clearly a better class of copper here. Remember that police station that was about to come under seige? (see “Triumph of good over evil”, above) Well, it all ended quite peacefully, and as the culprits are brought out by CI5, this unmarked Princess accompanies a couple of Triumph area cars to the scene in true Seventh Cavalry style.

Good publicity

Now this shot could almost have come straight from a Mini brochure. Why, the car is even wearing a numberplate from the Longbride publicity department’s “LOE xxS” series, which (along with HOE xxS) appeared on many of the BL cars featured in press photos released in 1977/78. The black Maxi (see “DC Plod”, above) was also a Longbridge press car, judging by its registration – as, I’m sure, were countless others.

Jam today

This Spitfire is about to find itself caught up in a specially engineered traffic jam, arranged by a gang in order to allow them to carry out a killing. Curiously, many of the other cars in the jam are also examples of BL machinery, including a Mini, a Marina estate (spot the dog!) and a Range Rover (possibly the same one as mentioned in the caption for “Into the woods”, below). Another Spitfire turns up in a later episode.

Charley says…

…”Never run out from in front of a parked Sherpa – especially if there’s a taxi coming…” This unfortunate member of a terrorist cell (played by Diane Keen) clearly never learnt this simple road safety rule, and paid for it with her life while trying to get away from Bodie and Doyle. Let that be a lesson to you.

True to (stereo)type

The use of old Jaguars by villains was something of a Seventies cliche, so the fact that this one provided transport for a gang of murderous gunmen should come as no surprise. However, this particular car also turned up in the same episode as the blue Allegro (see “Appointment with doom”, above), where it was driven off by another unwittingly drugged pub-goer – straight into the back of a similarly ancient Zephyr.

Into the woods

A police Range Rover is glimpsed through the trees as it patrols a country estate. This is yet another example of a model which was used both by the goodies and the baddies in the series: in another episode, a group of Greek terrorists used a white Range Rover as their main transport, while a seemingly-identical car was also used in stag-hunting and traffic jam scenes in two further episodes.

Post haste

This army Land Rover is serving as a mail wagon, carrying senisitive documents to a top-level security conference. That’s not all it’s carrying though, after it is ambushed by hitman Ramos (remember him?) on its way to the venue. Earlier in the same episode, another army Land Rover can be seen patrolling the estate’s perimeter fence.

Over-stretched limo

Of course, even in the later, Ford-dominated episodes, there were still opportunities to spot the odd BL car. In this shot taken from the US trailer for the series, a CI5 Capri can be seen doing battle with a Daimler DS420 limousine, being driven in a way that its makers surely never intended.

This page was contributed by Declan Berridge

Keith Adams


  1. FD Vauxhalls seemed to get a hard time in this show. Particularly remember an obviously tarted-up Ventora,which must have been in very rough nick beforehand, getting blown upon one episode.

  2. The FD Vauxhall was a really cheap banger at the end of the seventies: most were dying from rust issues by 1979 and were disappearing rapidly from the roads. I’d imagine the production team could pick up a 1970 Ventora or Victor for £100 in 1979 with some MOT and tax left and then send it off to be used in a chase scene. Also a Ventora would be quite a rapid car and ideal for a car chase.

  3. I’ve also noticed big old Vauxhalls get smashed up in many episodes, just like the Jaguars in The Sweeney.

    Some early Mk3 Ford Cortinas are also knocked about, I presume Ford didn’t mind if they were old ones!

  4. There were a lot of worn out cheap cars in the late seventies and early eighties. In one episode, there is an interesting recent car used by a killer, where he takes off in what was probably one of the last Chrysler Hunters( think it’s a T reg). This doesn’t get destroyed, but was probably hired for the episode as it takes off quickly and doesn’t do anything else. I’d imagine this wouldn’t be as much fun to drive as an old Vauxhall Ventora with its big six.

    • Eddie Shoestring’s original car was a Hillman Hunter which gets written off in an early episode & replaced by the Mk3 Ford Cortina estate.

      Johnny Ho also drives a Hunter in some episodes of The Chinese Detective when he isn’t using his Morris Traveller.

      I guess like the big old Vauxhalls, early examples could be picked up cheaply by the end of the early 1980s if the needed to be used in a chase & crashed.

  5. I think the FD Ventora discussed here was in a turquoise blue and had white painted wheels with hub caps removed. I remember another episode where Bodie & actress Gabrielle Drake were in a brown Cortina MKIV Ghia Estate, being chased by the baddies.

    • The said Brown Mk4 Estate started the programme chasing the bad guys with a desk on its roof with some very hilarious cornering effects!

  6. In one episode, Cowley is being driven in a Chrysler Alpine, probably a car that was hired at short notice as there weren’t enough Fords available, or his Granada was being serviced. More left field cars that featured in the show were a first generation Honda Civic driven by a female operative, quite rare in 1979, and a Lancia Beta, driven by Patrick Minder Malahide. Actually before the rust scare that more ore less killed off Lancia over here in the eighties, the Beta was considered a desirable, upmarket car.

    • One of the popular cars for bad guys, though I don’t remember it being used in chases was the Blue Datsun (can’t remember the model). The Green Mk5 Cortina was used by both CI5 and the department of dirty tricks.

      • I think that Datsun was still called the 180B, same as its predecessor. It looked quite similar to the contemporaneous 200L. It was renamed Bluebird at the next re-style. If memory serves!

  7. @standhill. Yes the 180B was rebadged in 1980 (re-designed). It then became “Datsun Bluebird by Nissan”. It was regarded as a competitor for the Cortina 80

  8. Datsun seemed to be slow to badge their cars with their names, at least in the UK.

    As mentioned above in some of the earlier episodes Cowley was driving Princesses, possibly because the usual Rover was unavailable.

    It would make sense for agents to drive inconspicuous cars, I heard the Met used Hillman Hunters as unmarked police cars for many years.

  9. @ Richardpd – yes, Datsun UK marketed the cars as Cherry, Sunny, Violet, Bluebird etc but the actual factory fitted badges said 100A, 120Y, 140J 180B

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