The History of your Vehicle -

The Paper Trail

Start by looking at the log book.  If you’re fortunate enough to have the old style green log book, then it will have all the vehicle’s owners listed until the time that it was computerised.  If you have only a variation of the modern V5 registration document, then contact the DVLA and ask for a print of all the records associated with your vehicle.

What you’re looking for is the first registered keeper.  The police almost invariably bought new cars straight from the dealer, so if the first entry is “The Chief Constable of X Constabulary” or something similar, then you’ve got an answer.

The list of previous owners may help you trace more of the vehicle’s history.  Once the Police had finished with the vehicle it would probably have been sold at auction and then used for a variety of purposes.  Some previous owners may be prepared to offer more information, but respect other people’s privacy, and do not pester anyone.

Once you know which Force originally owned your vehicle, then try contacting them. Due to reorganisation between 1968 and 1974 you may find that the original force no longer exists, but it would have been amalgamated into a larger force, which will certainly still be available for contact.  Depending on the force, you may get the best response from their Museum, Traffic, or Public Relations Departments.

Armed with your chassis number, contact the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust and obtain a production trace certificate.  This will list the serial numbers of engine and gearbox, the colours of the body and interior, the dealer who sold the car, the build dates* and whether it had any special equipment – “Police Specification” is another good indication as to the origin of your vehicle!

    *Today, a BMW Mini takes about one hour from when the first component is picked at the start of the assembly line, until the finished car is driven off the other end of the line. When Minors were assembled, the process might have stretched over several days.

Now you know the original dealer, you may be able to get some more information from them.  Unfortunately most will either have ceased trading or destroyed old records, but you might strike lucky.

It’s worth writing a polite letter to one of the associations for retired Police Officers. Describe what you know about the car, and ask if anyone can remember it being in service.  Again it’s a question of luck, but when we tried this approach we ended up visiting a retired Inspector who, as a young Constable in 1968, drove our car on his beat.