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Homepage. This page: A former Police traffic officer looks back at the cars he drove, starting with an Austin and then various Fords.

Cars driven by a traffic officer in the 1960s - 1980s.

I know Pat through our mutual interest in Ford E83W vans and pickups. He sent over this article recently, where he looks back at some of the cars he drove while he was a traffic officer, starting out in 1963 with an Austin A99 Westminster, having first joined the Police force in 1959. This article leads in nicely to one I added to the site a while back, sent in by Geoff who once drove 2.8i Capris and Range Rovers for the Police force in Manchester during the 1980s. Now, over to Pat:

When Constabulary Duty’s to be done………

After working on a farm as a labourer for a year after leaving school in 1956, I joined Oxfordshire Constabulary as a Police Cadet. In 1959 aged 19 I became a fully fledged Police Constable and was posted to Witney in Oxfordshire, where I spent the next three and a half years pounding the beat on foot, as policemen did in those days!
In 1963 I achieved my dream when I became attached to the Traffic Department as part of a two man crew in a shiny black Austin Westminster (A99) patrol car. I remained on traffic for the next 22 years.
Mk3 Ford Zephyr arrival.
Z-Cars TV series used Mk3 Ford Zephyrs
The Westminster was replaced about 1964 by a Ford Zephyr Mk 3. For police use Ford fitted the slightly larger Zodiac engine into the Zephyr 6 body shell. Although the Westminster had been a sedate old girl with reasonable handling, the Zephyr knocked spots off it, in my view, in terms of speed and handling. I would go so far as to say that this was my favourite patrol car throughout my service. It was utterly reliable and was a delight to drive. It had a good heater, too, compared to the Westminster, in which, in winter, we had to wear short overcoats known as ‘British Warms’, because the heater was none too efficient. The photograph (below) of the Mark 3 Zephyr is identical in every way to the patrol car I drove.
Mk3 Ford Zephyr police car
The car photographed is a genuine ex-police vehicle, originally used by (North Riding?) Yorkshire Police. The car was on display at the Goodwood Revival in September 2008, which I attended. Speaking to its owner I am not surprised that the car is still going strong, having covered well in excess of 200,000 miles on the original engine. The car is a credit to him. I just wish I had a photograph of ‘my’ old car. Bells were still fitted to the cars at this stage, sirens coming at a later date.
Mk4 Ford Zephyr.
The later Mk4 Zephyr police car
Our replacement for the Mark 3 Zephyr was a Mark 4. The photograph of myself standing alongside this car was taken near Burford, Oxfordshire, in 1966. The Mark 4 Zephyr, again fitted with the larger engine, was, in my view, a definite backward step in terms of reliability, and handling, compared to its Mark 3 predecessor. The warning ‘gongs’ had now been replaced by two-tone electric horns. This particular vehicle, (along with more than one other of its police ‘colleagues’) disgraced itself by eventually stripping the teeth from its timing gear, resulting in considerable damage to the engine. The handbrake never felt very secure, and the rear callipers had a nasty habit of seizing up.
Mk2 Lotus-Cortinas and a Mk3 Cortina 2000GT.
The replacement for the Mark 4, was a definite downsize, but a real improvement, both in terms of reliability and handling. It was a Mark 2 Lotus Cortina, with the genuine Lotus engine. It was a cracking little car. West Oxfordshire, which was my patrol area, had a proliferation of rural, fairly narrow roads, and this little ‘belter’ was a real ‘king’ on this type of terrain. It drove as if it was on rails. Police patrol cars were still painted black at this stage. I enjoyed my work driving this vehicle. It just begged to be driven hard.
Its replacement was the Ford Cortina Mark 2 Twin Cam, and police policy changed to having white patrol cars. In my opinion the Twin Cam never quite came up to the grade of the true Lotus. I could never quite put my finger on it, but it just didn’t feel as lively and sporty, and the cars were not as reliable. The next replacement was, in my opinion, a complete disaster! Possibly it was OK for private use, but not for police duties. The car was a Mark 3 Cortina 2000 GT. I thought it was totally gutless, and handled like a wallowing whale, in comparison to its predecessor. I was glad to see the back of it.
Enter the Granada patrol cars.
Next came the Granada range. Again, I thought the earlier models were better than the later ones, although, yet again, I could not exactly say why. They certainly made very good all round police patrol vehicles. The photograph was taken near Burford, Oxfordshire, in December 1984, in the week before I retired from the police service.
A Mk2 Ford Granada police car
After I retired I was able to indulge my interest in commercial vehicles by becoming a lorry driver, driving an articulated lorry throughout the whole of the UK. I continued driving lorries up until I retired from full time work in 2005.
I still enjoy driving, and a good many of our holidays have been spent by my wife and I touring in the USA, driving ourselves, often covering up to 4,000 miles in a four week period. We have covered nearly all of the Western States of America. We have also spent touring holidays in France and Italy. Considering I was a professional driver from 1963 up until 2005, I wonder how many miles have passed by underneath my backside? It would be interesting to know!
I also now enjoy driving a little Ford E83W pick up truck. These vehicles were produced from March 1938 until September 1957. I purchased the truck from a local scrap yard, where it had languished for 31 years. I carried out a total strip down restoration over a four year period, finishing the work in June 2007.
Patrick Russell.
Thanks for the contribution Pat, an interesting read!
I'm always interested to hear people's personal recollections of the cars they once drove, either as a private motorist, or as in Pat's case, in the line of work. More personal motoring stories can be found in the motoring memories section here at oldclassiccar.

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