A Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car exhibition serves as a great reminder of why we love the film 50 years on

A truly scrumptious collection of never-before-seen memorabilia celebrates the golden anniversary of the forever family-favourite

Sean O'Grady
Thursday 20 September 2018 20:02
Comments
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang trailer

Oh you pretty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

We love you...

We still do, in fact, even half a century on from the original MGM film, a phantasmagorical musical for kids that was a huge hit and has stood the test of time remarkably well. A new exhibition at the National Motor Museum for the movie’s golden anniversary reminds us why.

The film centred on the adventures of an eccentric inventor named Caractacus Potts and his cute kids, who rescue an old car and then have to save it from thieves from the land of Vulgaria. The film itself was set about a half century back from its 1968 release and has a charming Edwardian air. It starred one of the biggest showbiz names of the time – Dick Van Dyke as Potts – but the real star of the show was, of course, the car. It could float! It could fly! It could create vast box office revenues...

To celebrate this filmic milestone, the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in Hampshire is holding a special exhibition. And well they might too, as the museum holds two of the original 1968 screen cars – a Chitty (a number of Chittys were built to appear in the film in various “roles” – one had a hovercraft skirt fitted so it really could glide along on water) plus a 1909 Humber 8hp, as driven by Truly Scrumptious (played by Sally Ann Howes). They’ve also built themselves a reproduction Chitty for the occasion, which will be driven (but sadly not flown) around the grounds.

Count Louis Zborowski with Chitty Bang Bang 1 at Brooklands motor racing circuit

The Chitty car and story were inspired in part by the real-life exploits of racing driver Count Louis Zborowski, who designed and built four aero-engined racing cars based on Mercedes models. They were named “Chitty Bang Bang” after of the sound they made while idling.

(The name has also been said to have been inspired by a bawdy First World War song, with lyrics including a “chitty”, which was a note authorising soldiers’ leave, and “bang bang”, which is what they then got up when footloose and far away from home. Maybe keep that one from the kids...)

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: you’ll believe a car can fly...

The film, a musical for children, had a distinguished heritage itself. It was loosely based on a novel by Ian Fleming, with a screenplay by Roald Dahl. Cubby Brocolli, of Bond-films fame, produced it, and, apart from Van Dyke and Howes, it also featured Lionel Jeffries, Benny Hill and Barbara Windsor.

A replica of the famous car will be driving round the grounds

From Saturday 20 October visitors to Beaulieu will be able to explore everything about the Chitty books, cars and film. Coggins’ Garage will be recreated in the museum to house the Heath Robinson-style contraptions invented by Rowland Emett for the film, including the Humbug Major Sweet Machine, Clockwork Lullabye, Little Dragon Carpet Sweeper and Hot Air Rocking Chair.

Costumes as seen in the film will include those of the Child Catcher, who was memorably and terrifyingly played by Robert Helpmann, and Howes’ life-size music-box doll dress, which she wore while dancing with Dick Van Dyke for Baron Bomburst’s birthday surprise (the baron is the Vulgarian villain who covets Chitty and attempts to steal it, and was played by Goldfinger‘s Gert Fröbe – another Bond connection).

A cloud-shaped wall will also feature first-edition copies of Fleming’s book, which he wrote for his son Caspar and was published posthumously in 1964, plus plenty of Chitty memorabilia – signatures of the star-studded cast, pedal and Corgi cars, comics, computer games, pop-up books and lunchboxes made to promote the film.

Never-exhibited-before original film concept art by Sir Ken Adam, storyboard watercolour artwork by Robert Laing and technical drawings by Peter Lamont will be on display, along with the solid-silver Chitty model bought for producer Cubby Broccoli by his wife Dana.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 50 Years can be seen as part of the general admission to Beaulieu, which includes entrance to the National Motor Museum, World of Top Gear, On Screen Cars, the ancestral Montagu family home of Palace House, 13th-century Beaulieu Abbey and the grounds and gardens. See beaulieu.co.uk or call 01590 612345.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in