Top Ten Eighties Crime Fighting Vehicles
After the whimsical sixties and the gritty seventies came the flashy eighties. Realism was out and flash was in. As ever the hero needed his car, not so much to prove his masculinity as to demonstrate his place in the social scale.
So it's Ray-Bans on and filofaxes at the ready as we count down the best crime fighting vehicles of the decade.
10. The A Team GMC Van
Cool 2 Style 1 Performance 1
The van itself inspired thousands of second rate
copies from thousands of second rate people, including the chap near me in
Leicester who painted his old Bedford van up in imitation using Dulux emulsion paint. Classy. Not.
However credit to the A-Team, this is a surprisingly proletarian means of transport for the era of Thatcher and Reagan. Not that you can really make a case for the guys being a bunch of class warriors fighting Gordon Geckos of the time, but it's still different.
9. Knight Rider Pontiac Trans-Am.
Cool 1 Style 1 Performance 3
As the Knight Rider it was supposedly nuclear powered though, which makes it a low emissions vehicle, although on the downside if it was ever involved in an accident they'd have to evacuate California. The Firebird would get its mojo back in future evolutions whilst The Hoff would find fame hanging around with women in bikinis in Baywatch, but for a generation of small boys he'll always be Michael Knight.
8. The Bill Rover SD1
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Sun Hill only got the 2.6 litre version, but real cops got the V8, which combined US style grunt with UK style build quality, which could be an 'exciting' combination. Tony Pond rallied a Group A version with some success, although he is mainly remembered for crashing out on the first stage of the 1984 RAC Rally whilst sporting a - then very rare - in-car camera. That was basically the sort of luck this car had and so what could have been an early Sierra Cosworth is not remembered anything like as well as it should be.
7. Morse Jaguar Mark II
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Today however the cars project a sense
of old world style and respectability, unlike in the sixties when they
suggested gangsters or bank robbers. I have no idea where in Oxford Morse
ever managed to park the thing, or whether the cooling system was ever
up to gridlock at Botley Interchange, but the car is now very much
associated with the city. In reality Oxford was where they made the Morris
Minor, Maxi, Marina and Triumph Acclaim, so it could have been worse.
The Jaguar also pretty much defined the term 'practical classic' and whilst poor old Jim Bergerac had to struggle with an unreliable Triumph Roadster, with an overdubbed engine, Endeavour had a vehicle that would usually at least get him to the scene of the crime.
6. Moonlighting BMW 635CSi
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The car was good too. I guess you can't do a eighties car list without including a Beamer, but this one had a genuine competition pedigree and a decent turn of speed. Unfortunately half way through the show's run BMW released the original M3 and after that nobody bothered with the sporty six series version any more. A pity because, although it was too big for rallying, on the circuits it was great and notched up a trio of European Touring Car titles.
Alas it was still a BMW, and so no matter how witty you may be, if you drive one the jokes will always be about you.
5. The Equalizer Jaguar XJ6
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His XJ6 was certainly stylish, and reasonably quick, but I've always thought of Jaguars as reverse TARDISes - bigger on the outside than the inside. However it suited the premise of the character that he had a big car and a small gun (nudge nudge, oo-err madam) and McCall always used his superior skill and British pluck to take down New York's baddies.
4. Hart to Hart Mercedes 450SL
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Despite Janis Joplin wanting one, Mercedes are hardly cool, although this one has some style. The car also has a rallying pedigree, winning a succession of African endurance events. They then signed World Champion Rally Driver Walter Rohrl and asked how good he could make the car in European rallies. He told them they could get sixth on the Monte - if they were lucky - and so they cancelled the program and sacked him. Honesty didn't really pay in the eighties.
3. Miami Vice Ferrari 365 GTB/4
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If this car had been real it would have been a winner. The last of the
great front engined Ferraris, it looked, sounded and went like a dream. The premise was that the car had been
seized from a drug baron by Vice Squad cops Crockett and Tubbs. As it
was Ferrari wanted the real cops to seize the duos car as it was not a
real Ferrari, but a replica based on Corvette and made without a license.
Ferrari eventually gave the producers a real Testerossa, on condition they destroyed the fake 365. The Testerossa was a decent machine, but it didn't have the style of the 365.
2. Ashes to Ashes Audi Quattro
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Turbo charged and four wheel drive at a time when the former was associated with Formula One and the latter with tractors, the Ur Quattro had both buckets of grunt and the traction to use it. It was oversized and over-engineered by rally car standards, and you couldn't even do a handbrake turn, but on the road it was reliable and nimble enough to leave many pukka sports cars for dust even on dry gtarmac, and on gravel or snow it was untouchable.
The body was simply the existing Audi 80, but with bulbous wings and huge wheels it looked the part of the Teutonic monster it was.
1. Magnum PI Ferrari 308 GTS
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The 308 was a cut price Ferrari for the austere seventies. Previous machines with the prancing horse logo had been the fastest things on the road, but the three litre 308 was in danger of being burnt off at the lights by a decent muscle car. On the other hand the car was practical, usable, looked divine and handled like a dream.
It was also a real rally car, the only Ferrari that ever was (unless you count the Tour de France or Targa Florio as rallies, which I don't). The special stage version was developed privately and had a decent turn of speed on tarmac, nearly winning the Tour de Corse a couple of times in the hands of Frenchman Jean Claude Andruet, but Italians being Italians they also rallied them on gravel.
Magnum kept his on the black stuff, and living on a small island he had a lot of car for not very much road. But what a car. A worthy winner.
If you enjoyed this, check out my top ten crime fighting cars of the sixties and the seventies.