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Rootes supplied over 300 Hillman Imps to Polices forces throughout the country. The Panda story started in August, 1966, when, in an attempt to improve the use of man-power in Police Forces throughout the country, the Research and Planning Branch of the Home Office decided to carry out an experiment - an experiment which subsequently became known as the Unit Beat Policing Scheme. Its aims were, to improve police mobility, which in turn would help to overcome a shortage of man-power, to provide a better service to the public, to provide an incentive to the man on the beat and to increase the flow of information which is of invaluable assistance in crime detection.
Six standard Imps in Capri Blue were prepared and painted to the 'Panda' paint scheme by the Service Workshop at Stoke, Coventry. The cars were run-in and delivered to the Newton Abbot Division of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary - the area specially selected for the Imps to patrol. The experiment began on March 1st, 1967, and the Imps were manned by as many as thirty different drivers. The cars, used twenty-four hours per day by three one-man crews, were never allowed to cool down, and, with stop-start motoring over the hilly terrain of the Newton Abbot district, including Dartmoor, were therefore subjected to very severe conditions.
On patrol, the cars carries equipment in the form of shovels, police signs, and fire extinguishers and the Police Constable driver was equipped with a personal radio set, which enabled him to keep in constant touch with Head-quarters. This improved mobility which facilitated greatly the operation of crime detection. During the test, the Imps proved to be reliable and economical. An overall fuel consumption of 33 m.p.g. was recorded. It is interesting to note that this proved to be superior to our competitors, who were averaging an m.p.g. figure of 15 per cent lower.