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The phrase panda car refers to a small or medium-sized police car operated by British police forces. They are used for ordinary patrol work, with larger and more powerful vehicles being used for emergency response, Road Policing Unit duties and as Armed Response Vehicles

History of the term

Panda cars were named after panda because they were originally painted with large panels of black and white, or blue (usually light blue) and white.

The first use of Panda cars seems to have been in Lancashire Constabulary area in about 1965, the Chief Constable described the use of blue and white Ford Anglia Panda cars in Kirkbymarker in an article in The Times on 26 January 1966. These were blue with a white line painted around them. In 1967, the Dunbartonshire force bought two Hillman Imps (subsequently nicknamed "Pinky" and "Perky") for escort duties on the A82 roadmarker; one blue and one white. The boot lids, bonnet and doors were then swapped to create a panda car style scheme.[103108]

In the 1980s police cars in the UK began to be ordered in white to save acquisition costs, usually with orange or red "jam sandwich" reflective stripes. Today, patrol cars are painted in a variety of different colours, often with multicoloured Battenburg markings or stripes, although many forces still use a mainly white colour scheme. The name panda car or panda is still often used.


In many areas the panda car replaced the traditional "bobby on the beat" when it was seen that larger suburban or rural areas could be more effectively patrolled by officers in cars, as opposed to on foot, bicycles or motorcycles. The provision of shelter from the weather and a two-way radio were also benefits.

The panda is distinct from the "area car", a larger and more powerful vehicle which acts as support to the beat Constables, usually carrying two officers.

Current usage within the Metropolitan Police Service uses the term "panda car" to refer specifically to a marked car driven by a basic driver (i.e., one constrained to drive within normal traffic rules, and who may not use the vehicle's siren), as opposed to an IRV—"immediate response vehicle"—which could be exactly the same vehicle but driven by an advanced driver (i.e., one trained and permitted to disregard certain traffic laws and use the siren, as one would normally expect from police vehicles). The callsign attached to the vehicle for the duration of the shift should normally make it clear whether it is functioning as a panda or IRV at the time.


Article by the Chief Constable of Lancashire in The Times (Mobility Answer to Police Shortage (News) Colonel T. E. St. Johnston - The Times, Wednesday, 26 January 1966; pg. 13; Issue 56539; col F)

Models of car used

Many models of panda car have been or are used by British police forces. Among the most popular are or have been:

See also

External links

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