had a song just keep running through your head?
The last few days I’ve been walking around with a song stuck in my head that just won’t go away. On top of that it’s a movie theme song and some times I get carried away with it. I’ve been getting some funny looks as I walk around humming with a goofy grin on my face.
So I thought the only way to get rid of it was to do a post about it.
If you were around in 1968 you might remember a movie called Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. It was a comedy musical that the whole family could enjoy starring Dick Van Dyke and Sally Ann Howes. The one about the wacky professor who invents goofy machinery and isn’t taken seriously until he invents a flying car. What many don’t know, or care to remember, is that the movie was based on a book written by Ian Flemming. Yes the same author who brought us James Bond.
Since I have this weird inquiring mind I decided to check into it. I sometimes wonder if a story is a complete fabrication, or it there is some truth to it. Ends up that the movie car was based on an actual vehicle, and perhaps even the wacky professor as well. While the real Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang couldn’t fly it was very fast on the ground.
In England after World War I, Count Zborowski, a race car driver bought 23 surplus aircraft engines. So of course he decided to build a race car. In all 3 Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang cars were built. For Chitty 1 he asked Clive Gallop to build him a car. A chassis from a 1907 Mercedes was stretched and used along with the transmission and radiator. Between the two they stuck a 23-litre Maybach airplane engine that produced 305 bhp. It had a chain drive and dry sump oiling system for road clearance. It won several races in 1921 at Brooklands and proved it could go 120 mph in spite of its poor handling and negligible brakes. In 1922 Chitty I raced again until a blown tire at high speed nearly killed the Count. The car wound up in the infield with barely a scratch on it and was rebuilt.
For Chitty II they used another pre-war Mercedes chassis, but with a shorter wheelbase. The engine in this car an 18,882cc six-cylinder Benz unit with 230 bhp. Since it was intended to be a high-speed touring car, it was fitted with a four-seater touring body by Blythe Brothers. In only raced once in the autumn of 1921 doing laps at 108.27 mph, but didn’t win the race. The car in the movie was supposedly based on this car.
Chitty III was built in 1922 on a modified Mercedes 28/96 chassis. The Count imported the complete car which had a rough test body on it. The engine was removed and replaced with a 14,778cc six-cylinder Mercedes airplane engine with a modest 160 nominal horsepower. It was hooked to the stock Mercedes gearbox and rear axle. In 1924 the Count again won races at Brooklands and the car could do laps at more than 112 mph.
After the Counts death Chitty I was bought, then neglected for years, and finally abandoned and cut up. Chitty II was restored and resides in the United States to this very day. Chitty III was racing as late as 1939 at Brooklands, then sold for road use and later broken up.
One other car built by Gallop for the Count but not called a Chitty was the Higham Special Brooklands car. It has an amazing resemblance to the other cars, and a 27-litre American Liberty V-12 engine. It was sold to Parry Thomas, renamed “Babs” and improved. It took the World Land Speed record then later killed its owner in a crash at Pendine Sands in Wales. The car was buried there after the
crash. It was dug up in 1969 and has since been restored by Owen Wyn Owen in North Wales.
That is the story of the real Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang car, and I guess it really could fly.
Comments are always welcome.