24 October 2023
We look at Ertl’s model based on a little-known British children’s cartoon
P.C. Pinkerton was a short-lived animated cartoon that was aimed at very young children. Produced in 1988 by Trevor Bond Associates, it featured the adventures of Police Constable Bob Pinkerton, an old-school bobby based in the idyllic middle-English village of Cleybourne. Unusually for a cartoon character, Bob Pinkerton was a family man and lived with his wife Jill and children Jane and Peter. The programme was intended to show the life of a policeman, although his life was a pretty mild one. There appeared to be no crime in Cleybourne, and Bob’s most dangerous duties involved helping children cross the street or rescuing pets from trees. P.C. Pinkerton would address the audience directly to explain what he was doing. He was voiced by Ian Lavender, best known for Dad’s Army. Only 13 episodes of the show were produced, although like many of these five-minute children’s cartoons, they were re-run frequently on the BBC.
Models from ERTL
A diecast toy car based on P.C. Pinkerton was produced by Ertl in 1990. This may seem an odd combination, given that Ertl was an American company best known for model tractors. However, in the 1980s Ertl had a great deal of success with toys based on British TV franchises aimed at pre-schoolers, such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Postman Pat. Given that P.C. Pinkerton was a less famous property, Ertl didn’t invest a lot of money in tooling. It used an existing casting, a Volkswagen Beetle convertible that originated in the 'Smurfs' range from 1982. After that, the little Beetle was re-used quite frequently in Ertl character toy ranges, and was also driven by Noddy, Tweety Pie, Garfield and Dennis the Menace. All used the same casting, but with a different, oversized character figure in the driving seat. P.C. Bob appears to be the final issue of the VW, and was the only one of the Ertl cartoon ranges to consist of a single model.
P.C. Pinkerton’s police car was painted yellow, with a grey folded roof and a black plastic base. It had a figure of Bob at the wheel, in his dark blue uniform and bobby helmet; he was well painted, with his buttons, face and bushy moustache all touched in, and there was a police badge printed on his cap. The car featured a large police crest on the front, while there were smaller crests and chequered stripes on the doors. ‘POLICE – STOP’ was printed on the rear, and rather strangely, ‘POLICE’ was written across the front windscreen. The front and rear lights were painted, while the number plates were marked ‘PCP1’. The car rode on black low-friction mag wheels.
In the TV show, P.C. Bob usually rode a bike, but occasionally used a patrol car. His car was a white hatchback with blue and yellow checks, unlike Ertl’s yellow convertible, although an enclosed car is not really suitable for oversized character figures. The model was packaged on a large blister card with a big picture of P.C. Pinkerton outside a police station.
The Ertl car is the only diecast vehicle based on the P.C. Pinkerton franchise, although other merchandise was produced including storybooks, videocassettes, figurines and a walkie-talkie set. The show is rarely seen today and remains relatively unknown.