My other car is a ... Austin 1300 Panda Car

Blog post posted on 10/11/20 |

In this week's blog IAM RoadSmart member David Walker talks us through his love for his Austin 1300 Panda car. Once they were a common sight, but these days only a few survive - including David's.

There’s something about cars from the ’60s and ’70s – I’ve always fancied having one. In those days they had character. I wanted something different – I used to watch Heartbeat on TV, so my first thoughts were to get a Ford Anglia and make that into a replica panda car. But then this one came up. The chap wanted over £6,000 for it but I badgered him down – I don’t think he was too pleased but he let it go in the end. Although it’s a replica it’s exactly the same as a police car would have been. Everything works – the lights, the twotone siren.

I wish I had a pound for everybody who takes a photograph of it. I haven’t yet been able to fill up with petrol without someone coming over for a chat. They say “I used to drive one of those” or “my dad had one”. In the day, it was a very popular car.

Most police forces had them. I actually remember the day when they were driving about in West Bromwich – I was at my nan’s when one came screaming up the road after a car. That was an Austin 1300, and it stuck in my mind forever.

There’s no power steering, no servo brakes. That’s one thing I really love about it, it’s so basic. I use my IAM RoadSmart training a lot, on my motorbike too. It’s definitely useful in the police car – it can’t accelerate like a modern car, so you have to look for your gaps and plan quite a way ahead.

It’s amazing how small they look now. In its day it would have been a medium-sized family car. To be a police officer – in the early days – you had to be six foot and pretty well-built. Four coppers in one of these, it’s a wonder it went! Especially if they had a prisoner in the back, too. In fact, a few people have told me they remember having a ride in one… 

Austin 1300 facts and figures:

  • The Austin’s ‘A Series’ engine was 1275cc. Its design endured from 1951 to 2000.
  • The power output of the Austin 1300 saloon was 60bhp when it was first launched in 1963.
  • The roof light was red on the rear, with an illuminated request for miscreants to ‘stop’.
  • In 1975, Basil Fawlty famously gave an Austin 1300 a thrashing with a tree branch.
  • David’s Panda (pictured below) is a replica, but an incredibly faithful one, prompting reminiscences from plenty of people.


This blog is taken from an interview which was published in the most recent edition of RoadSmart magazine. Members of IAM RoadSmart can log in to the site and view digital copies of the magazine in their dashboard.

Photo credit : Jesse Wild