Ford marks 60 years of the M1 motorway

It’s 60 years since the first section of the M1 motorway opened running between Watford and Rugby.

This fast and complex new road needed a new type of police car to patrol it. The forces of Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptionshire, whose territory the M1 goes through, bandied together and decided that they would all use the same type of car.

They chose the Ford Zephyr Abbott estate, produced by specialist coachbuilder Farnham. It had the space to carry all the equipment motorway patrols needed and a lusty straight-six engine giving a top speed of nearly 90mph. Which seems pathetic now, but back in the early days of British motorways the average family car could barely top 70. And it’s possible they were fitted with a tuning pack developed by touring car racer Raymond Mays, which extracted a big chunk of extra power and raised the top speed to a whole 100mph.

Of those original M1 patrol cars, just one is left. It was run by Herts police back then and it now resides in Ford’s heritage collection. Ford gave it a run out to mark the M1’s 60th birthday in the company of the current Mondeo hybrid estate, stopping at Toddington services in near Luton.

While some forces use the Mondeo estate to carry their dog patrols, you’re unlikely to see one pounding the M1 these days. It’s much more likely that you’ll get pulled over a BMW X5 or 530d Touring.

Check out our list of the Top 5 Motorway Police Cars

By Graham King

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