The death of the wonderful character actor George Cole last week at the great age of 90 saddened me. I grew up with the TV series ‘Minder’ with George playing the rogue used car salesman Arthur Daley. Along with the U.S. police drama series ‘Hill Street Blues’, Minder was essential weekly viewing for me.
While Arthur’s likeable ex-con bodyguard Terry McCann played by Dennis Waterman was supposed to be the real star of the series, it was the Arthur Daley character that stole the show.
He portrayed a rogue that was constantly trying to catch the upwardly mobile wave, that was the over-riding theme of that era.
Unfortunately, the great character portrayal by George had a very negative effect on how the profession of a car salesmen in the UK (and to some extent here too) was perceived.
The great TV series, which ran for over a hundred episodes portrayed used car salesmen as untrustworthy characters.
His little schemes like placing bibles in glove compartments of his cars claiming – “one careful owner – a nun” or other rogue scams like clocking, dodgy MOT Certs. etc, to deceive his victims built up a stereo-type that stuck.
Minder also was one of the great early examples of the power of television to influence people – it created a strong perception of the car salesman profession, which in-turn impacted negatively on the motor industry.
I was surprised to read recently how this legacy still lingers today – a popularity survey in the UK placed used car salesmen below colonoscopies, cockroaches, Genghis Khan and France. However they did manage to beat the ebola virus, North Korea and gonorrhoea!
While I’m sure that George Cole’s passing is regretted greatly by the real “Er indoors”, his wife Penny, all his family, friends and fans like me, it is sad to say that from a professional perspective, few in the auto industry in the UK in particular will regret the passing of one Arthur Daley.