LONDON (ACNI) – One of the most famous and fanciful cars in cinema history – the “GEN 11” Chitty Chitty Bang Bang open roadster – is charting a new course these days, around the English countryside.
The fully functional road car that was purpose-built for principal shooting in the classic children’s film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has joined the enviable fleet of vehicles owned by British entertainment industry mogul Chris Evans.
According to Evans, who wrote about his fanciful acquisition in today’s London Daily Mail, he acquired the car from a friend who could not store it properly.
“My pal had bought the car on his birthday before he went skiing, not realizing she is over 17ft. long. Garage problem,” Evans wrote.
With a penchant for motors that usually runs to more-exotic Italian makes, Evans surprised his family by purchasing the whimsical roadster. Reportedly, the Evanses were spotted last weekend navigating the picturesque Chiltern Hills like Commander Caractacus Pott and his cinematic family.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s production designer Ken Adam – more correctly Sir Kenneth Adam, O.B.E. – stood firm in his belief that if the film was to be about a car, a real car would have to be built—not a mock-up. Along with Rowland Emmett, who had been assigned the task of creating a series of mad inventions to appear in the film, and the Ford racing team headed by Alan Mann, Adam set about building Chitty.
No detail was spared in the car’s creation. Built on a custom ladder-frame chassis, many old-world forms of car building were employed. Modern technology stepped in to help create a vehicle that was accurate enough to fool veteran and classic car experts when held under the scrutiny of 70mm cinema cameras. It also had to be durable enough to withstand everything from driving in sand, over cobbled streets and down staircases.
The bonnet (hood) is crafted of polished aluminum, the boat deck was handcrafted of red and white cedar by boat builders in Buckinghamshire, and the array of brass fittings was obtained from Edwardian cars. Even the alloy dashboard plate is from a British World War I fighter plane. The car weighs approximately 2 tons and measures 17½ feet in length, and is powered by a Ford 3-liter V-6 engine mated to an automatic transmission.
Chitty rolled out of the workshop in June 1967 and was registered with the number plate “GEN 11,” an I.D. given to her by Ian Fleming in his novel (“GEN 11” had significance in that if you read the number ones as “i’s”, it spelled out the Latin word “Genii” meaning magical person or being).
Due to the outlandish capabilities of Chitty, the studio built other non-driving, versions for various stunts including the flying scenes and seafaring chase. This hero “close-up” car was used in all of the road-driving sequences and is the only car to bear the legitimate “GEN 11” registration plates (the other versions all bore “GEN 11,” but this was purely cosmetic).
Chitty was owned and meticulously maintained by Pierre Picton since the early 1970s. Pierre first became involved with Chitty during filming in England in 1967-68 when he was responsible for maintaining the car during production and for some “double” driving sequences. When filming was completed, Pierre transported and cared for Chitty as she toured promoting the film. A few years later he acquired her from the production company.
The car was sold on May 15 in an auction conducted by Profiles in History of Calabasas Hills, California. Chitty remains, to this day, in excellent operational condition – but with speed-loving Chris Evans at the wheel, it’s probably getting the workout of its life.