Written by the legendary John Sullivan, Only Fools and Horses is one of the best-loved British TV series of all time. First broadcast on BBC1 in 1981, it ran for 10 years, becoming the most watched television programme in history. It also returned for several Christmas specials until 2003.
Played by David Jason, Derek “Del Boy” Trotter always has some money-making scheme up his sleeve. Sadly, most of them go horribly wrong and often end up costing him money!
Del Boy’s younger brother, Rodney, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, is the more cautious and sensible sibling, who is swept along with Del Boy’s crazy schemes, often against his better judgement.
The rest of the Trotter clan, including Grandad (Lennard Pearce) and Uncle Albert (Buster Merryfield), plus a host of other memorable Peckham characters, were much loved by the Great British public.
In fact, more than 24 million people tuned into the 1996 Christmas special, when Del Boy and Rodney finally came into money when they sold a rare antique clock at auction.
The Trotter brothers were famous for their battered old three-wheeler van, the yellow Reliant Regal with “Trotters Independent Traders” emblazoned on the side – T.I.T. for short! Although it looked like it was on its last legs, the van had a surprising and unexpected turn of speed, featuring in some of the funniest episodes of the series.
In one episode, Rodney goes on a date with Nerys, the barmaid at the Nag’s Head. He hears that she prefers macho men, so to impress her, he wears a leather jacket and acts tough, as he tears through the streets with Status Quo blasting out.
Unfortunately, the hapless Rodders is later chased by a gang of angry youths in a sports car. The ensuing high-speed chase sees Rodney racing past two police officers at temporary traffic lights, when his three-wheeler goes flying through the air at the brow of a hill and almost knocks down a number of pedestrians!
Rodney is no boy racer and he screams blue murder throughout the whole chase, as the Reliant Regal swerves all over the road and pavement.
The trusty car was a very important part of the series, since it was used to transport all the dodgy goods which Del Boy and Rodney were selling on the market. It carried everything from exploding blow-up dolls to barking toy dogs that fell out of the back door and bounced around the road, with the police in hot pursuit.
Mark II Cortina
In another episode, Rodney buys an old Mark II Cortina, which turns out to be a death trap… with no brakes! After careering down the road, barely able to stop, Rodney tries to sell his car (which he bought for £25) for £199 to make a serious profit!
Ironically, after Rodney and Del sell the dodgy Cortina to an abrupt Australian who doesn’t like “Cockneys” and thinks they are out to con him, the Trotters actually crash into it later on, when they are driving their friend Boycie’s E-Type Jaguar!
Boycie had asked Del to look after his car for a week, so the Trotter brothers went out on the town and managed to get some girls’ phone numbers. When Rodney accidentally throws the numbers out of the car window, mistaking them for rubbish, Del does an emergency stop and has the accident with Rodney’s former Cortina!
Cars in general play a major role in Only Fools and Horses, with the leading characters usually experiencing various disasters in them.
There were also some poignant moments, including when Del and Rodney drove to Uncle Albert’s funeral in a Ford Capri Ghia – the crème de la crème of Capris.
Rodney wasn’t a big fan of the car and nicknamed it the “pratmobile”, in reference to the rather more desirable Batmobile. It had tiger-print faux fur seats, six extra fog lamps and pink aerials. As if that wasn’t naff enough, it was painted lurid bright green!
With some rather special pronunciation, Del Boy called it his “Capri Gear”, rather than “Ghia”. The Capri became almost as iconic as the Reliant Regal over time.
Boycie, played by John Challis, was a used car salesman, who had a showroom full of some classic, and some not so classic cars. His own E-Type Jaguar was his pride and joy, until Del crashed it!
In fact, Boycie’s car showroom played an integral role in the most exciting plot of Only Fools and Horses, when Del and Rodney became multi-millionaires after their famous antique clock sale netted them a fortune.
Del went to look at his dream car, a Rolls-Royce, but couldn’t believe he had come into money and was almost too scared to buy it. Meanwhile, Rodney went into Boycie’s office at the showroom and told him they wanted to buy the Rolls-Royce.
Boycie was very smug, not knowing the Trotters had come into money, so he laughed at Rodney and asked if he was on drugs – until Rodney pulled a letter out of his pocket confirming they had sold a Harrison Lesser timepiece for £6.2 million at auction!
Finally, in a very poignant moment, Rodney buys the Rolls-Royce for Del and hands him the keys and the brothers hug warmly. This scene proved how wonderful Only Fools and Horses was, with its unique knack of mixing comedy with genuine emotion… a sure-fire winner with the audience.
In 2016, Boycie’s 1973 Jaguar from the show sold for £115,000 at auction. It had been expected to fetch £85,000 at Blenheim Palace, but went for much more. The “old English white” Jaguar E-Type Series III was sold by a Swansea businessman, although the buyer’s details weren’t made public.
In 2017, Del Boy’s yellow 1968 Reliant Regal van sold for almost £42,000 at auction. After the series ended, it had been bought by someone described as a “superfan”, who finally sold it at Silverstone Auctions of Warwickshire. The estimate for the van had been £20,000, but a bidding war resulted in the price doubling.
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