Return of the Jam Sandwich

Rover SD1 Vitesse Grampian Police highway patrol car acquired by Grampian Transport Museum in 2015 with an NFA grant of £3,851.

In January 2015 Grampian Transport Museum was successful in its bid to repatriate a former Grampian Police highway patrol car to Aberdeenshire. The Rover SD1 (Special Developments 1) was produced between 1976 and 1986 as a large, high spec hatchback with supercar lines borrowed from the Ferrari Daytona. Rover used a further refinement of their (ex Buick) 3.5L V8 engine and new 5 speed gearbox with 3 speed auto as an alternative for the first cars. Smaller engine and diesel variants followed as a fuel crisis hit the V8’s running costs hard. The car was extremely well received, winning the coveted European Car of the Year award and other accolades. The Rover also established itself in motorsport and so credibility with motorists and performance car enthusiasts was assured.

The Rover Vitesse police car at the Grampian Transport Museum

The Rover Vitesse police car at the Grampian Transport Museum

Britain’s police forces tested the car and placed orders immediately. It was the ideal compromise; a big load space and ample performance for the period. The Metropolitan Police ordered hundreds of mostly 3 speed autos and stuck with them through to 1989. The SD1 is the best remembered original ‘Jam Sandwich’, a new breed of high visibility, high speed police traffic car. In Aberdeenshire, Grampian Police (now part of Police Scotland) purchased several SD1s and Ford Granadas to control speed and road traffic incidents. The drivers all had their favourites but the SD1’s engine and massive torque won many fans and all agreed the supercar looks were a great deterrent to speeding motorists.

The City of Aberdeen underwent huge change as the North Sea oil and gas industry boomed in the 1970s. The city had good sea, air and rail connections but the single carriageway A90 required a rapid upgrade. From 1983 onwards new sections of dual carriageway were planned and constructed, the first being from Aberdeen south to Portlethen. In 1985 the town of Stonehaven was bypassed by a much longer stretch of dual carriageway and the north east had its first section of fast road.

Policing this new road was a concern as new wealth had established a flourishing motor trade in high performance cars, led by John Clark Specialist Cars which offered the Audi 100 and Quattro and the BMW range. Grampian Police ordered another SD1, one of the later high performance fuel injected versions of the 3.5L V8 known in civilian trim as the Vitesse, to patrol the bypass and area around Stonehaven. This car used the 190bhp engine and 5 speed manual gearbox of the production Vitesse along with, unusually for a police car, power steering. All other luxury items were excluded from the build to make it lighter and easier to maintain. Police spec suspension gave a higher ride height to facilitate chasing over central reservations and curbs and stiffer handling. The word Vitesse (French for speed) was removed from the steering wheel and the rear badge panel simply bore the Rover name.

The police car at work

The police car at work

On 10 December 1985 C356YST took up its station on the Stonehaven bypass and went to work. Those who were enjoying the new road remember it well. It would suddenly appear right there in your mirrors and so would points on your licence or a three month ban. The car became something of a talking point among local car enthusiasts, one commenting ‘you can’t relax until you see it going the other way’. Grampian Police ran the car until 20 July 1988 after a hard life that included three back axles and several crashes. In the hands of a series of private owners the inevitable deterioration took place common to most cars from the period due to poor rust inhibition. In 2014 it was rescued in a partially restored condition by the Channel 4 television programme For the Love of Cars, professionally restored for the programme and acquired by Grampian Transport Museum at auction at the NEC, Birmingham on 10 January 2015.

The police car in a field, having left the road on 27 July 1987

The police car in a field, having left the road on 27 July 1987

The purchase was rapidly organised and involved a visit to the restoration workshop on 30 December to ensure that this was the actual car and the build was to museum standards. Grampian Transport Museum receives many donations dedicated to adding great exhibits to the collection. Funds had slowly grown to just over £6,000 and the National Fund for Acquisitions agreed to provide up to a further £4,000. An independent valuation of £10,000 proved accurate with the hammer dropping at £9,750.

The old charger is a perfect fit to the museum’s Collecting Policy. It tells a great local story and better still the police drivers are still there and are hugely enthusiastic about its survival and return. Ian Slorach, who drove the car nearly 30 years ago, was at the museum the day after its arrival to give it a test drive round Grampian Transport Museum’s road circuit, commenting ‘over a career in Traffic this was my favourite car, a real police car. I loved driving it.’ Ian has even offered to be its designated driver at future public engagements!

 

Mike Ward MBE
Curator
Grampian Transport Museum

 

 

 

 

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A particularly sociable Sentinel

Sentinel steam waggon acquired by Grampian Transport Museum in 2000 with an NFA grant of £15,200. Mike Ward wrote about the acquisition of the Sentinel in a post published on 19 March. Now he’s back with an update on what has been a busy summer for this popular vehicle as it took part in events to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War.

Of all historic vehicles, steamers are most often credited with ‘being alive’. There is something about steam … it is almost a natural, living source of power and if that’s true perhaps steam vehicles are the most likely to have personalities.

Fifteen years ago the NFA helped Grampian Transport Museum purchase V 3507, a 1914 Sentinel steam waggon (Sentinel’s spelling!) It turned out to be the sole surviving complete and working Glasgow-built example, new to Alexander Runcie, a Carrier from Inverurie close by the museum.

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The Sentinel steam waggon out on the road

We coaxed the old steamer back into safe working condition and decided to treat it as a working exhibit. After some careful thought it was agreed that with safe mounting steps and temporary seating it could give passenger rides on special occasions. This was a great success from the outset, although some among us thought it a little irregular to give rides on the back of a lorry.

Imagine our surprise, therefore, to discover as our researches continued, photographs of V 3507 giving rides to large groups of school children during the First World War. This old steamer had done it all before and on a huge scale. During the war government took over the railways and all pleasure excursions were banned. This was particularly significant in the Aberdeen area as the town was a vitally important port and railhead for supporting the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. The Great North of Scotland Railway’s network was overloaded with traffic. As losses mounted on the Western Front, Sandy Runcie stepped in and began to organise outings for local children to lift the mood and boost failing morale. He did this throughout the war with picnic excursions to local beauty spots, even carrying up to 145 people to church on Sundays. After the war this unofficial home front war work was commented on in the press.

Rev John Cook with Sentinel crew on a tour of local war memorials, 3 August 2014

Rev John Cook with Sentinel crew on a tour of local war memorials, 3 August 2014

With the centenary of the start of the war on 3rd August 2014, V 3507 had its own commemoration. The waggon carried our local Minister and members of his congregation on a tour of the local war memorials where services of remembrance were held. All agreed that the old waggon was like a ‘living’ link to those dark days. It seemed like a natural thing for this particularly sociable Sentinel to do.

 

Mike Ward MBE
Curator
Grampian Transport Museum
www.gtm.org.uk

 

 

Two GGs in Our Waggon

Sentinel steam waggon acquired by Grampian Transport Museum in 2000 with an NFA grant of £15,200.

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Sentinel steam waggon on the road

When I worked at the Bass Museum of Brewing in Burton On Trent, one of the key vehicle exhibits was one of three Daimler Worthington White Shield bottle cars, advertising vehicles built in 1923 in the shape of a bottle. In my present post at the Grampian Transport Museum I managed to borrow one of the other two from Beaulieu. It was like welcoming back an old friend and I wondered if GTM could ever aspire to the jewel in the Bass Museum’s vehicle fleet at that time, a 1917 Standard Sentinel steam waggon.

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Sentinel steam waggon at night

It was a strange coincidence that about a week after receiving the bottle car we were tipped off about a very early Sentinel that ‘belonged’ to Aberdeenshire and had languished in a barn near London for 30 years.

Research confirmed that this particular Sentinel was the one for us. It was built at Polmadie, Glasgow in 1914, works No 753, and registered by the firm V 3507. It was new to Sandy Runcie, a carrier in Inverurie who published a photograph of his new Sentinel as a Christmas card that year. Changing hands twice in the county, it worked finally as part of the McIntosh of Forgue fleet as late as 1942; spanning two world wars. It transpired that we had found the world’s oldest known surviving complete Sentinel and the sole surviving Scottish built example with a strong local provenance and wonderful local stories to tell.

A price of £40,000 was agreed and we began a fundraising appeal. The perfect fit to our Collecting Policy and encouragement to proceed from Glasgow Transport Museum oiled the wheels and both the Heritage Lottery Fund and NFA responded positively to our appeal for help. After a few short weeks the Sentinel joined the bottle car and my sense of déjà vu went critical. The only real problem in applying for funds was explaining that ‘waggon’ was not a mis-spelling. It was how Sentinel described their products!

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Sentinel volunteers outing

Mike Ward MBE
Curator
Grampian Transport Museum
www.gtm.org.uk