Captain Scarlet

Vehicle Spotlight – The Maximum Security Vehicle

The Maximum Security Vehicle is one of the most important weapons Spectrum have in their ongoing efforts to protect the lives of those unfortunate enough to be targeted by the Mysterons. This bullet-proof four-seater vehicle is capable of speeds of up to 200 mph and, according to Spectrum scientists, is virtually indestructible!

Designed by Mike Trim, we first see the machine in the opening episode of Captain Scarlet as part of the convoy escorting the World President to the Spectrum Maximum Security Building in New York. The Andersons’ description of the vehicle in their original script for The Mysterons offered its designer little of interest to work with, and yet Mike’s final design manages to incorporate all of the features they mention while still adding much of his own signature style.

It is of a conventional shape except that the windscreen is reduced to a narrow slit. There are no side windows other than a small porthole. Two smaller portholes are located in the rear of the cab behind each passenger. Its design suggests to us that it is bullet proof. The motor is revving quite high and we have the feeling that although the car is stream-lined, its extremely heavy construction precludes it from attaining high speed.

Part of a decoy motorcade in Winged Assassin.

Unfortunately, the vehicle would only make three television appearances; The Mysterons, Winged Assassin, and Manhunt. The reason for the vehicle being so quickly dropped from the series are unknown; it may never have been planned for the machine to appear much beyond the first episode, there may have been concerns over its similarities to the SPV, or it could genuinely be nothing more than no stories actually requiring its use. The introduction of the Yellow Fox security tanker in Winged Assassin might offer an in-universe explanation for the phasing out of the MSV; why transport potential Mysteron targets in an obvious Spectrum vehicle covered in Spectrum logos when you can load them into a seemingly-ordinary petrol tanker and be sure not to attract attention?

As designed by Bob Bell, the MSV’s interior set would go on to have an afterlife of sorts as the interiors of various small vehicles in later episodes, including the SKR4 recovery vehicle in Inferno, and Joe 90’s mini-sub in Arctic Adventure and space capsule in Most Special Astronaut.

The MSV has also been a popular target for merchandisers, most notably Dinky Toys. Their 137-mm recreation of the MSV came with a drop-down ramp and a crate of ‘radioactive isotopes’ – always an important part of any V.I.P.’s luggage! This toy was marketed alongside their models of the SPV and Spectrum Saloon as part of ‘Captain Scarlet’s Terrific Trio’ (or ‘Thrilling Three’), with all three items proving so popular that they remained in production until the mid-1970s. There were also plastic model kits of the vehicle produced in several scales, most notably from Imai, plus a rubber model produced by Konami in the 2000s.

MSV vs MSV; spectacular Mike Noble art from TV21 issue 175.

The vehicle was also spotlighted in several Captain Scarlet comic stories, including a TV21 tale in which Mysteron sabotage caused Scarlet to lose his memory while at the controls of an MSV – thus enabling Captain Black to trick our hero into using the machine to wreak havoc! Various cutaways and cross-sections of the MSV have also been published over the years, providing more technical data on this rarely seen Spectrum vehicle.

Final TV appearance; part of a roadblock in Manhunt.

When New Captain Scarlet arrived on British television in 2005, featuring redesigns of most of the classic Spectrum vehicles, no comparable counterparts to the Maximum Security Vehicle or Yellow Fox tanker from the original series were present; as much a reflection of the new show’s lack of ‘V.I.P. in danger’ stories as the vehicles’ lack of public recognition. Arguably the Captain Scarlet merchandising juggernaut supported the potential of the MSV in a far greater way than its limited television appearances would warrant, and yet it’s the background information provided in such publications as the Captain Scarlet annuals that keeps fans interested in the vehicle to this day. Although the MSV may only have had a short television career, its design is just as impressive as any other machine in Spectrum’s arsenal – and it would have been great to see some screen adventures that really showed off the capabilities that Century 21’s merchandising department dreamed up for it!

Written by
Chris Dale

Writer, editor & voice actor on Big Finish's Doctor Who, Terrahawks, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet audio ranges. Host of the Randomiser on the Gerry Anderson Podcast.

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