Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (car)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the vintage racing car which features in the book, musical film and stage production of the same name. Writer Ian Fleming took his inspiration for the car from a series of aero-engined racing cars built by Count Louis Zborowski in the early 1920s, christened Chitty Bang Bang. The original Chitty Bang Bang's engine was from a Zeppelin dirigible. The name reputedly derived either from the sound it made whilst idling, or from a bawdy song from World War I. Six versions of the car were built for the film and a number of replicas have subsequently been produced. The version built for the stage production holds the record for the most expensive stage prop ever used.
For the 1968 film, six cars were created, including a fully functional road-going car with UK registration GEN 11. This car was designed by the film's production designer, Ken Adam, and cartoonist and sculptor Frederick Rowland Emett, built by Alan Mann Racing in Hertfordshire in 1967, fitted with a Ford 3000 V6 engine and automatic transmission and allocated a genuine UK registration. This car was privately owned by Pierre Picton of Stratford-upon-Avon from the early 1970s until May 2011. He toured round the country making public appearances with the car up until the end of 2010.  Actor Dick van Dyke, who drove the car in the film, said that "the car was a little difficult to maneuver, with the turning radius of a battleship". Public appearances of the car in 2010 are listed on the GEN 11 official website, with a note that there will be no more as the car was sent to Los Angeles, USA, to be auctioned on 22 May 2011. The auction price was expected to reach US$1–2m, but capped at $805,000 (£495,415) with the winning bidder New Zealand film director Sir Peter Jackson, who according to his spokesperson said he would use it as a charity fund-raising vehicle. It is registered in New Zealand as GEN 1I, as the registration GEN 11 had already been issued.
Five other car props were built by the studio: a second, smaller road-going version; a transforming car; a hover-car; a flying car; and an engineless version for trailer work. Most had engines added after filming was complete and were used to promote the film throughout the world.
The second road version, which only appears in 12 seconds of the movie, is on display at the Dezer Car Museum in North Miami, Florida. This car differed from the others as the grille-supports were horizontal instead of vertical, and the steering wheel sat higher on the dashboard. Eon Productions made a less-detailed transforming version which they use to promote the stage musical but, as it does not have a MOT certificate (of roadworthiness), is not allowed on public roads. The final road version is privately owned by Anthony Bamford, and is on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, UK. At one point the car was owned by Pierre Picton, who modified the front-left wheel cover to fly up for his circus act. The hover-car was a shell mounted on a speed boat, and was destroyed after filming. Only the original road-going version used the registration GEN 11 legitimately and it was owned by Pierre Picton of Stratford upon Avon. The car built with wings and fiberglass pieces (used for flying shots) was displayed at a Chicago restaurant for many years, then sold at auction in 2007 for $505,000 to a Florida resident. The car went through a massive restoration before being put on temporary display at a Mulch-Production facility in 2018.
One car appeared in a humorous Public information film aimed at British motorists, intended to remind them to pay their Vehicle excise duty. Ironically, there was criticism as all cars built before 1 January 1973, including the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang model, are exempt from vehicle excise duty in the UK. The PIF was a parody of the MGM film.
In July 2009, the EON copy of the car was prevented from being used in Norwich by the police, as the car was not roadworthy, properly registered or insured. The GEN 11, Pierre Picton car subsequently visited the city of Norwich in August 2009 to promote the theatre show.
There is a MGM licensed replica in the United Kingdom, built for a commercial photography business. The car is roadworthy and has the registration number GEN 22. It weighs around 1.5 tons and is nearly 18 feet long and 6 feet wide. The brass lamps are all original period pieces and the brass snake horn came from one of the original Chitty cars. The engine is a 3L V6 Ford with a BorgWarner automatic gearbox. The vehicle currently resides at the Dundee Museum of Transport.
Another Chitty 'copy' was built by Nick Pointing of the Isle of Wight after his wife Carolyn, a lifelong Chitty Chitty Bang Bang fan asked him to build her dream car. The car was built on a 1970s Land Rover chassis and engine and was driven 12,000 miles overland to Australia in 2007/8 to raise money for charity.
A replica Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car built by Gordon Grant was sold at an auction held on 1 December 2011 at Bonhams at Mercedes Benz World in Weybridge, Surrey, UK. The car was later sold to broadcaster Chris Evans after the purchaser found it was too long to fit in his garage. The car, which is now registered as 772 YUJ, has erroneously been reported in a number of newspapers as the original GEN 11 film car.
Another replica was built and finished in July 2014 by hospital worker and jeweller John Rothwell from Cambridge. It is based on a Reliant Rialto chassis and took approximately 3 years to build in a small garage rented from the local council. Having a three-wheeler based chassis makes this car unique and also disqualifies it from being a genuine replica. This version of Chitty was used by a local car insurance company for a promotion campaign and is frequently taken to local car shows where it helps to raise money for Addenbrookes Hospital Charitable Trust.
A replica car built by retired NYPD police Sergeant, Tony Garofalo, of Long Island, New York, was completed in June 2015 after a 5-year build at a cost of over $100,000. The car is modelled on the original motion picture car, after Garofalo conducted a personal inspection of two original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cars. Built on a vintage, road legal, 1914 Overland car, and a vintage Ford Model A Engine, the car has automated opening retractable wings and vintage brass adornments. All of the bright work is brass, aluminum, stainless steel and copper to prevent any corrosion. It is reported that over 90% of the car has been fabricated, although the original vintage chassis, drivetrain and rear axle have been retained, with an additional conversion to 12 volts. The car is finely detailed with all of the brass features of the original movie car, including a vintage serpent snake horn from an old Mercedes. Garofalo also owns the original Broadway Stage Production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car featured in the U.S. Stage tour.
The Garofalo replica lacks in several features of the original. The most noticeable is the front grille, which differs from the original "egg" shaped grill. Additionally the lower front steering axle is not accurate.
Stage production car
Another version of the car, built for the British stage production of the story, debuted at The London Palladium in 2002. Built at a cost of £750,000, the car is listed in Guinness World Records as the most expensive stage prop ever.
In July 2014, Tony Garofalo became the new owner of the US National Broadway Touring Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Prop Car, by a sale release made by Big League Productions of New York City. This prop car is highly detailed and is fully equipped with multiple Stage prop tricks, including computer activated retractable wings and rotating 45 degree tilt tires. The car was originally constructed at The Rolling Stock Company of Sarasota, Florida and hydraulics designed and constructed at PRG of New Windsor, NY, under license by Michael Rose and MGM On Stage.
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- Original GEN11 Chitty Motor Car at Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley in North Yorkshire England, National Trust/Nunnington Hall & Rievaulx Terrace
- The cars constructed for the film, Unsinkable Cork
- Beaulieu, Britain: National Motor Museum
- Chitty fan page, Unsinkable Cork
- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang cars - Originals and Replicas, MarinPics USA, archived from the original on 2 May 2013, retrieved 29 March 2013
- GEN22 MGM Authorized Replica Chitty (Note: Good info on fake Chitty Replicas in England), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang GEN22, archived from the original on 27 March 2013, retrieved 5 April 2013
- Photos of GEN1l at 2014 Seatoun School Gala (Wellington, New Zealand), Mike Riversdale