Six best crime fighting cars from the world of TV

With a big-screen version of The Sweeney set to feature the new Focus ST, we compare it to the very best crime-fighting vehicles of yore.

Cracking news, TV cop show fans: a big-screen version of cult British policer The Sweeney is due to roll into cinemas in 2012. Better news: its stars have ditched the rickety old Consul GT, Cortina and Granadas favoured by their 70s counterparts in favour of a spangly new Ford Focus ST .

That's a definite improvement on the pensioner-wagons they drove back in the decade style forgot, but how does the Focus ST stack up against other vehicles favoured by rival TV cop shows? We dusted off our VHS collection, fired up the Teasmade and took a nostalgic meander through yesteryear's finest TV-based crime-fighting vehicles to find out.

Ford Gran Torino -- Starsky and Hutch

Starsky and Hutch's Gran Torino may be an iconic TV vehicle, but it was a pretty awful choice of car, make no mistake. Its biggest problem -- and there are several -- is that its bright red paintwork (complete with dirty great big white stripe across the sides) made it totally unsuitable for the task of ferrying two undercover police officers around. Subtlety really wasn't its strong point.

We don't imagine it was much fun to drive, either. Engineers on the show modified its rear axle gearing to provide better acceleration during stunt scenes, as it wasn't fast enough as standard. That caused its engine to rev excessively, risking damage at high speeds. As a result, at least one of the cars used in the second series had a sticker on the dashboard that read "Do not exceed 50mph". 

The Gran Torino wasn't great for going round corners, either. The standard car came with bench seats, which would cause Hutch to slide into Starsky's lap on fast right-hand bends. The problem was so bad, the Torino had to be fitted with bucket seats at Starsky's request. Hutch didn't seem to mind, though.

Volvo P1800 -- The Saint

What's this? A Volvo with curves and gorgeous fins at the rear? You'd better believe it, sunshine. The P1800, Volvo's second attempt at a sports coupe, was one of the most devilishly handsome motors of the '60s and '70s and suited Roger Moore's character, the smooth-talking Simon Templar, down to a tee. Moore was so besotted with the thing, in fact, he actually bought one for his own personal use.

The P1800 was fast for its day. By the time the all-singing P1800S model rolled off Swedish production lines (the original was built here in the UK by Jensen) the car was powered by a 2-litre, fuel-injected engine that helped it sprint from 0-60mph in 9.5 seconds. It could even achieve a terrifying (for that era) top speed of 120mph.

Despite its age, the P1800 still benefits from Volvo's famed bulletproof reliability. In June 2011, a 50-year-old P1800 and its 71-year-old owner had, together, racked up a whopping 2.9 million miles -- a Guinness World Record.

1983 GMC Vandura -- The A-Team

We feel a bit guilty about liking the A-Team. They are, after all, a group of convicted criminals who escaped from high security jail only to set about a campaign of violent retribution on unsuspecting civilians. We have no qualms about liking their van, though, because that vehicle -- which was at the centre of all their (heinous) exploits -- was a true automotive icon.

Some might say the Vandura was pretty rubbish. It wasn't particularly powerful, despite having a huge 6.2-litre V8 diesel engine, and it didn't handle very well -- even for a van. However, as a tool for transporting four badasses and a shedload of their weapons, it could do no wrong. Hell, it even had room inside for a several gadgets, including an audio surveillance device and a mini printing press.

We love it when a van comes together.

Ferrari 308 GTS -- Magnum P.I.

Moustache Espadrilles aside, Thomas Sullivan Magnum was a man of exquisite tastes. He hung out with beautiful people, lived in the guest quarters of a posh 200-acre beachfront estate in Hawaii (complete with tennis courts and obligatory wine cellars) and -- best of all -- he rolled around in a sleek, red Ferrari 308 GTS.

The 3-litre V8 under its bonnet was a meaty proposition, chucking out 235hp. That was enough for a very respectable 0-62mph sprint time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 159mph, which wasn't at all bad considering it was built in the '80s.

Sadly, Maggers was never one to show off the car's performance, choosing, more often than not, to pose with the top down. Perhaps this was because he was lumbered with the American version of this automotive classic, which had 5hp less than its European counterpart. Or perhaps he was just too concerned about ruining his well-coiffured 'tache when the targa top was down. We can't knock him, though. The man had a slick ride. Who are we to tell him how to drive the thing?

1969 Dodge Charger -- The Dukes of Hazzard

Bo and Luke Duke weren't crime fighters per se. They were actually moonshine-brewing Confederate-loving criminals whose only real contribution to society was their penchant for scuppering the plans of corrupt politician Boss Hogg. That said, we've got to give them props for introducing the world to a totally badass 1969 Dodge Charger called the General Lee.

Originally designed as a race car, the General could regularly be seen powersliding along dirt roads, performing handbrake turns (for no reason other than because it looked hella cool) and pulling off insane, record-breaking jumps that would often result in total chassis destruction. It was a beautiful machine that went above and beyond the call of duty, putting the vast majority of TV hero cars to shame.

KITT-- 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans AM

No list of crime-fighting cars would be complete without an appearance by the Knight Industries Two Thousand, also known as KITT. Initially based on a 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans AM, this super computer on wheels was best known for its self-aware artificial intelligence that could think, learn and talk to humans. Siri , step your game up.

The car, in TV land at least, was powered by a Knight Industries turbojet with modified afterburners that allowed a 0-60mph time of 2 seconds -- quick enough to put even the Bugatti Veyron to shame. It also featured rear-mounted undercarriage rocket motors that would allow a top speed in excess of 200mph and, thanks to a second pair of rocket motors behind the front tyres, it could even leap 40 feet into the air.

Throw in extra features such as a flame thrower, tear-gas launcher, and even a portable money dispenser, and you can see why KITT is, hands down, the best car ever to grace the small screen.

Honourable mentions:

  • 1983 Audi Quattro -- Ashes to Ashes
  • 1955 Lincoln Futura concept -- Batman
  • 1947 Triumph Roadster -- Bergerac
  • The Mystery Machine -- Scooby Doo 

The Quattro, despite being a scorching car, is disqualified from the main list because the TV show it was in is set in 1981. Poor form.

Let us know what you think of our top six list in the comments below and let us know whether there are any awesome crime fightin' TV vehicles we've missed out.

 

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