Remember when the family all crowded around the telly to all watch the same thing? Remember when TV specials were an event? Back in the 1980s, longer-length specials of the most popular TV programmes of the day were all the rage – especially during the Christmas break, and as such Minder was ripe for the Christmas family special treatment.
It’s difficult to appreciate just how big a phenomenon Minder was by the mid-1980s. First aired in October 1979, it was originally designed as a vehicle to extend Dennis Waterman’s career after Sweeney had come to an end. In the end, Waterman ended up playing second fiddle to George Cole – but it’s difficult to imagine many people not being upstaged by such a gifted actor at the peak of his powers. Between that first episode and the end of the tenth series in 1994, an awful lot of us watched Minder. At its peak in 1984, its most popular episode Second Hand Pose pulled in 16.4 million viewers and I was one of them.
Given the series’ popularity, a Minder Christmas special was bound to happen. Filmed in early 1985, Minder on the Orient Express proved to be the perfect longer-form episode, and unsurprisingly it featured an absolute wealth of talent in the cast list. It was a reflection of the strength of the scripts that pretty much every episode in the 10-series run of Minder featured at least one brilliant actor, aside from Cole and Waterman.
But despite a low production budget, Minder on the Orient Express pulled in a particularly strong cast. Not only did it treat us by having DS ‘Charlie’ Chisholm (Patrick Malahide) and DS Rycott (Peter Childs) in the same episode, but other notables included Ralph Bates, Honor Blackman, Adam Faith, Maurice Denham and Ronald Lacey. And as a consequence, the viewer was drawn in, and enjoyed 106 minutes of pure escapism, humour and sheer joy. And that’s before we even go car spotting…
Because much of Minder on the Orient Express was set aboard, er, the Orient Express, there’s not much car spotting to be had. That’s a shame because so many other regular episodes are jam packed with lovely street scenes crammed with some interesting motors. But what there is in this episode counts as absolute gold.
Arthur Daley’s lot leads with a 1969/G Ford Capri Mk1 up for the princely sum of £1995. Although it was, by then, a very old car, and this one does look to have the patina of a cared-for example, it looked expensive for what it was. But imagine what you’d pay for it today. Arthur’s stock in this episode was a very mixed bag – nearest the camera is an early Renault 5, and next to that is a Hillman Avenger(50 this year!). The cars obviously fit the bill of banger fodder back then, but we’d say they’re far from that now.
On the front of the lot, it’s Rover SD1 heaven. This is clearly the executive end of the car lot, with a Series 1 nearest the camera joined by a pair of Series 2s further from camera. There’s also a nice Vauxhall Cavalier Mk2 sandwiched by two of the SD1s and, furthest away, is a Ford Sierra XR4i. Strange to think this was a typical car lot back then. It’s interesting how different it looks to the car lot Arthur was in possession of in 1979 (below) – the Capri was a Mk2, there was an X-Pack Ford Escort (originally meant to be Terry McCann’s car) an Alfa Romeo Giulia, a Fiat 132 and an Audi 100 (C1) among others. They looked several generations older!
If you enjoyed this, let us know in the comments and, if you have any pictures you’d like featuring, drop me a line via any of the links below.
Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)
Where was the car lot? West London, no doubt. And presumably a real one used for the several series. Also, were (most of the) cars already on sale at the lot? In the upper photo there appears to be a traffic light with the red and green light hoods painted black, while the amber ones are white – as was the fashion at one time. But the pair of white lines across the road seem to be dotted ones. In the lower photo, the traffic light has gone, and a small island with a Keep Left sign in situ. Again, in the lower photo, the brick building with the apex roof and the dark circle in the end wall (air vent?) has a sold sign on it. A factory building? Still there? Also in the lower photo a couple of lights near the fence and on shortish poles have appeared. Security for the car lot?
While most rusted away in the eighties and are almost extinct now, the Fiat 132 was actually quite a desirable car in 1979 being pitched at the executive end at the market, and quite a desirable car, with electric windows on top of the range cars and being powered by a lively Fiat twin cam engine. If you overlooked the 132’s rust problems and slack build quality, it was a good car and could easily outrun a bigger engined Princess.
Love the Capri MK1 & II. For me it was an aspirational car of that era.
Regards the Fiat 132, in 1975 while working in Iran, our client contact had a 132 as his company car, which was quite nice and had aircon, but the air-con wasn’t as good as on his bosses Chevrolet Royale (aka Opel Commodore)
Arthur had some other cars in the early series, in series two he had Rover SD1 V8 S, a Mercedes and a Vauxhall Royale if I remember correctly. Plus a Rolls Royce in later series for the odd episodes. Terry had a number of Capris, a mk1 and mk2 with the same R registration, a mk3 Gold Capri 1.6 GL and some other mk3 Capris in white.
Minder had a big following in New Zealand. I don’t think my mum missed an episode. She knew of George Cole before Minder – he was a great actor. Arfur Daley, priceless and Waterman was good as well. Those great U.K. comedies don’t happen now – my wife watches a lot of 80s classics on Gold.
….and the 1980 episode called The Beer Hunter starred Brian Glover and the under-rated but wonderful Georgina Hale. Anyone who remembers that stacato voice talking about ‘strides’ will rekindle a smile. She was one funny and talented lady! I know we’ve got Cobra, Blaclkist, The Rougue and dozens of other good dramas now – but back in the 80’s there was so little choice and thus these gems of British TV meant so much! As for the cars – 80’s tin is just a little bit like yesterday for me. I’m more the 60’s and 70’s era but I do remember the first time I drove a Fiat 124 (not the 5 mentioned). I just wanted to drive it to Momaco – it was such a driver’s car compared to a……nah, I won’t say it otherwise I’ll upset a lot of peeps.
Thanks for this article, loved Minder which had many fine actors on the show, as for the cars many are now classics. I particularly liked Arthur’s Daimler’s. will be routing out my dvd box set ready for another viewing, a guaranteed laugh in every episode!
I adore Minder. One year, everyone where I work had to go to Kensington Olympia for an obligatory all-staff event. I was so bored and frustrated by lunchtime that I slipped out and went looking for the site of Arthur’s old car lot.
This show, together wit the Professionals, was the reason everyone at my schoolwanted a Capri.
Minder is shown twice a day on ITV 4, same as The Professionals. Anyone who wants their fix of big Fords, seventies and eighties Jags, Rover SD1 police cars, Triumph 2000s and little remembered foreign cars( I was watching an episode of The Professionals earlier his week and a female agent had a seventies Honda Civic) has to watch these shows. Also the lack of political correctness is refreshing.
My pals uncle appeared in it a couple of times, so did a guy who use to drink in our club in the 1990s, both great guys liking real ale. Dave Atkins and Mike Savage were their names. If you read this Mike hope you and chris & Paul are all doing ok. Sad that Dave died a few years back. Both guys knew each other too. Minder you was the brainchild behind only fools for sure. Arthur Daily George Cole what an actor a proper tv legend.
That was actually the third Minder Christmas special. The previous year there had been the extended episode Around the Corner, which has also featured both Chisholm and Rycott. And in 1983 there had been Mindet’s Christmas Bonus, set in the Winchester, and featuring flashbacks to precious episodes.
Minder was great early on but the later series were poor, especially when Terry left and was replaced by nephew Ray. I remember when Channel 5 tried to bring a new version back with Shane Ritchie, it was bloody awful.
It did have some great characters played by some brilliant actors. George Cole was always best playing a spiv, and Arthur Daley was the pinical. But you had great recurring characters like Anthony Valentines gambler which were just as engaging as Terry, Arthur and Dave.
DI Chisholm had a Talbot Solara in some episodes, unusual as most police forces favoured Ford, Austin Rover and Vauxhall cars then, but a good bit of product placement for Britain’s fourth biggest car maker, even if Chisholm was a berk.