The vehicles’ new surroundings will henceforth be the Driving School at Hendon – an entirely fitting location, given its illustrious history of teaching officers about the harsh realities of police driving in the capital.
On Wednesday, February 26, the fleet moved from the old site to the new one with a certain degree of flair and panache. Rather than loading the vehicles into trailers, the curators opted for the rather more visible and entertaining method of driving them in convoy through London – under police escort, naturally!
Among the motors to make the move were a Rover 827 traffic car, an armour-plated Rover P6 in full Special Branch spec, the venerable 1980 Land Rover traffic car, Panda cars in the shape of the Morris Minor 1000 and Austin 1100, a stately old 1947 Wolseley 18/48 and a brawny Rover SD1. Motorbike fans were equally entertained by the Triumph Saint, and BMWs including the R80, R1150RS, R1100RS, R1200RT and K1000.
The route from Hampton took the fleet at cruising speed through leafy Richmond Park, over Putney Bridge, down the fashionable Kings Road, past Buckingham Palace, up The Mall, and down to New Scotland Yard. Here the parade rested for a photo opportunity – and to be thoroughly and enthusiastically inspected by the commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe – before moving on through the city to Hendon.
The Met cannily promoted the event with the #CopGear hashtag, releasing the parade route via social media channels and encouraging the public to share photos and stories as the Pandas passed by. It’s also worth taking a look at its YouTube channel, where its made individual videos on all of the vehicles in the fleet – just tap #CopGear into YouTube’s search box and you’ll see.
The iconic liveries of the fleet caused quite a stir along the parade route; many had turned out specifically to watch the cars and bikes pass by, and yet more were unexpectedly gobsmacked to see the retro jam sandwiches of the girthsome 827 and slab-sided Land Rover mixing with the modern traffic, while the creamy turquoise-and-white of the Minor and 1100 appealed emotionally to those old enough to remember them on the streets in the early ‘Seventies. The officers driving the fleet maintained the circumspect professionalism that you’d hope for, rather than doing what you or I might be tempted to do, and succumbing to the temptation to flick on the blues-and-twos and scare the heebie-jeebies out of some South London miscreants!
And who could fail to be charmed by the beefy SD1, shaking the windows of SW1 with its rumbling V8? The throngs of intrigued passers-by seemed to be flocking toward this more than any other. We even overheard one chap saying: “Ah yes, I remember being chased by one of these back in the ‘Eighties. Not for very long…”.
With the commissioner’s inspection complete, the convoy moved on and the space around the iconic revolving sign fell quiet once more. The lone Hyundai i30 that nee-nawed past seemed somehow less characterful.