Ashes to Ashes – more like ‘tashes to crashes. Attempting to watch the latest episode of this TV time travel nonsense made me realise that the poor old ‘80s are in desperate need of rehabilitation. For those of us who weren’t miners (or even licence-less minors) it was the finest decade known to humanity – and one day I fully intend to write a book about it and set the record straight.
In the interests of historical accuracy I have to say that, in real life, mid ‘80s coppers never got to drive anything more exciting than a Rover SDI. Which, in carburetted form, was a very thirsty way of going not-particularly quickly and breaking down a lot. So I’ll have to put down the presence of a full-on Quattro in the series as nothing more than a constabulary wet dream.
But for villains looking for some serious wheels, it was the ultimate decade. For a start, this was back when Mercedes still built cars properly. The corporate offerings weren’t all hugely exciting, of course – but a 560 SEL at full speed was a hell of a sight, and a great way to take off the front of a jewellers for an impromptu ram raid. Even better, these days you stand a good chance of turning one up for less than two grand – and it will still work.
BMW’s reputation for making upmarket hoon-mobiles was already well established. At the top end Alpina were already giving the slap-and-steroids treatment to the corporate line-up, including the full-on 7 Series. But, to be honest, if I was planning an ‘80s bank job and needed to make a quick, sideways exit I think the less conspicuous, equally chuckable BMW 528i would be the wheels of choice.
Or what about a Merc 190? Granted, the wheezy 1.8 litre version would be in grave danger of finding itself out-dragged by an Austin Maestro police car, but the Cosworth-engined version of the baby Merc was probably the decade’s ultimate Q-Car: inconspicuous and devastatingly fast. I reckon that even Inspector Hunt’s blood-red Quattro would have its work cut out keeping up with a hardened crim in one of those, a post office’s weekly takings fluttering in the passenger seat.
Yes, there’s a common theme here: all the best cars from the 1980s were all German. And the very best of all was the mk2 Volkswagen Golf GTI – an early eight valve one, in red. It probably wouldn’t rate very high on a robber’s getaway wish-list, but I’d still be prepared to engage in petty larceny to land a decent one.