23 February 1963: The case of the electrified Land Rover

On this day in 1963, an unsuspecting bobby gets a shock when he stumbles upon an electrified Land Rover.

Most of us would probably do almost anything to avoid getting a parking ticket. But few would go as far as a Sussex farmer in 1963, who, in his own words, was waging a “private war” against an enemy that was new to the capital – traffic wardens.

With his lorries bulging with produce from his farm, 40-year-old Peter Hicks would regularly drive to Covent Garden to set up shop. But as anyone who has driven in central London knows, finding somewhere to park is tricky, especially when you have a fleet of lorries. So, he parked them illegally on Shorts Gardens, near Seven Dials.

Before long, the parking fines started to rack up – about £30 a week. That's around £630 in today's money. But Hicks didn't want to pay.

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He took a device that usually runs an electric current through the fences on his farm and attached it to his Land Rover. His car now had 2,000 volts running through it – enough to give anyone who placed a ticket on it a jolt. (Remember, it's not the voltage that's dangerous, but the level of amps – the flow of electric current. So, while 2,000 sounds like a lot, the amps were kept low.)

He then placed his Land Rover so it was bumper to bumper with his parked lorries. Now the whole convoy was electrified. And lo and behold, the parking tickets dried up. "I've watched quite a few wardens cop it, trying to put a ticket on my truck", he told the BBC. "They gave up in disgust and shock!"

Then one day, 23 February 1963, a passing police constable stopped to examine the strange ticking noise coming from the Land Rover. He “received a nasty shock”, as did his intrigued sergeant and a police inspector. Hicks was arrested for assault.

The prosecutors would later decide that they couldn't make the charges stick, and his electric fence device was returned. Hicks agreed that he'd made his point.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

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