Any classic police car has a particular fascination, not just for the livery, the bespoke fittings or any technical modifications, but also for the way they create an image of law enforcement during a particular era.
Ernie Jupp served as an officer with the Metropolitan Police from 1970 until 1994, and his incredible collection reflects both his time in service and the development of the patrol car in the UK.
The oldest member of the Jupp fleet is the 1947 MG TC that he acquired in 2010.
“I discovered that it was a Warwickshire Constabulary car from Andrea Green’s book MGs On Patrol,” says Jupp. A great many chief constables favoured the T-type, including those of East Riding, Wolverhampton, Essex, Cumberland, Sussex and Derbyshire, but, says Jupp: “The forces that were most associated with the Octagon badge were Kent and Lancashire.”
The TC’s bell – or ‘gong’ as they were known in the force – had to be sourced, but the ‘loudhailer’ is a cunningly disguised frying pan!
The TC was Abingdon’s first post-war car and, although it was 4in wider than its TB predecessor, it would have offered pretty cramped accommodation for a driver and an observer.
“With the hood up, it is not the easiest car to get into,” notes Jupp, “but lowering the roof makes all the difference.”
Given the average speed of traffic in the late 1940s, a manoeuvrable sports car that was capable of nearly 80mph would have been an asset to any force. As a Kent chief superintendent wrote: ‘The smallness of the vehicle was appreciated when tailing a lorry, because the MG was lost to the lorry driver’s view.’
Luxuries on the TC are few and far between – “there is definitely no heater!” – but no T-type driver would have expected a long list of standard fittings.
“It’s great fun to drive, though,” says Jupp, an MG enthusiast of many years standing, “but the steering is notoriously poor on pre-TD MGs.” Today, the TC still looks primed to flag down a cad in a Sunbeam-Talbot 90 somewhere outside Nuneaton for ‘excessive speed’.
When Jupp joined the London Metropolitan Police, the Jaguar S-type was still very much in evidence. “Sadly, I never drove one at the time,” he says, but he can now thanks to ‘Charlie One’, a 1968 Area Car in black livery (Traffic section Jaguars were painted white). Having served at West Central and, at times, Bow Street police stations until 1971, its career encompassed guarding the Black Maria that conveyed the Kray twins to prison in 1969.
The Met trialled three S-types in 1966, which resulted in the force ordering a large fleet – Jupp reckons 266 cars – between 1967 and the end of production in ’68.
Inside, there is a distinct lack of armrests, walnut veneer or – surprisingly – a tachometer, although the Jaguar retains its cigarette lighter.
“People sometimes remark on the ‘special smell’ of old police cars,” smiles Jupp, “but it’s mostly nicotine!” The Borg-Warner Type 35 gearbox is also to police specification, with just Drive, Neutral and Reverse: “This was because, on the early Met Jaguars, the drivers would tend to overuse the low ratios.”
There was also a modified rear axle, but no power assistance for the steering: “It’s fine when you’re on the move, but in town it can feel heavy. I once spoke to some former Jaguar workers, and they told me that Met-spec cars needed a special production line at Browns Lane.”
Jupp discovered Charlie One about 10 years ago, when it was not in peak condition: “The body looked tired and the gearbox was leaking oil, but at least the roof beacon still worked.”
He then began the long process of acquiring the correct Pye wireless set, the Winkworth bell – “the gong was mainly used for pulling over motorists” – and the klaxon horns. As for the ‘Mickey Mouse’ spotlamps on the roof: “They were added after the Jaguar left police service by a film prop company.”
Meanwhile, Jupp’s son Nicholas painted the front of the Jaguar and repaired the bodywork. The result is a police car that you can easily imagine turning up in Carnaby Street, to cries of: “Wow, man – the Establishment. What a drag.”
The Rover P6 was the first large Area Car that Jupp drove in the course of his police service; it was more usual to find himself piloting a succession of Panda Cars: “The Morris Minor was first, and that was replaced by the Austin 1100, which was succeeded by the Allegro.
I remember those more than anything else – and, yes, they did have square steering wheels when the first batch arrived at Shooter’s Hill.”
Jupp’s P6B is one of the last Met 3500s, entering police service in 1976 and being stationed at Romford as Car K7 for about three years.
“When I bought the Rover in 2010 it looked good, but it was in need of attention to the floor and sills,” says Jupp. “Met Rovers were painted in various shades of blue, and the special equipment included spotlamps, two-tone horns, the radio set and the gong.”
As with the Jaguar, this car has an automatic transmission – this time the Borg-Warner Type 65 – but no power steering. “We were used to it at that time,” says Jupp, “and as soon as you are on the move there are no problems. One of the P6’s real strengths is its fantastic roadholding, though the Traffic division used to complain about the lack of boot space, and there was limited room to carry suspects in the back.”
The Metropolitan Police also used a large number of the P6B’s in-house rival, the Triumph 2500 Mk2. “I drove that more than the Rovers in the 1970s,” says Jupp. “The Triumph felt more spacious, but I thought that the 3500 had the edge because it was so wonderful to drive.”
For any civilian old enough to recall the late 1970s, the rush of nostalgia upon seeing the Rover is virtually overwhelming – picturing grey-faced ‘hoods’ with bad haircuts and worse dress sense, and the 3500 on a shout, dashing past Routemaster buses and Sherpa delivery vans.
British Leyland produced a police-specification SD1 in 1976, and in that same year the Met began to use the car that represented ‘Tomorrow Today’.
“The first ones were V8-engined Area Cars finished in blue,” says Jupp, but by the end of the decade it was common for London Rovers to be painted in white with the ‘jam sandwich’ stripe. The 2600 was used for area work and the 3500, with two blue lamps, served in the Traffic divisions.
Jupp’s SD1 dates from 1984, and he believes that it was in service in the Chadwell Heath region: “When I bought the Rover in 2012 it was a little tired, but since then the paint has been refurbished and I managed to acquire an off-the-shelf V8 engine that had been part of a cancelled order.”
The equipment list includes a video camera, the old-style calibrated speedometer, a US-style ‘wailer’ and an extremely heavy ‘Police Accident’ sign in the boot.
The Rover lacks anything in the way of luxuries that your average executive motorist would have come to expect by the mid-1980s: “The windows and door locks are manual, as is the steering, but that was par for the course.”
The SD1 was in service until around 1988, and on 8 May 1987 this car achieved lasting fame as one of the Liver Run Rovers. A patient at Cromwell Hospital in Kensington named Aliza Hillel was rejecting her liver transplant, and another organ was found in Hull.
The liver would not survive for long outside a human body, but fog delayed the plane conveying it to Stansted Airport, and from there it would have to be transported by road. The London Air Ambulance would not be established until 1989, all Met helicopters were grounded because of one having suffered an engine failure, and there was no time to charter a private aircraft.
An Essex Constabulary Ford Granada took the package to Junction 7 of the M11, meeting the Rovers at 11:54am. The crews had to cover the 27 miles to Kensington before 12:30pm – crossing central London during a Friday. SD1 A738 UJD carried the liver itself, with A536 UJD serving as the back-up/camera car.
The SD1s arrived at the hospital at 12:25pm and, because the officers were more used to working in outer London, the navigators used A-Z map books for part of their journey.
The Jupp Rover was decommissioned more than 30 years ago, but that was not entirely the end of its service. In 2010, it was being driven
by Sergeant Neil Roberts in a community event at RAF Northolt, when a call came over the radio about a burglary in the vicinity.
The nearest units were attending other incidents, so Roberts and the 3500 assisted in apprehending the suspects – it’s not known if they thought that they were hallucinating, or appearing in an episode of Ashes to Ashes, upon sighting the Rover with blue lights flashing.
The most recent addition to the Jupp fleet, a 1960 Wolseley 6/99, arrived in March 2018.
“When Ciaran Kavanagh was restoring it in the late 1990s, he had to fit a bodyshell from another car because the original was so rotten,” says Jupp, who is still tracing the history of the car, which sports the roof-mounted loudhailer that was used on the Traffic cars.
The cabin is trimmed to the basic standards of an entry-level Austin A99 Westminster, with a metal fascia replacing timber, and there is general lack of the 6/99’s gentlemen’s club atmosphere.
Jupp was surprised by the Wolseley’s road manners on its radial-ply tyres: “I had expected it to be much worse. I don’t like to throw her around, of course, but the steering feels lighter than the Jaguar and the two Rovers.”
Naturally, Jupp has no favourites among his collection, but we have no need to be impartial. A Wolseley 6/99 police car is one of the most important cars in the history of the automobile in the UK, and is inextricably linked to post-war British popular culture.
With such a vehicle, who could resist the temptation to issue orders through the tannoy as in Quatermass and the Pit, or to sound the gong, reviving memories of The Fast Lady. And that C-series engine note was as essential to an Edgar Wallace thriller as the theme tune.
We had to leave the Wolseley until last because, after experiencing the 6/99, the rest were always going to be an anticlimax…