The Road Show #33 – Duggystone Radio

Jack Mortimer May 24, 2020

[PODCAST]

The Professionals  TV Show – Ok then, so it’s time for a TV car, or in this case a bunch of cars that were used in a series that ran for six years. Many argue that it’s the British equivalent to the last TV series we looked at – Starsky and Hutch. The series, of course, is The Professionals.

 

The Road Show #33

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News

Do you own a classic car? Well then maybe this story is for you, then. A company called Buzz2Get has launched a new service called the Car Facts Disc. It looks like an old tax disk and is mounted onto the windscreen of your pride and joy. However, where a tax disc would have a date of when the tax was next due on your car, the Facts Disc has a unique QR code that can be scanned on any smartphone (without the need to download a specialist app) and reveal a page that can give spectators more information on the car. Naturally, this is a great idea for car shows but it also could work for promoting the car, for instance if it was available to hire for weddings. The Car Facts Disc costs £17 from Buzz2Get.com.

This week, rumours have spread that Renault could be axing several models in their range and close up to four factories in order to save 2 billion euros. The findings were revealed by the French newspaper Le Carnard Enchaine and refer to closing Dieppe’s Alpine factory (Renault’s sporting brand) along with three other factories closing in the next few years. The reasoning for this decision which has not yet been confirmed by Renault is likely to compensate for the closure of their factories over the past few months. The cars that are rumoured to be effected by this move are the Megane hatchback, the Koleos SUV, the Talisman executive saloon, the Espace MPV and the Scenic MPV. This would make the Renault range significantly smaller, both in the number of different cars made and the overall size of each, but it also shows Renault could be putting a heavier focus on their electric vehicles.

In other news, Volvo have introduced a new speed cap on all of their cars of 112mph. Volvo say that doing this will allow for drivers to be significantly safer. As well as this, all new Volvos come with their Care Key system which allows for drivers to set their own limits, anywhere from 31mph to the top speed of 112. Now, whilst 112mph is faster than practically every speed limit across the world, Malin Ekholm, the head of Volvo Cars Safety said “Everyone talks about speed and speeding, and we wanted to do something to show that we’re serious”. So, that could mean that caps are possible and could tighten if the issue of speeding persists. Now, this is something I’m interested to hear your opinions on so do you think capping a car’s top speed is a good idea or not? Do let me know over on FaceBook or Instagram.

Now, Alpina, BMW’s performance brand has launched their XB7. Essentially, it’s a BMW X7, the company’s flagship SUV however this version has a very highly tuned version of the 4.4 litre V8 and as a result it can produce 613bhp (that’s about 90 more than in the standard model). This means that the XB7 can get to 62mph (that’s 100kph) in a mere 4.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 180mph. It’s also notable for having rear-wheel steering (meaning it will be more agile than most of the competition) and has dual axle air suspension. This will allow for different ride heights and camber settings that can reflect the scenario in which the car is driving. It is offered as a five or seven seater and has various fun options such as 23 inch 20 spoke wheels, finished in grey and even an LED ceiling display that supposedly can be configured in 15,000 different ways. Now, currently we don’t know how much the Alpina XB7 will cost here in the UK, but on the continent it goes for 155,000 euros.

And finally, plans to construct the UK’s first battery gigafactory have been confirmed. The factory is said to have been invested in by AMTE Power and Britishvolt in order to provide a major boost in Britain’s struggling car industry. The two companies will work together to make lithium ion batteries for electric cars and energy storage products. Lars Carlson, the chief executive of BritishVolt has said that the companies are aiming to produce as much as 30 gigawatt hours each year from the factory, about the same as the Tesla-Panasonic joint factory in Nevada. The creation of a gigafactory has been something the government have wanted to do for quite some time, and they believe that the UK will need to produce 140 gigawatt hours each year by 2040, if it wants to continue as a significant manufacturer of passenger vehicles.

The Professionals

 

Ok then, so it’s time for a TV car, or in this case a bunch of cars that were used in a series that ran for six years. Many argue that it’s the British equivalent to the last TV series we looked at – Starsky and Hutch. The series, of course, is The Professionals.

So let’s start with a little backstory. The Professionals was a series made by London Weekend Television and started in 1977. It followed Bodie and Doyle, members of the CI5 and their boss Cowley. And pretty much each week, someone would get shot by an eastern European hitman or someone with diplomatic immunity and Bodie and Doyle would have to investigate and get involved in a spectacular car chase. Now, all three characters typically had their own cars and they were all really interesting, so think of this as a guide to the cars of the series.

The first series tended to use a lot of British Leyland cars, and the earliest episodes used Rovers in particular. Bodie and Doyle used a brown 1970 Rover 2000 (like the ones we covered in last week’s show) which was quite an interesting choice given that it had been replaced the previous year. My only guess is that it was still the car of choice for the police in the UK, so it fitted in relatively well, even if it was a little dated.

Cowley, on the other hand, having a higher role, did indeed have the current generation Rover 3500 in yellow. Interestingly enough, if you’re also familiar with The New Avengers, another drama made at this time by LWT, you might recognise this as the exact same car that Steed drove. That’s right, not just another yellow Rover 3500 – the very same. It’s clear that with the production team not knowing if the show would be a hit, the budget would have been pretty minimal so borrowing or buying used was probably the only way.

Now, later in series one these cars changed and Bodie and Doyle got their own individual rides. Doyle had a blue Triumph TR7, at last a pretty sporty car for some interesting chase scenes, and Bodie received a white Triumph Dolomite Sprint – the go faster version of the successful family saloon. Interestingly enough, the Dolomite Sprint was the first production car to have a 16 valve engine. However, once again these cars didn’t last beyond a handful of episodes.

The real issue was, as we all know for 1970s British Leyland cars, that they weren’t exactly reliable. And having a car repeatedly break down when you’re trying to film something with a strict deadline really isn’t what you want. So the production team quickly switched to Fords.

The first change is in the seventh episode of series one when Cowley switched the Rover for a, then brand new, Mk2 Ford Granada – specifically a gold 2.0 litre. Interestingly enough, throughout the rest of the show’s life, the Granada would be Cowley’s car of choice with three more being used, all of which were the upmarket 2.8 litre Ghias.

As for Bodie and Doyle? Well they received a Capri each, just not the one’s you’re thinking of. These Capris were late Mk2 models and actually varied in models. Doyle drove a silver 3.0S (the sporty model) which had a vinyl roof, aftermarket alloy wheels and the X pack body kit, while Bodie had an Arizona Gold 3.0 Ghia – the luxury model. Now, the Capri’s were brilliant for TV because they were not only desirable to the viewer, but they also had a lot of oversteer at high speeds, which made for some exciting chases.

And they were the cars by the end of series one. I’ve gotta say if you were watching that show when it was first out, surely you’d be confused as to why the trio had so many cars in their possession. Anyway, despite this, the show was a huge hit for LWT and for series two the budget was increased significantly, and so more exciting cars could be had.

This couldn’t have happened at a better time for the production team as 1978 also saw the launch of a brand new Ford Capri – well by brand new I mean it was a heavy facelift of the old model that they called a new Capri but still it was a fresh design that would fit the show perfectly.

And so Bodie’s new car was a silver Capri 3.0S. Doyle on the other hand received something completely different, a Ford Escort RS2000. Now whilst the Escort, to many, was just a small family car, the RS2000 made it a high performance rally champion. This RS2000 was actually somewhat unique in having a sunroof, something never officially offered by Ford and something which has helped to identify it in a story I’ll get onto later. Interestingly, both of these cars featured fake number plates. I’m guessing the main reason for this was, not only to cover up any changes if these cars needed to be replaced, but to hide the fact that the RS2000 was actually a 1976 model that they bought second hand. No real changes had happened in those two years so they could simply get away with doing that.

These two cars were kept until the 1980 series when they were replaced in turn by two Capri 3.0S models, one silver and one gold. Really for the rest of the series these were the main cars for Bodie and Doyle with the models being updated almost each year in order to reflect any minor facelifts the cars received, such as a different gold colour from 1981 onwards.

And, really, those were the cars. It’s amazing to think that compared to Starsky and Hutch, where there was only one car used over four years, The Professionals had thirteen just for Bodie and Doyle alone. Nevertheless, time to see where these cars are today.

Sadly, all of the British Leyland cars used in series one were scrapped and the oldest cars believed to still be around are the two original Capris. Legend has it that the Bodie’s gold Ghia has recently had a full restoration and Doyle’s silver S model has now been sprayed black. However, there whereabouts are unknown and neither has been officially on the road since the mid-80s.

Luckily, from this point on, a lot of the cars seem to have actually survived and are still on the roads. Perhaps the most interesting story belongs to the RS2000. For years a rumour went around that between filming for the 1979 and 1980 series the car was stolen, forcing the production team to buy a pair of new Capris. However, more recently a new theory has emerged that the production team were almost certain that LWT were going to cancel the show and so they sold the cars. The Escort supposedly went to a specialist dealer in Norfolk who managed to sell the car, that by this point was three years old, on for almost the same price as a brand new model thanks to its status as ‘The Professionals Car’.

Now, this car regularly swapped hands until 1995 when it was taken off the road and put into storage. Now sadly, it was neglected until it went up for sale in 2003 in a local newspaper’s classifieds section. Fascinatingly, the seller made no reference to the car’s history, just the fact that it had a sunroof. Since then it’s been professionally (see what I did there) restored.

Now, the very first Mk3 Capri also has quite a weird story. In 1988, it was written off in a traffic accident. Nevertheless, not wanting to lose such a legendary car, it was restored using the basis of a different Capri, meaning that we now have a sort of genuine sort of reproduction version of Bodie’s famous car.

Another Capri, from the 1981 series, went a long time being forgotten. Between the show’s finale and 1994, it seemingly sat in a garage where it was covered in worn our tyres and a battery that had leaked all the paint off the roof. Since its restoration, like a lot of the cars from the show, it will still attend the odd event or two and is in the hands of a cherished owner.

But finally, one car you’ll sadly never see at a car show is Cowley’s Ford Granada. Amazingly it was only discovered to be his car just three days after it was scrapped. It’s amazing to think that with so many of these cars, the production team really didn’t care about them, nor did some of their owners. It’s good to see that the fans have helped to keep so many of them alive, though.

Car Misconceptions

Ok then, so in this section of The Road Show I’d like to talk about modern cars and the modern car industry as a whole. There’s a lot of confusion and misinterpretations to be had regarding all of the different types of car you can buy, so I think it would be useful to look at some misconceptions regarding the modern car world and find out what’s true and what isn’t.

So let’s start with diesel cars. Now, the media typically likes to give diesel cars a really bad time, and that reflects the overall view of them. Many see diesels as loud, clattering, smokey, underpowered and most importantly dirty and harmful to the environment. And in the past this was very true.

More recently, well back in 2015, Volkswagen were caught cheating in emissions tests for their diesel engines and as a result, the view that all diesels are bad was widely publicised. However, since then, most likely through fear that a similar scandal could happen to them, car manufacturers have spent a lot of effort making sure that their diesel engines are indeed clean.

And it shows. If you look at the back of any car magazine, they tend to list all of the cars you can buy and the amount of CO2 they produce per kilometre. And, most of the time diesels actually produce less than the petrol models. For example, let’s take a look at the Ford Focus range. Their 1.5 ecoboost petrol engine emits 120 milligrams of carbon dioxide per kilometre, whilst the equivalent 1.5 diesel engine, the ecoblue only emits 92 milligrams per kilometre.

And if you think that’s just a one off, well you might want to take a look at the Citroen C3. Their 1.2 petrol engine emits 104 milligrams per kilometre of CO2, whilst the 1.6 diesel only emits 85 milligrams. And then there’s the Audi A3 which produces 167 milligrams per kilometre of CO2 with the 2.0 litre petrol automatic but only 144 with the diesel automatic.

It’s amazing that this information can be really easily found yet is hardly ever talked about. Now, I do need to say that diesels do also emit soot, which petrol cars don’t. However, despite this the majority of diesel cars are still cleaner than their petrol equivalents and also do, on average, nine miles to the gallon more than a petrol model. Now, as a result they are typically more expensive, and the cost of diesel is higher than petrol, too. But, thanks to the bad name diesel has received through the media, the lack of sales from scared off buyers means that diesels are coming down in price.

But, even the cleanest diesel engine will still produce emissions. And if you want that, you need to delve into the world of electric vehicles. However, that’s somewhat of a blanket term. So perhaps, now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of owning a diesel, maybe it’s time to look at all the types of electric car and hybrids and weigh up those too.

Well, when you think of an electric car, you’re most likely thinking of a BEV – that’s a battery electric vehicle. This means that the vehicle is powered entirely by an electric motor which is connected to a battery. Over the past ten years, BEVs have become much more popular in the world of new cars, mostly because they produce no emissions themselves and are incredibly quiet, even at top speed. Currently (in the UK at least) you don’t have to pay road tax for an electric car, nor do you need to pay a congestion charge in ultra-low emission zones, typically found in large cities.

They are also much cheaper than conventionally fuelled cars to run. A rapid charging point (the sort you find on high streets or at service stations) will cost around 30p per kilowatt hour. So a Tesla Model S with a 100kWh battery can be filled on £30.00 and then, according to EPA tests, can travel for 391 miles.

But, sadly it’s not all good news for BEVs. The main issue right now is the battery. Currently, they’re heavy, expensive to make and the ranges can’t compare to conventionally fuelled cars with a full tank. Plus, since many electric cars utilise the battery for entertainment and comfort for the driver (such as the radio, the touch screen and the heater) by using those features you’re eating into the range the car is capable of doing. Nevertheless, technology is always innovating and battery technology will only improve in the future.

In the meantime let’s talk hybrids. Now, the most common type is the self-charging hybrid, also known as a parallel hybrid, which is a vehicle that can be powered by battery, by a conventional engine or both simultaneously. This means that you’ve got a car that produces less emissions than a conventionally fuelled car and cover more miles at a time when compared to a BEV. Sweet!

However, they were never really designed to be driven really hard. The way self-charging hybrids work is that the electric motors are used for low speeds (whilst the battery is at a sufficient level at least) and then when the speed increases, the normal, typically petrol, engine kicks in. But because of the weight of the battery, the car is significantly heavier and therefore performance and economy isn’t as good as on a conventionally fuelled vehicle. Also, because they have both an engine and a battery they are still pretty costly when compared to other cars.

Now, there is another sort of hybrid, a sort of hybrid hybrid mixed with an electric car. These are called Plug in Hybrids, or PHEVS. Now, a plug in hybrid is a lot like a self-charging hybrid but it has a larger battery. This means that the car can run on batteries for longer and at higher speeds. Now, seeing that PHEVs spend more time running on battery, they emit much less CO2 in the long run.

However, what’s the real difference between a self-charging hybrid and a plug in hybrid? Well, a self-charging hybrid, quite logically, uses the engine to charge the battery (so as the name suggests, it is self-charging). Now, a self-charging hybrid uses its engine mostly like a power station, charging the battery as it goes along. Some people refer to PHEVs as battery electric vehicles with range extenders, because of this. However, thanks to the fact that the battery is constantly used, it will still need to be plugged in when the vehicle is not in use and therefore a PHEV has a lot of the same deficiencies as a BEV, just to a slightly lesser degree.

 

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