Well it must have been 1997, since that’s when the Men In Black movie came out. Korean car manufacturers were really pushing their product into the UK. One deal I remember someone taking advantage of was; buy a brand new Hyundai, and in six months they take it back to see how it was doing, and give you a brand new Hyundai for no extra cost. One of the other things they did was livery up some of their cars in generic police markings, and pass them around the various police forces to see if they could utilize them in any way.
That was how we ended up in Maidstone with a fully policie liveried Hyundai Atos, this tiny little boxy car which still had the FM radio in it. When the police force received a consignment of new cars, they spent some time ripping the FM/AM radios out and installing police radios. Actually what you saw in the dash was just the tuner part, there was a lot more equipment that had to be fitted in somewhere else that boosted the signal Usually a large part of the boot was boarded off with a large piece of plywood, and the actual working parts of the radio was bolted too it. So if you wanted to, you know, actually listen to a commercial radio station you had to bring in your own battery powered radio, which probably didn’t like moving around very much.
Anyway, the result was the same, out came the AM/FM radio, in went local police and force-wide radio. Of course the trial cars did not have these, you had to rely on your little handheld personal radio, which did not work well in metal cars, which acted like Faraday cages.
So we had this car with no long-range radio, which meant it was only really useful around the center of the main town, not out in the rural area, and it had an AM/FM radio. Oh did I mention it was really, really small. I think the idea was that Hyundai hoped Police departments in england with small tight roads, pedestrianised city centers, would buy the cars since they were better around town. Of course no-one wanted to use it for regular patrol, not only did it not have a radio, it was incrediblty small. Here is a photo of one, not the UK Livery, but this has Hong Kong markings …
So what did it get used for? Well of course the Public Order Unit thought it would be hilarious to squeeze the four burliest members inside and cruise through the center of town, past oll of the nightclubs and large 9over 2,00 seater) bars to the theme tune for Men In Black. Now the PSU got to wear black utilities, aka baby-grows, in the course of their duties, ostensible because they would occasionally be involved in situations where they would need them, but basically they wore them all the time because it made them look different to the normal police uniform, and just a little bad.
For those who don’t recall the movie, the theme tune went something like; “Men in black, protecting the world from the worst scum of the universe…” Which played very well as they cruised through town. by that time the town of ____________ had grown a lot, the old outdoor marketplace for cattle had bene converted into an entertainment complex with three nightclubs, movie theater, there were two new 2,000 seat pubs in town, and most fo the town center was pedestrianized. So here was quite an audience for the PSU as they cruised down town in their little box car with “Men in Black” blasting out, basically trying very hard to get into a fight with some drunks, because, you know, they wer ethe riot squad.