If you watched telly in the 1970s and liked cars, you loved Hazell. Here was a bloke with some taste. It was more than the simple fact that he had a beautiful Stag, but that he also managed to keep it roadworthy. That V8 engine made a magnificent sound, but as we all know it could overheat and expire in clouds of steam. Not for James Hazell, that’s how super cool he actually was. The great news is that you can watch all the episodes on Talking Pictures TV.

What went wrong with the Stag? Here was a beautiful car with a beastly, undeveloped engine. It made a wonderfully throaty burble, not unlike a vampishly beautiful woman who smoked 60 fags a day. Otherwise there was little going for the car and it never seemed to get very far because basically the Stag broke down a lot. If you want the details, well the cylinder heads and there were two of those, would warp. That caused the cylinder head gaskets to fail leading to a catastrophic loss of coolant. Not only that a timing chain, and there was only one of those would stretch. Once stretched it would jump off the cogs and meant that the valves and pistons would collide, rather than missing each other. It was a disaster and it was no wonder that it was soon nick named the Triumph Snag. The irony was that subsequently many private companies offered Rover V8 conversions which seemed to work perfectly well. Clearly a missed opportunity for inter marque co-operation.

Hazell was a private eye created by a footballer. Incredible at the time and still fairly remarkable now to find someone who kicked a ball for a living to have the creativity and intelligence to come up with something so original. Terry Venables, a Chelsea and QPR regular was not alone though and had professional help from novelist and sports writer Gordon Williams. They were both responsible for the 1974 novel Hazell Plays Solomon using the pseudonym of ‘P.B. Yuill’. Luckily this caught the eye of TV producer June Roberts. By that time Venables was managing Crystal Palace.

A proper London cockney detective with a flash car and a nice line in patter with a distinctly Phillip Marlowe style voiceover. It took a while for the first series to really get going and settle down into a proper larky, brutish but stylish style, but once it did with some changes in the script editing department and the series was off.

Hazell was initially stifled in 1978 by something peculiar to the era, a strike by technicians, just ten of the projected 13 episodes were made. A fascinating fact is that John Nettles, who later became Bergerac, was up for the role. It is hard to think that he could have been better than Ball, but it must be remembered that he also ran a stylish old 1947 Triumph Roadster as his TV detective car. Apparently that broke down all the time and was a pig to drive.

Ball though was perfect as the ex-cop drummed out after a messy divorce and descent into drink. Cheeky, charming and not afraid to get stuck in and quite often duffed up. The supporting cast is exceptional and you will bump into his Mrs. at the time Pamela Stephenson, otherwise it is everyone else you recognise from The Sweeney and Minder.

Indeed, Leon Griffiths, who wrote some scripts would go on to develop Minder (1979-94), the series that replaced Hazell in the ITV schedules.
Never mind all that, though just look at the street scenes, Escorts, Allegros and Transit vans. A fantastic slice of 1970s motoring life. That’s why we love it and why you must tune into Talking Pictures TV on Virgin 445, Freesat 306, Freeview or Youview 81 or on the Sky digital satellite platform, channel 328.

The Series starts: Friday 8th Nov at 9pm; and continues at the same time every week.