''Z Cars'' is a British PoliceProcedural series that ran for nearly 800 episodes from 1962 to 1978. It broke new ground in realistic police drama, bridging the cozy CopShow ''Series/DixonOfDockGreen'' and the gritty ''Series/TheSweeney''.

Recurring characters in the early years included Detective Chief Inspector Charlie Barlow (Stratford Johns), Detective Sergeant John Watt (Frank Windsor), PC "Fancy" Smith (BrianBlessed), PC Jock Weir (Joseph Brady) and PC Bert Lynch (James Ellis).

In 1967, after a year in hiatus (during which Johns and Windsor moved on to star in the spin-off ''Series/SoftlySoftly''), ''Z Cars'' was relaunched with a new format and an almost completely new cast. The only characters to make the transition were Constables Weir and Lynch; Weir left a few years later, but Lynch remained a regular character to the end.

The title of the series refers to the radio callsigns used by police patrol vehicles in the series.

''Z Cars'' had numerous spin-offs, all featuring Charlie Barlow, and many teaming him with John Watt.

No relation to Music/ZZTop or the CoolCar from their videos. Nor is it any relation to the sports car made by Nissan.

!!''Z Cars'' provides examples of:

* BackForTheFinale: Charlie Barlow returned to the series after years away for the series finale, which also featured guest appearances by several members of the original cast [[YouLookFamiliar playing new characters]].
* CowboyCop: "Fancy" Smith.
* DarkerAndEdgier: Mild by modern standards, but it was viewed as incredibly gritty compared to ''Series/DixonOfDockGreen''. There was particular shocked reaction to a scene in the first episode, which has a cop in a car calling a man in the street over... to ask him if he knows the result of a horse race the cop had put a bet on.
* DomesticAbuse: Once shown as a problem even good coppers are prone to.
* LeadPoliceDetective: DCI Barlow.
* NoCommunitiesWereHarmed: Newtown is Kirkby; the nearby city of Seaport is Liverpool.
* OopNorth: Set in the Lancashire/Merseyside area.
* PoliceProcedural
* {{Retool}}: Following a year in hiatus, the series was relaunched in 1967, with a new format and an almost completely new cast.