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Return of the Saint

The action-packed TV series, Return of the Saint, was compulsive viewing in Britain in the 1970s for viewers who enjoyed fast-paced action and even faster cars.

The plot revolves around smooth, suave Simon Templar - a lone modern-day Robin Hood-type character. He travels around Europe helping people in need and targeting the bad guys, including warmongers, corrupt politicians and general lowlifes.

Police and the authorities see him as a vigilante and therefore a criminal himself, although they grudgingly admit, on occasion, that he has done good deeds in wiping out villains.

The Return of the Saint

© Ianogilvy - CC-BY-SA-2.5,2.0,1.0 / Allan Warren - CC BY-SA 3.0


Character's origins

Launched by ITV in September 1978, Return of the Saint followed on from its forerunner, The Saint, which aired between 1962 and 1969. Simon Templar’s character was based on the short stories and novels of author Leslie Charteris, who invented the character, nicknamed The Saint, in the 1920s.

After writing several short stories about The Saint's adventures, which were published in magazines, Charteris wrote his first novel, Meet the Tiger, in 1928. In total, he wrote around 50 books about the character between 1928 and 1983.

Moore played The Saint with the same charm (and a hint of humour) that he used in his later portrayal of superspy James Bond in the 007 movies. Ironically, Moore reportedly turned down the role of James Bond twice while filming The Saint, due to his TV commitments.

In one episode of The Saint, entitled Luella, the character Simon Templar was actually mistaken for James Bond! Eventually, after The Saint ended its seven-year run, Moore accepted the role of Bond, starring in his first film in the franchise, Live and Let Die, in 1973.


Series resurrected

After The Saint had completed its six-series run on ITV in February 1969, it was resurrected nine years later, with Ian Ogilvy in the title role this time around.

The show was famous for its famous intro scene, when an animated stick-figure representing The Saint was depicted driving fast cars, fighting the villains and wooing the ladies in a mixture of animation and live action. The figure always had a halo above his head.

The premise of the show was the same as the original series, with Templar, the wealthy and mysterious do-gooder, travelling around (often to exotic locations abroad) to help out people in need.

While the original series was filmed mostly at the TV studios and on location in Britain (even though it was supposedly set in locations around the world) Return of the Saint was filmed throughout Europe.


Luxury car

When The Saint was first broadcast, the car manufacturer, Jaguar, had reportedly turned down the chance for promotional opportunities with the series. The show's producers had asked the luxury car manufacturer about the possibility of using an E-Type Jaguar as Templar's car. However, Jaguar wasn't interested and declined.

The producers instead used a Volvo P1800 as The Saint's car. Apparently, Jaguar regretted the decision, as when Return of the Saint was announced, the manufacturer provided an XJS with the personalised number plate, "ST1".

As a great marketing opportunity, a range of miniature "Saint" cars were produced by toy manufacturer Corgi and proved a great success. Much of Templar's time was spent spinning around in his sports car, creating excellent publicity for Jaguar.

The vehicle-maker supplied only one car to ITV for filming, but during filming at international locations, other similar cars were loaned to the studio from local dealerships. However, some differences were noticed by car enthusiasts and eagle-eyed viewers!

An example was in an episode called The Saint and the Brave Goose, where The Saint's car had a sunroof initially, but later on, this had mysteriously disappeared - one for the continuity guys to ponder!

The original Jaguar had been supplied direct from the factory and had the registration plate PWK 530R. It was a prototype test vehicle that was marked as an XJ27 - alias of the XJS. Its engine and suspension had been modified by British Leyland. The sunroof had been added and the car also had a rare manual gearbox and a V-12 engine. Around 99% of the XJS models were automatic.

With a white exterior and a luxurious tan leather interior, the car had been manufactured in August 1975 and received the modifications, after which it was given to the TV studio in April 1977 for the invaluable publicity that the series provided.


What happened to the Jaguar?

After the series ended in March 1979, the Jaguar XJS used in shooting was sold, but was rediscovered in 1993 by fans of the series, Alisdair Stewart and David Cleary. Stewart bought the car and took it to Aberdeen. It was sold again in 1995 to car dealer Ivor Bleaney, owner of IB Classic Cars.

After this, a new owner purchased the car and it was taken to the Shetland Islands, where it was stored in a shed. It was sold on again in 2003 to its current owner, who restored it, put it through its MOT and continued to drive it.

The story didn't end there, as in 2016, when Ian Ogilvy appeared as a guest on The One Show for an interview about his time as The Saint, he rolled up at the studios in the original XJS vehicle that had been used in the Return of the Saint.

Whether you drive a Jaguar XJS, or any other make and model of vehicle, Coruba's range of top-quality vehicle rubber matting will help prevent wear and tear to the interior. Contact us on +44(0)1702 560194 for information on our range of products.

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