IT’S not every day you get the chance drive around in a piece of television history...
But it’s a reality for Matthew Bonner and his family after they bought a 1974 Austin Morris police van used in the nostalgic ITV crime drama Heartbeat which was set in Yorkshire.
They acquired the vehicle last May and has spent months restoring it back to its former glory after it was left abandoned for years in a garage.
The 23–year–old, from South Shields, said: “Our family has previously had old rally cars and was offered this through a forum, so we decided to buy it and spent a good few months restoring it.
“It’s quite something, people certainly notice us when we’re out and about in it and they will toot and wave.”
Inside the van - which was featured mainly in the 12th series of the show - are benches and jail bars to keep any potential criminals safely secured.
Its starring moment was during the 17th episode when it was involved in a ‘high speed chase’ which Mr Bonner says it amusing as it can only reach a top speed of 35mph.
The family displayed the van at Sunderland’s Airshow at the weekend, and it’s also part of the Heartbeat Vehicles Owners Club and will be on show at future rallies.
Mr Bonner said: “People love it, both adults and children, they all like to climb inside and have their pictures taken peering from behind the bars.
“I think everyone is really impressed when they see what it’s like inside, with the seats, they aren’t really expecting that.”
Eagle-eyed fans of the show may spot that the van has a slightly different registration plate in real life with the last letter being an ‘L’ and not an actual ‘D’ like on TV.
This was changed by producers, with gaffer tape, to appear ‘older’ and to fit in with the 1960s era of the set.
The family are now hiring their van out for wedding functions and parties.
Mr Bonner said: “We’ve already got a few bookings for next year, it’s a little bit different and not something you see every day.
“It still has its working lights and siren- which makes plenty of noise – so everyone can hear you coming.”
To hire the van visit Facebook and search for ‘Heartbeat Police Van Event Hire’.
Heartbeat was first shown on ITV in 1992 and ran for 18 series.
Stars of the show included Nick Berry, Tricia Penrose and Bill Maynard, plus a host of one-off guest appearances from celebrities including David Essex, Gary Barlow, Daniel Craig and Alan Price.