OK, so this relates to a TV series translated from a collection of detective books, but I’m hoping readers will allow me a little latitude.
For a moment there, this opening was like a game of charades for the ‘visually impaired’ …
I think most people know that (Chief) Inspector Morse was originally the owner and driver of a Lancia, not a Jaguar Mk2 (or was that really a Daimler?). Having read most of the books by Colin Dexter many years ago on the back of viewing a few of the TV episodes (pre-kids, one had time to waste like that), a few thoughts were stimulated by the changes wrought by the TV production company in its adaptations from the books.
First, in the books, Lewis is a Welshman in the latter stages of his career rather than a rather young and guileless Geordie (the clue’s in the name and should, on reflection, have been an obvious incongruity to anyone watching the TV series). Second, and most obvious, there’s a red Jaguar with a black vinyl roof instead of the Lancia. Third, and more importantly, exactly what was the Lancia in question in the books?
Trawling the inter-web, there seems no really satisfactory answer as to why there was the change in nationality and age profile for the Sergeant side-kick: perhaps it was just down to the fact that Kevin Whately was popular at the time, having been a member of the cast of the cult Friday night hit “Auf Wiedersehen Pet”, and that there were few near-60s Welsh actors around at the time.
More relevantly, on the question of the use of a Jaguar over a Lancia, there’s a scurrilous reference on one site to the ‘fact’ that John Thaw insisted on the switch as a condition of taking the role. Elsewhere, the view seems to be that the change was for entirely pragmatic reasons in that the production company just could not find a suitable, classic Lancia in the locale. What is quite fun is a comment attributed to Colin Dexter that, in his view, Morse “would not have been seen dead in a Jag”. Later, he seems to have concluded that a Jaguar was a more logical choice given that Morse was so patriotic (I don’t recall getting that impression from reading the books). Either way, perhaps recognising the popular success of the TV programme, in later books, Dexter writes of Morse as a owner/ driver of a Jaguar and the Lancia is silenced.
Which leads us to the question as to the identity of the enigmatic Lancia. The thing is that Dexter leaves very little in the way of clues as to the actual model. My trawl of the ‘net has turned up nothing of any concreteness. There is some wag on a Lancia website who proclaims that he ‘knows’ (‘Martin D’, only you know who you are and of the now endless angst you have caused by NOT actually ending your interminable tease), but otherwise it’s all just speculation. One person seems convinced that the only logical answer is the Aurelia … which I have to say would be so lovely that I fear that said person has just got a bit rose-tinted in their deductions. Others deduce it could be a Flaminia or Flavia. Just thank God that, given when the books were written (and the vintage of the TV series), the production team did not resort to popping down to their nearest FCA dealership and picking up one of those Chrysler based Flavias instead.
From a personal reflection, given that Morse was written to be a deep-thinking person, somewhat introverted, and with a penchant for high art and quality real ale, I think that he was more likely to have had a passion for the more rare and exotic Lancia. Equally, I think the casting of John Thaw as Morse might have had more subversive influence than first realised; doesn’t the Mk2 Jaguar seem a bit “The Sweeney” for a man called Endeavour.