Cars in Film : The Sweeney

Made between 1975 and 1978, The Sweeney was the definitive British TV cop show of its era.

When officers Regan (John Thaw) and Carter (Dennis Waterman) of the Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad weren’t chasing villains, they could be found subsidsing their local brewery or bedding a variety of dolly birds. Who said a policeman’s lot is not a happy one!

Blag Jag
In the world of The Sweeney the cops drove new Fords and the robbers drove old Jaguars. Well, usually. The arty title sequence for the original series shows this 1960s S-Type being chased and apprehended.
Triumph and disaster
Hang on, this is 1975. Regan’s got the use of a shiny new Ford Consul GT, so why is his sidekick Carter being driven around in an old Mk1 Triumph 2000 that’s clearly seen better days? It can mean only one thing: this car is scheduled to see some close-contact action driving later in the episode (see below).
Contact sport
Sure enough, it turns out that the villains are driving an S-Type Jag, and the squad’s decision to use a clapped-out future classic is thoroughly vindicated. It’s not long before the Triumph’s had a major front-end restyle, and Innsbruck it is not. Curiously, the newer cars never seemed to suffer anything more serious than the odd splash of mud…
Unmarked improvement
In a later episode, Carter gets to be driven in a Rover P6. While not being much newer than the Triumph 2000 (above), it is at least a car that was still in production at the time, and it somehow manages not to look at all out of place in this role. Towards the end of the episode, the car can be seen being driven in anger en route to the scene of a heist.
“She don’t look like she’s goin’ shopping”
…and indeed, she is not. A gangster’s moll proves to be a bit handy at the wheel of this Stag, leading Carter and his driver a merry dance before deftly outwitting them at a junction by indicating one way, but turning the other…
Recovery position
Rather incongrously, a villain called Vic turns up at the quayside in this Mini to retrieve a suitcase-full of loot from its watery repose, to be used in a dodgy diamond deal.
Little and large
While you’re waiting for that boring old Consul GT to sweep into shot, why not feast your eyes on this neat summary of Issigonis’ carreer with BMC: Mini on the left, Maxi on the right… and there’s one of those nice little 1100s in there somewhere, too. In a similar shot from another episode, a Mini can be seen parked just across the road from an example of that other Issigonis classic, the Morris Minor.
Transport of delight
Prisoner James Fleet (played by the late Michael Elphick) is being transferred in style from Parkhurst Jail on the Isle of Wight to London’s Wormwood Scrubs. But how many prisoners would have had the opportunity to make such a journey ensconced in the spacious, veneer-clad luxury of an Austin 3-litre, as opposed to having to rough it in the back of some stark and miserable prison van?
Perfect Panda
As Regan climbs the steps to the police station, what looks like a genuine 2-door 1100 Panda car sits parked in the yard. The Metropolitan Police Force did actually use 1100s as Pandas: the last one to be decommissioned (PGW 834L) was retained by the Force’s museum, and can often be seen at classic car shows. In fact, this could well be the same car, as it has been hired out for film use on numerous occasions.
Circle of influence
So what have these two cars got in common, then? Well, both could get you out of a tight spot, thanks to their 25ft turning circles. Such manoeuvrability was a pre-requisite for the FX4, but it seems that the Herald’s steering was so-engineered as a result of Standard-Triumph’s involvement with the mid-1950s project to build the Birch cab, a Standard Ten-based, would-be rival to the FX4.

This page was contributed by Declan Berridge

Keith Adams


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.