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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Registered :: Tue Jan 18 01:15:39 UTC 2011
Title :: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Where is She Now
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