A Dream Comes True for Nicholas Rhea
When Peter Walker was a young beat bobby in the sixties patrolling the streets of Whitby, North Yorkshire, he dreamed of being a successful author with a suitable car to match. His car of choice would have been a Jaguar.
"I'd been out on a job when I saw this beautiful car parked outside a house. I fell in love with it immediately. I never thought I'd get one, so I gave the hero of the book I was working on this lovely dark blue Jaguar. It became the first book I had published, called Carnaby and the Hijackers."
Carnaby was a young policeman who travelled up to Yorkshire from London to solve crimes. Sounds familiar? That's exactly what TV policeman Nick Rowan did in the first episode of the hugely successful drama Heartbeat. Heartbeat was based on Peter's later Constable series of books, which he wrote under the pen name Nicholas Rhea.
Peter's dream of owning a Jaguar continued unfulfilled as he rose though the police ranks. He became an inspector in the late 1970s, and took on the rôle of Press Officer at the North Yorkshire Police headquarters in Northallerton. He continued to write in his spare time, and was now having books published regularly.
In 1976, there was an opportunity too good to miss. Peter found a sky-blue 1968 Mark II Jaguar 2.4 for sale for £400. With four growing children, money was tight. But his passion for Jaguars was too strong and, throwing caution to the wind, he bought the car.
"It was our main car for a while, and my eldest daughter learned to drive in it," Peter remembers. But it wasn't exactly the car of his dreams.
"It handled like a tank, sounded like a juggernaut, and was wholly unreliable. It swallowed money in petrol and maintenance."
And in 1979, it failed its MOT. "I just didn't have the money to fix it, so it had to stay in the garage," Peter recalls.
And stay it did - for 15 years! "I couldn't part with it, even though it was taking up lots of space. My wife even used it as a greenhouse in the winter and kept her geraniums in it! But I always felt that one day I would get the money together to restore it."
That chance came in the 1990s when the success of Heartbeat brought Peter the financial rewards he needed. The vintage Jag was finally towed from its resting place and lovingly restored to its former glory.
"It was ready just in time for my youngest daughter's wedding in 1996. It looked wonderful."
But the dream of owning a brand new Jag persisted. "The old one was lovely, but it didn't exactly fit the image I'd built up in my mind of cruising along in a smooth, sleek, up-to-the-minute Jag."
So finally this year, 36 years after Carnaby, Peter was able to follow in his first hero's footsteps. He bought a brand new dark blue S-type Jaguar 2.5.
"It's rather different to the first one. This one handles impeccably, and purrs like a big cat!"
He hasn't lost his affection for the vintage Jaguar, which still takes up all his double garage space. And Peter's getting used to his new nickname "Two Jags"!
"I suppose really, my dream has finally come true."