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Roger Moore Motors

Roger Moore Motors Published: 25th Aug 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Roger Moore Motors
Roger Moore Motors
Roger Moore Motors
Roger Moore Motors
Roger Moore Motors
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Classic car and film buff Andrew Roberts pays a special tribute to the late Sir Roger Moore

The sad passing of Sir Roger Moore on 23rd May prompted so many of us to think of the motor cars associated with this most genial of stars. In the late 1950s his off-screen transport XK150 that he bought to celebrate starring in the very forgotten TV series The Alaskans; “it really was a load of mush” the great man was to subsequently reflect. The Jaguar proved so unreliable that he offered to drive it through a window and “leave it on Hollywood Boulevard” if a Burbank dealership further delayed repairing it. Nearly twenty years later, during the shooting of what was arguably his finest hour as Bond The Spy Who Loved Me Moore took delivery of one of the first SD1 3500s!

One hopes that the Midas Gold Rover gave him more pleasure than the Esprit; Sir Roger’s entertaining book Bond on Bond: The Ultimate Book on 50 Years of Bond Movies reflected on how he was impressed with the opportunity to buy a Lotus of his own at a 10 percent discount but Chapman wouldn’t give it.

He had fonder memories of decapitating the AEC Regent double decker in Live & Let Die, a scene that required three months’ training at London Transport’s depot in Chiswick.

The LT instructor informed the actor that “if the film game didn’t work out for me, I’d make a good London bus man”.

He didn’t need persuading

Of Sir Roger’s film and TV cars, some will instantly think of the Bahama Yellow Aston Martin DBS6 with an overdubbed V8 engine (and alloy wheels) note in The Persuaders! while a Rover P5B Saloon and Lamborghini Islero S were the automotive stars of The Man Who Haunted Himself, in which Moore gave one of his finest performances. Of the Bond outings, there was the underrated For Your Eyes Only with the Citroën 2CV6 (a stunt he enjoyed the most out of any Bond escapade, it is claimed) or the Alfa Romeo GTV6 in the ‘dated even when it was released’ Octopussy.

Those readers with a taste for pictures that are obscure or just plain bad may recall Escape to Athena in which Roger plays an Austrian Major in which a 1953 Mercedes-Benz LAK 312 turns up in World War II. Gold has a 1969 Ford Mustang and is fairly unwatchable although The Cannonball Run has an Aston Martin DB5 and is completely unwatchable. As for the ‘Swinging’ British thriller Crossplot it features an Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto and lots of Zephyr MkIVs and is quite brilliantly bad. Then there is Wild Geese with an early XJ-S and everyone’s favourite oil rig heist picture North Sea Hijack, where a bearded Roger apparently channelling the spirit of James Robertson Justice and a cameo from a Daimler DS420 Limousine that was the actor’s own car around 1980.


Moore becomes a saint

However for me, and I suspect many others, it was the role of Simon Templar that made Roger a world star and established the Volvo marque as the quintessential motorcar for ‘The Infamous Simon Templar’. How the white P1800 rather than a Jaguar MkX came to be the automotive star of The Saint is an already well-established story. Robert Baker and Monty Berman, the show’s producers, thought that this magnificent saloon was ideal for Simon Templar - the E-type was deemed to be too impractical – and Moore recalled in his very readable autobiography that:

“I said whatever we had, I’d buy as well – hoping for a favourable deal, naturally, so we’d have two; meaning that when we were shooting with the main unit, should the second unit require a car for establishing or pick-up shots they could use the production car and I’d use mine with the main unit”.

Unfortunately, Browns Lane refused to loan or sell any MkXs to the show but one day the production supervisor Malcolm Christopher was very taken with a Volvo P1800 he saw in London. The result was that a former dealer demonstrator, registration 71 DXC, was sold to the production just in time for shooting the first episode in May 1962. From a 2017 perspective, it is sometimes hard to appreciate the impact the P1800 made on ITV viewers on 4th October ’62. The first P1800 was augmented in late 1963 by a second car, 77 GYL which was now provided by Volvo. One popular storyline was Simon visiting a remote country inn where the landlord a) has an ingénue daughter b) is played by a noted British character actor and c) is ‘up to no good’ and in The Case of the Frightened Inn-Keeper, this week’s villains are so fiendish that they blow up ‘71 DXC’, although Simon has ordered a new Volvo before the closing credits. By the late 1960s, Roger was often seen piloting NUV 647E and, off screen, also drove NUV 648E and became so attached to Volvo that in recent years he had a C70.

The Saint ran for 118 episodes until 9th February 1969 and looking at my boxset collection has been a fascinating experience.

I’d forgotten how many of the early plotlines had a US setting, with Imperial Crown Southamptons and Plymouth Belvederes plus a strangely mid-Atlantic accent from Roger. The fifth season in 1966 was the first to be shot in colour – a move dictated by the demands of US television networks – and for many, including myself, this is the definitive series of The Saint, one that is positively awash with fine cars. The Man Who Liked Lions featured a Fiat 2100 Speciale and Peter Wyngarde in magnificent form as a sardonic villain and the Formula One setting for The Fast Women allowed for plenty of shots of a Lotus 20 Formula Junior, plus lots of entertaining back projection.

Little Girl Lost borrows the Danger Man Taurus tuned Austin Mini Cooper 1071S – it was not uncommon for cars to appear across ITC series – and Escape Route has Roger ‘stealing’ Inspector Teal’s Wolseley 6/99 and encountering Donald Sutherland as an absconding convict. The Power Artists has a Ford Consul Corsair, George Murcell gnawing on the scenery as a criminal mastermind and the unforgettable sight of Roger ‘grooving’ with hippie artists.

The Queen’s Ransom introduced the infamous ‘White Jaguar Mk1 off a cliff’ stunt footage previously devised for The Baron and The Counterfeit Countess gave us the almost as good ‘Red Renault Dauphine off a cliff’ stunt footage. Watch out for it in any 60’s programme.

That doomed white Jaguar was just one regular motoring trope of The Saint. Ivor Dean’s definitive Claude Eustace Teale invariably arrived in a Wolseley 6/99 or 6/110 and PR vehicles from various car makers would make frequent guest appearances. I had forgotten just how many Vauxhalls were showcased in The Saint – PBs, PC Crestas and Viscounts not to mention HA Vivas, FB Victors and VX 4/90s. A rather handsome LHD MGB Roadster is featured in To Kill a Saint, Simon Templar uses a Triumph 2000 when he is disguised as a police inspector in Legacy for The Saint and the final show, The World Beater is dominated by a Jensen FF, a TVR Vixen S1 and Marcos 1600GT.

Quite possibly, the most famous one-off appearance by the red racy Aston Martin DB4 Series V in The Noble Sportsman, which became a Newport Pagnell DB5 prototype and, in 1964, was seen at Pinewood Studios in a certain 007 film, I recall…

Simon Templar’s adventures supposedly took him around the world but in reality, he rarely ventured out of London and the Home Counties. The first season’s The Latin Touch is especially unusual in that it has a limited amount of Rome location footage and Vendetta for the Saint was set in Sicily – but quite clearly shot in Malta.

Asides from that, as Sir Roger put it in his memoirs “by wheeling out the odd plastic palm tree, affixing false car number plates and slapping a caption across the bottom of the screen, the Elstree backlot and surrounds would become France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland or even The Bahamas”.

A further charming detail of The Saint is the continuity, which was sometimes so absent as to be quite surreal. A Citroën DS19 cannot make up its mind whether it was yellow or white in To Kill a Saint and a Bentley S1 transforms into an Austin A125 Sheerline post-explosion in Legacy for The Saint. Cars might even change model from shot to shot; a Škoda 1000 MB turns into an Octavia during The Paper Chase.

The fact that short driving sequences were often, to quote Sir Roger, created via a revolving drum “with bits of silver paper on it to represent city lights flashing past it or if we were in the country, we’d attach a few twigs” only added to the appeal of the programme. Moore knew that his screen heroes were the creation of smoke and mirrors, and in his off-duty hours he drove such everyday cars as a Renault 5. The Saint may have been a show of restricted budget and shooting schedule but each edition has gloss, pace and 100 per cent entertainment value. Above all The Saint starred Roger Moore – masterful light comedy actor, UNICEF activist and true gentleman. Cue Edwin Astley’s theme tune.

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