Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Where is She Now?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a story created by Ian Flemming for his son, became a classic movie that will be loved for generations to come. Where is this uncatagorical automobile now?

In july of 1966 MGM Studios began screen tests for a new family adventure movie based on the Ian Fleming Story “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. As with all great writers, Fleming’s book comprised elements of truth, combined with the skill and imagination of a talented story teller. The basis for the book, was centered on an actual race car developed in 1921, by Count Louis Zebrowski.

Zebrowski’s ideal was to create a race car that would achieve new speed and performance records. Though his first car had been less than expectations; his second car, had been fashioned with a WWI aircraft engine, and modified for use with an automobile transmission. Fleming used this ideal of to create a story for his son, of a flying car, and further went on to make it travel on water as well. MGM used this story to create a welcome escape from the atrocities of war and desolation that invoked protest and controversy in America that, for the first time brought pictures of dead soldiers lost during the fighting in the Vietnam, into our living rooms. The story offered a welcome release, in a movie that would entertain both children and adults for years to come.

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The Legendary Race Car


In 1921 Polish nobleman Count Louis Zbrowski created four race cars dubbed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The cars were developed with the help of Captain Clive Gallop (of Bentley Boy) who received notoriety from his designs. An accident involving Zbrowski at Brooklands temporarily ended its use and instilled the design of a new Chitty; equipped it with an Aircraft engine. The first was later rebuilt and used in racing. After a brief return, it was abandoned, stripped for parts, and left to the elements. The second performed well but did not provide the desired results. The third, a shorter version, performed well but they thought more speed and performance could be achieved. The fourth, dubbed the “Higham Special” set the 1924 land speed record with an unbelievable 450hp. Zbrowski was killed in the Italian Grand Prix of 1924 while driving a Mercedes. The estate sold the remaining Chitty (#2) to a private party. Later sold to the Ellenville Motor Museum, it now is owned by a private collector, whom purchased Chitty #2 after the museums closing. The car still remains in private ownership.

interestingly enough, the opening portions of the movie, depict Chitty, in competition, and winning many Grand Prix races in europe. The Races listed, show Chitty winning, are from the early 1900s before 1914, most of the actual races did not exist until the mid 1920s, well after the time period of the movie.

The Story

an Fleming suffered a heart attack in 1962. While raising his only son, Casper; Ian would tell him bedtime stories about a magical car that floated and flew. Fleming’s renowned story telling abilities were well known with his ever so popular James Bond Novels. His wife urged him to pen a children’s book using the wonderful stories he told his son. So during his convalescence, Ian penned it using bits and pieces from the real race car, nick named “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to create the fanciful and entertaining story we know today.

Pierre Paxton's Chitty in London, note the fiberglass front ailerons
Pierre Paxton's Chitty in London, note the fiberglass front ailerons

The Making of the Car

In 1966 Metro Golden Mayer commissioned Ford motor company to build nine movie cars for the feature film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Production of the movie was left to Designer Ken Adam, who stood firm in belief that if the film was about a car, it had to be about just that and not a mock up. Along with Rowland Emmett, who created a series of crazy inventions used in the film, the Ford racing team headed by Alan Mann, worked with Adam to create Chitty.

The finished car weighed almost 2 tons, was 17 feet long, and built on a custom made frame. The old ways of building automobiles were used along with modern technology, to create a vehicle accurate enough to fool veteran car enthusiasts, watching the film, and tough enough to withstand the tortures of the trials demanded by the script. The wheels were molded in alloy to replicate the wood-spoke wheels authentic to that era of automobiles. The wood portion of the car was made from red and white cedar and crafted by boat-builders in Windsor. The balance was painstakingly and accurately re-created. The alloy dashboard plate was from a WWII fighter plane, and the fenders were made from hand crafted wood with a black lacquer finish. The Head lamps were reproductions of similar ones used on the 1909 Essex.

Though a portion of the film shows an actual aircraft engine from a WWII aircraft, it was never used to power the car in the movie. Ford motor company produced the drivetrain for “Chitty” using a newly developed but not yet available motor, a 2.8 V-6 solid lifter motor, coupled to a C-4 Automatic Transmission. In watching the movie, Dick Van Dyke can be seen making two motions before driving off. First:, releasing the brake by moving one lever forward and second: Pulling back on a different lever ( putting the car in drive) and driving off. During the movie the sound of a model A motor can be heard as well as the shifting of gears. This was important to retain authenticity.

In June 1967, the first of the nine Chitty’s rolled out, with the exception of the running gear, the authenticity was such, that it would pass a concourse Antique Automobile judges standards. Three of the cars were motorized. Although there were two fiberglass replicas made for incorporation with two operational speed boats used in production, the balance of the Chitty’s were set with intended uses, and all registered with the number plate GEN 11, given to her by Ian Fleming in his novel. The number plate GEN11 had significance in that Fleming depicted its numeration so, if the ones (1’s) are read as the letter I’s, it spells out the Latin word "genii" meaning magical person or being.

A second identical vehicle was constructed as a stand-in for the more dangerous scenes and was also used for the "in studio" shots. Additionally a "Chitty" was constructed with a silver aluminum radiator, and used for a twelve minute night flying segment to authenticate it as a movie car. Then the car was given to the company that provided the aluminum for bonnet and cowl section; which after receiving a high-speed polish, resembled Chrome. The status of this one of a kind car is as yet, unknown.

One segment of the film depicts a dungeon scene where supposedly tortured scientist are attempting to create a car with Chitty's capabilities. It required a car that would fall apart all at once. When trying to create the car, production managers hired Pierre Picton, who began his career as Pierre the Clown in 1954 and is now the last surviving clown from Bertram Mills Circus. He owned and worked with the famous Model T Ford car that spectacularly fell to pieces in the circus ring. (that car is now owned by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason). Though the production managers decided to use a different car, Pierre was held on as advisor and driver.

A second identical vehicle was constructed as a stand-in for the more dangerous scenes and was also used for the "in studio" shots. Additionally a "Chitty" was constructed with a silver aluminum radiator, and used for a twelve minute night flying segment to authenticate it as a movie car. Then the car was given to the company that provided the aluminum for bonnet and cowl section; which after receiving a high-speed polish, resembled Chrome. The status of this one of a kind car is as yet, unknown.

At conclusion of filming, the “Blue Screen” Chitty (a third non-motorized version) was presented to Pierre as a parting gift. He has since refitted the car with a propane fueled power plant and advertises it as the “Original Chitty” offering it for hire on his website. Keeping in mind the original Chitty had hydraulically operated wings that folded out from the running boards, and included propellers, that would rise up from the wing tips, the validity of Picton's claim comes in question. His Chitty has fiberglass wings that must be manually pulled from under the chassis. However, Pierre's vehicle is the only road going model’s location that is publicized today.


Summary

Since its release date of December 18th 1968, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the magic encompassed by it has thrilled both children and the children inside many of us. Along with multiple versions available on video, the Broadway play has continued in the US and in Europe, to bring a smile and glimmer of imagination to the crowds of people fortunate enough to see it. With assistance from Sony Productions, a possible remake was to begin in late 2009, Fleming’s story will continue to provide joy and pleasure for years to come.

must65gt


Copyright :: All Rights Reserved
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Title :: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Where is She Now
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Comments 19 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

An amazing amount of information. I so thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Thank you.


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 5 years ago from Tennessee

up and beautiful! Fantastic article and information. A most enjoyable read. Thanks...


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

Thank you both for stopping by. I always loved the movie and found the trivia around it more fascinating. I have the plans and many of the parts to build Chitty. Including a 1930 model A motor. Woodworking is my hobby so that part will be easy. A close friend is an expert on "A" running gear and another is fantastic engineer. It will be a fun journey to build this great car.


Stan Fletcher profile image

Stan Fletcher 5 years ago from Nashville, TN

Loved this. Brought back lots of memories. I was born in '65 and I remember this being one of the first movies I ever saw. I completely believed the car could actually fly of course. Thanks for writing this.


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

Thanks for reading and stopping by Stan. It was and still is on my top movie list. I am building Chitty, though the time frame is still subjective. The progress might make a good hub as well, but alas...mine wont fly either(lol). with so many great writters and hubs available; I appreciate your comments and the time you spent.


Sean  5 years ago

Where did you manage to find the blueprints? would love to build myself a chitty bang bang car.


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

thanks for reading Sean, as I said it will be quite an undertaking and very costly even with the blueprints. but they are for the original Race car driven by Zbrowski. The frame is an extended model A frame and uses the 1930 Flathead from the same. the transmission is a c4 green dot automatic Ford used in Mustangs. Falcons, Fairlanes and Galaxy 500's. to couple to the C4 you will need a low rpm torque converter. the cowl section must be hand fitted using aluminum plates fused to steel after it is formed to the radiator housing covering a model a radiator re-manufactured to add for the Automatic transmission cooler. the tires are demountable 30" Cadillac but are custom made from aluminum to resemble the original wood spoke rims. good luck with your project.


sean 5 years ago

thank you so much. how is yours coming along are there any pictures on the net so we can follow your progress?


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

great ideal sean...I will start making a pictoral diary and how-to as I progress....I'll keep you posted


Eddie Miller III 5 years ago

I love the part in the movie at the beginning where the race car EXPLODES!!!


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

lol Eddie, Car nuts hate to see an antique wrecked or burned. Well, actually it went through a fence after a child ran onto the track. Then it caught fire and burned. But the same results....it became a scrap-yard display piece...thanks for reading and your comment.


real chitty fan 5 years ago

you know dam all about chitty .pierre had two chittys ,he had the real one .he had all the paperwork to prove it


 5 years ago

thanks for reading and you comment "real chitty fan" Pierre did infact have a "real Chitty, but it was a stage car used for blue screen shots and had no motor until after the production. The car was a gift to him as a token of thanks for all his hard efforts in the production. He purchased a second "Stage unit" and powered it as well using motors of that vintage. The operational Chitty's were equipped with the new motor described above. But i appreciate your time and comment.


Sean 5 years ago

Hello again, been looking in from time to time about the progress on your build. How is it coming?


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

Thanks for asking Sean....still trying to gather items and acquire the frame. The front axil and frame were similar to a 1964 F-100 and I am looking for that vintage truck or I will need to have one built. Process is slow as it all requires money, lol


Dboboc 5 years ago

Enjoyed reading your site. I hope you do go forward with your plans to build a replica. Though there are a few things I don't think are correct about the car,s description. The wood for the body was not red and white cedar, the fenders were steel and not wood, the dashboard was not from a WW1 fighter plane, and the frames were custom made rather than used off existing cars.


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

Thanks for reading and your comments Dbocboc, as I stated "The finished car weighed almost 2 tons, was 17 feet long, and built on a custom made frame" and the dash "Plate" was from a WWII. The instruments were of vintage design and mounted on the WWII plate. As for the fender construction, I could only find limited information and though it is possible the aprons were steel, in the movie when the children climbed on the fenders Dick Van Dyke can be heard saying to them " Mind the Woodwork" Pierre could tell us how they were constructed on his, but wood fenders were not uncommon in that era. As for the Red and White cedar, my thoughts were English walnut and Ash but they are reported to be made of the cedar. If discernable evidence is available to offer, I would be more than happy to change this hub as very little information about the car is avaiable. Thanks again for your comments


Dboboc 5 years ago

Mr. Lawrence,

The reason I mentioned the discrepancies was becase there are several builders currently building accurate replicas. Most of the detailed information on Pierre Picton's site was incorrect; probably due to the fact that he was very protective towards his car and discouraged anyone from building a replica. Perhaps the new owner might be more open with providing information.

If one is really serious, there are people willing to share information so that one may build a very faithful replica.


must65gt profile image

must65gt 5 years ago Author

Thanks again Dboboc, I have also seen and read about other ventures to re-create Chitty. Many items to build the car are hard to find and can be quite expensive The radiator for example is over 4000.00, and the alloy rims may well run over 800.00 each to re-create. The rear spokes were simulat to that used on a 1930's Cadillac and were 14 spoke. the front spokes design (although they were constructed from turned aluminum stock) were copied from the 1930 AA truck. The headlamps though they were sealed beam, were 1909 Essex and the gauges were aviation. Remember, chitty flew and they did not use speedometers in the early 1900's. The most difficult thing to recreate even though the movie never showed it in use, was the multi-flavour syrup dispenser for snow cones mounted center on the dash. Additionally, the "Race car featured in the opening segments showed a chain drive rear-end powered from an off-set drive shaft. The Caraticus Potts car was strait drive. The steering wheel was an early replica model "t" I would be overjoyed to see a finished replica, but to date, none have been completed.

As I have the original Blue-prints, I hope that soon the craftsmanship for the radiator and wheels can be acquired reasonably and the funds made available. But as stated earlier, I will opt for a 1930 “A” motor with the Offenhauser dual carb intake. Good luck and Happy motoring

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