Racer by day, getaway driver by night: Meet Roy JamesRoy "The Weasel" James was a true racing driver but to fund his habit he turned to a life of crime. Find out how he outran the Fuzz in powerful Jags -- and about his role in the greatest heist in British history.
[MUSIC] To succeed in the murky world of armed robbery, you will need three things. Cunning, a decent Jag, and a red hot getaway driver. This is a story, perhaps the greatest getaway driver of all time, Roy the Weasel James, and the story of how he almost got away with 50 million quid. Well, Roy didn't start out as a crook. In fact. He was a silversmith by trade. And he got into carting and worked his way up and became a very successful motor racing driver. He did really well in Formula Junior and even Formula Two. He beat people like Mike Hailwood along the way and was even compared to Jackie Stewart. But, as we all know, motor racing is a bloody expensive business. And Roy was broke and so he drifted into a life of crime, to fund his racing ambitions. [MUSIC] [NOISE]. So, when the motorway network in Britain opened up in the 1960s, most police forces were equipped with Z-Cars. Now, these were two and a half liter Ford Zephyrs and Ford Zodiacs, but they were pretty rubbish. They were crap. [LAUGH] There's no, no two ways about it, they were crap. They weren't too upset the Ford geeks but they were pretty awful high speed pursuit vehicles. Is that the six in particular could barely crack a turn. It took a woeful 16.1 seconds to hit sixty from a standing start. But worst of all they had a terrifying tendency to weave and wobble at high speeds. Well, of course the gas [UNKNOWN] didn't have to go and buy their cars, if you know what I mean, preferred the big Jags. especially the 3.8 liter mark 2. Which had a 220 brake horsepower engine, which had originally been developed for the LeMons races of the 1950s. Now this thing could hit 60 in a shade over eight seconds and sail on to 125. No problem whatsoever. And that;s 50 years ago. I know. That's pretty good performance for even by modern standards and it is quite a big heavy car. Yeah. But I read somewhere that Roy actually preferred the 3.4 to the 3.8 Jag because apparently it's more freer revving and he thought that it actually handled better. He really knew his cars. Yeah, well eventually the police had to get their own jags in an effort to keep up with the bad boys, but it's rumored that in this sort of ongoing jag based space races as each tried to get the, the [UNKNOWN]. Did you that. Roy actually arranged of his criminal mates to rob Jaguar's own competition department for better tires and rated brakes and other tuning goodies just so that his car would continue to have the edge. I it's also worth pointing out that there's an awful lot of allegedly supposedly in this story because. Remember, this guy was never caught. There's a lot of anecdotal information, and, of course, he's now dead, so he's not here to defend himself. So, please feel free to say with a pinch of salt, particularly if you are, legally inclined. One other story I had was that he'd burgled, fellow racing driver John Cooper, John Cooper that went on to [CROSSTALK] [INAUDIBLE] [INAUDIBLE] minis as well, yeah. So, I read that the weasel burgled John Cooper, stole his trophies and melted them down. That's pretty naughty. He also went down to Monte Carlo to steal a load of precious jewels from a hotel down there, and before long of course London's criminal fraternity found out about Roy and heard about his skills, and he was recruited for a big heist down in London. So some of the Jaguar experts watching this might have spotted that this actually isn't a mark 2 Jag of the sort that Roy James and all of the crooks used in the '60s. This is something a little bit different. Yep, this is in fact an S type. Now, it was mechanically almost identical to the mark 2, except for one big difference. It has independent rear suspension, which meant. But in a car chase this thing would actually have the edge. And that's why the metropolitan police actually went and bought 80 of these cars. And they actually kept them in Soho in the heart of gangland London just in case they were ever needed. You're lucky enough to be driving this thing. You've obviously, you're obviously a Jaguar fan too. Yeah. Tell me about this car. How's it drive? Well this is a special day for me, mate. Because there, this has definitely been, for quite some time, one of my bucket list car. I mean, I've always liked the mark 2, the inspector Norse mark 2, but the S type was something a little bit special. It was far more expensive to buy than the mark 2. It had a number of. Things that make it a little more luxurious inside. Better ventilation, better heating, more leg room in the back. It's got a big boot as well. It's a, it's a more streamlined shape. We do come in for a bit of flak for I was waxing lyrical about old British stuff, but we're old British blokes, let's be honest [LAUGH] And ,. I think one American YouTube comment was that we like to give, blank this out Nick, what was it sloppy, sloppy [BLEEP] old British [BLEEP] I think was the exact words. Now just for our American viewers. To put this performance into perspective this car was launched, or the Mark II with the same engine was launched in 1959. Your Dodge Charger came out in 1969, and it was not as powerful as this. It couldn't hit 60 as quick, and it didn't have as big a top speed. Don't, don't be antagonizing the audience now. I can see a flurry of comments on YouTube because of that. Actually, people should just try it. It's just a fabulous car. [MUSIC] [NOISE] That is seriously cool. I do love the classics, but I've got this XJR from Big Al. Oh, right? No questions asked. Shall we? Yes. [MUSIC] [NOISE] [NOISE]. For the crime the gang dressed as cheeky gentleman and went down to Heathrow airport and sat i the business lounge. They were dressed with Bola hats, briefcases and umbrellas and inside the umbrellas they had cudgels. They waited for the waiters from the airline to arrive, clobbered the staff and made their getaway. To make their getaway Roy rammed an [UNKNOWN], ran a red light and generally drove like a racing driver, well because he was one. He out ran the cops and probably went over to brother motor racing developments, emptied his sack of cash onto the desk and paid cash for a brand new BT6 single seater, of course this meant he could go racing again and. Actually there's quite a bit of footage knocking about online of him campaigning in that Brabham. Of course, the cops knew that only The Weasel had the driving skills to repeatedly evade them, so they turned up at Goodwin when he was racing his Brabham to arrest him. But he'd been tipped off, and he made his, made his escape in good time. But what made him a great getaway driver, of course, is that he had a unique set of skills. You see,. Oo. Good isn't it? And what's it gosh. [LAUGH] Best time I've done that. He wasn't just a robber who could drive a bit. He was a racing driver who just robbed a bit. Roy James why was he called the way low man. Well it wasn't to do with his personality as such it was to do with the fact that he was a sort of a small, live, and wiry bloke. And he was quite charming by all accounts. It's a bit of a fitness fanatic. He didn't drink bivvy as well. And he was like the commensurate Formula one driver of today I suppose. Quite clean cut guy actually. He was and he wasn't you know classic archetypal at things those. I think that the rumor is that he tried to avoid the more violent side of things if he could. We never read that. So this a, a press car anyways so that 95,000. Pounds with a few toys thrown in. It's wow it's beautifully finished up isn't it. It isn't stalling either I mean really if we are if we are being east end toad men gangsters from the sixties we should have stolen this but this is the best we got. I don't think either of us make particularly convincing east end gangsters. I mean you're a bit Welsh and I'm a bit riven. There's something about Jaguars that appeal to both good guys and bad guys and so for example where we last filmed. It's the kind of car where you stand up and people want to be nice to you. They, they find it charming somewhat. We, we didn't ask for permission to film. We just jumped the car and somebody came out with a pot of tea. I can't see that happening in something German or American can you? You didn't ask that tea then? No just then. Jag's got that whiff of corrupt aristocrat or faded beauty or you know you wouldn't leave them alone with your wife or your your whiskey collection. It's the kind of car that makes you want to misbehave. [MUSIC] And then the big one, in 1963 the gang committed the biggest robbery in British history, the great train robbery, maybe you know the story. They sabotaged the stop signal in Buckinghamshire for the overnight train from Glasgow to London carrying all of the post. In it was the equivalent of 50 million pounds in cash. Well, that's in equivalent to today's money. They pummeled the driver, threatened his staff, and escaped with the money. This shocked Britain to the core. The gang was seen by the general public as Robin Hood figures and they really were almost celebrities. The establishment absolutely hated it and the police were in hot pursuit. So Roy James's main job during the Great Train Robbery was to take sacks of cash, load up the land rover and drive the short distance to the gang's hideout on a nearby farm. However. Roy The Weasel James' lucky streak was about to come to an end. Within a few short months, most of the gang, including Roy, were actually captured. The main bit of evidence which, incriminated Roy, ironically, was his thumbprint on a Get Out of Jail Free card on a Monopoly set. The gang had been playing to kill a bit of time leading up to the great train robbery. He was actually captured in December 1963 three months pretty much after the great train robbery. But not before he'd actually been out and spent some of his ill gotten gain. And he'd already bought himself a new motor. A brand new Jaguar e type. [MUSIC] [NOISE] Roy served his time in jail for the great train robbery. But he still wanted to be a racing driver. So on his release, he pestered everybody he could in order to get a return to racing even at how old was he? He was 40 by the time he got out, yeah. Yeah. But nobody wanted to touch him. But he hounded everybody he could in order to get a driver. One of those people he pestered was one of the richest men in the world. Also the man behind F1, Bernie Ecclestone. Now it's rather tenuous, but some people put two and two together and what they say is. And they found the other testicle in Brickston. Anyways, as that is rather tenuous, but Bernie himself said, you know there wasn't enough money on the train for me to want to rob it, and I believe him. I completely believe that. Bernie didn't give him the driver's seat, but he did put [UNKNOWN] as a silversmith to work, commissioning him to make the race promoters trophy. Which to this day is still awarded by the FAA. Well, Roy, the weasel, James died in the mid-nineties, just as Jaguar actually launching their first super charged road car. The original XJR. Well this, of course, is the Ian Callum design fifth incarnation of the. Xj and it's a big modern design. A big departure from the traditional xj silhouette but I'm sure Roy would have still loved it. It's a traditional Jaguar at heart. It's got it's got big power. It's got great grip and most of all it's got a slight whiff of something naughty about it. Roy the Weasel James, Jack the Hat McVitie. Yeah, [UNKNOWN] it seemed to all of the of gangsters. They all have good names, don't they? They've all got gangster. I think you and need gangster names. Right. Rich Magician [UNKNOWN]. I like that. Why do that, why do- You think it's probably because of your silky driving skills. Yeah, because I'm been there, because I'm magic at the wheel. Is that it? [CROSSTALK] [LAUGH] [LAUGH] And your black roll neck. Okay, okay. So why did gangsters pick Jaguars and also ironically, why did the cops pick Jaguars? What was the appeal? Why couldn't they do this in a seven series or, or an Audi A8? Well because in 1959 there wasn't anything that could actually touch the Mark 2 Jag, was there? When it first came out. I mean it was a super car of its time. It got. You know, it really, it was light years ahead of anything else. Disc brakes all around. It got, you know, 220 break horsepower. It got an engine that had been proven at Le Mans. You got room in the glove box for your pharmaceuticals, and room in the boot- Yeah. For your your firearm. In terms of British crime dramas, nothing quite beats a Jag. Which is peculiar more, because it has a, perhaps, I mean, Jaguar nowadays even play up to it, don't they? This bad guy thing, and. There's a whiff of corruption in. It's good to be bad isn't it? Good to be bad? Yeah. I like that. One thing that is bad about this car is the amount of power it has because it's got fife hundred BHP. What you've probably not picked up on the film is that every opportunity, every time we press this button and give it the beans, it tries to rip its own tires off, which I like a lot. I think that's great but I'm not entirely sure that the carbine public would appreciate that, maybe they would I don't know. Well we have 542 break horse power in this XJR and 502 Newton meters of torque. Feel good. This means the car can hit 60 miles per hour in around 4.4 seconds, and is electronically limited to 174 miles per hour. Oh [UNKNOWN] You have to pull over here, mate. [NOISE] [MUSIC]