A red Fiat 850 Coupé car, registration UJB 92G, makes a brief Hitchcock-like appearance in many of the episodes. Usually it is parked at the side of the road, as the villains, or the Sweeney drive past. It is clearly identifiable from a distance, because its tax disc is placed high-up on the windshield, rather than being in the lower-left corner.
The interiors (squad office, interview rooms, and prison cells) were filmed at Colet Court in Hammersmith, which was the offices of Euston Films, the company which made this show and Minder (1979). Most of the location filming was done within a radius of one mile (1.6 kilometers) of Colet Court.
The name "The Sweeney" is Cockney rhyming slang for "Flying Squad": "Sweeney" is short for "Sweeney Todd", which rhymes with "Flying Squad." The Flying Squad is a division of the Metropolitan Police ("the Met" polices Greater London, but not "The City of London", which has its own force. The only force in the U.K. to have "gold" insignia). It deals with serious organized crime, such as bank robberies and armed sieges.
Whenever there was a car chase which ended in a crash scene, the cars used would invariably be 3.8 litre S-type Jaguars. This is because the stunt drivers found them to be the safest cars to use. The same cars would be fixed up, repainted, and re-used numerous times.
Many of the famous catchphrases used by Regan (John Thaw) and Carter (Dennis Waterman) (for example, "Get your trousers on, you're nicked" and "We're the Sweeney, son, and we haven't had our dinner yet") were the result of the program's researchers studying the way real members of the Flying Squad ("The Sweeney") talked when off-duty in pubs near New Scotland Yard.
In several episodes during the series, reference would be made to corruption within the Metropolitan Police and New Scotland Yard and in the final episode, "Jack or Knave", Regan is falsely accused of corruption, and leaves the force in disgust at his treatment. However, in 1977, at the height of the show's popularity, Commander Ken Drury, the former head of the real Flying Squad, and several other very high ranking New Scotland Yard detectives, were convicted of bribery and corruption over many years, and given lengthy jail sentences.
A Ford Granada UAY 272S in Jupiter Red was due to be used for filming some of the episodes in season four. However, it suffered minor bodywork damage in a collision while it was being delivered from the dealer to Euston Films, so a replacement car was used instead, to avoid holding up the filming schedule. Once repaired, UAY 272S was sold second-hand. The owner remembers that it was fitted with various camera brackets on the rear parcel shelf and above the sun visors.
In several episodes, an ambulance featured in the plot. It was always the same vehicle, carrying the fictitious registration number SJA 374R, SJA 374S (The Sweeney: Loving Arms (1976)) or SJA 374T (The Sweeney: Bait (1978)), with the suffix letter changing according to the year of filming because it denotes the year of registration. SJA stands for St. John Ambulance, who owned the vehicle, and 374 is 374 Division, based at Kingston upon Thames, England.
In the kaleidoscope opening titles of season four, Regan and Carter are each seen getting out of the car, with a still image of the character, while his name is displayed as a caption. However, instead of using a true freeze-frame, the actors simply stopped in the middle of the action, they can be seen wobbling slightly. In contrast, the still image of Haskins is a true freeze-frame. This filming technique was spoofed on the U.S. television series Police Squad! (1982).
As the series debuted in 1975, the names of the main characters, Carter and Regan, are rather prophetic. The same (or very similar to) as two upcoming Presidents of the U.S., Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
According to Kevin Whately, John Thaw claimed that he had witnessed the vintage Jaguar, which his title character used in Inspector Morse (1987), being written off several times in this series. Apparently, it was in real-life a "polished up wreck", and the reason Thaw was frequently seen in close-up driving the vehicle was that it was being towed because it had broken down.
The popularity of the series on ITV prompted the BBC to make its first action series on film, Target (1977), which starred Patrick Mower and closely copied the style of The Sweeney, even down to a similar theme tune.
For season four, new opening and closing title sequences were introduced using live footage in kaleidoscope style rather than the tinted stills used in the first three seasons. The show's logo font and color were also changed, but the commercial break bumpers, however, were not updated, and retained the style of the first three seasons' titles and logo.
One actor and one actress with the real-life name of Sweeney appeared on this show. George Sweeney (season three, episode five, "Taste of Fear" and season three, episode thirteen, "On the Run") and Maureen Sweeney (season three, episode two, "In From the Cold").
This show resulted from a feature-length pilot episode that introduced the viewers to the characters of Regan, Carter, and Haskins. The pilot was simply called "Regan", and it was part of the series Armchair Cinema (1973). Ultimately, out of all the feature-length episodes from the series, "Regan" was the only one to have a series commissioned.
When Writer Ian Kennedy Martin was putting this show together, he had concerns that his creation would end up like Special Branch (1969) (also produced by Euston Films, Ltd.). Martin dismissed the latter series as being "a load of old tosh."
For the times, this show was deemed to be a violent series that contained many shocking moments. A few episodes in particular, bore the brunt of many complaints that were made. When the BBC made its own version with the series Target (1977), that was considered to be even more gratuitous.
The style of this show was influenced by some of the late 1960s and early 1970s British crime movies. Titles such as Get Carter (1971), Sitting Target (1972), Robbery (1967), and Villain (1971), amongst others.
Colet Court, where many of the interiors were shot, was originally a prep school. The premises became vacant when the senior school to which it was linked moved from Hammersmith to Barnes. Euston Films took the opportunity to buy it for their headquarters.