Monday, April 14, 2008

What a car!

Just before bed, our family has been reading various children's books a chapter each night. Tonight we began reading Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the book on which Disney based its famous musical. Before we began, I read the dedications page in which the author tells about the car that inspired the story.
These stories are affectionately dedicated to the memory of the original CHITTY-CHITTY-BANG-BANG, built in 1920 by Count Zborowski on his estate near Canterbury. She has a pre-1914 war, chain drive, 75 horsepower Mercedes chassis in which was installed a six-cylinder Maybach aero engine—the military type used by the Germans in their Zeppelins. Four vertical overhead valves per cylinder were operated by exposed push rods and rockers from a camshaft on each side of the crankcase, and two Zenith carburetors were attached, one at each end of a long induction pipe. She had a grey steel body with an immense polished hood eight feet in length, and weighed over five tons. In 1921, she won the Hundred M.P.H. Short handicap at Brooklands at 101 miles per hour, and, in 1922, again at Brooklands, the Lightning Short Handicap. But in that year she was involved in an accident and the Count never raced her again.
According to, Zborowski's first Chitty had a 23 liter engine! (And I thought the Jag's engine was big. Imagine how many quarts of oil that monster took.) Wikipedia provided the following photo of the real car. It's not quite as refined as the Disney model, but from what I've read, it could really move.

The count built four of these cars which were kept near Canterbury, England. "The cars were so loud that Canterbury reportedly passed a by law prohibiting them from entering within the city walls." [1] Of the four, the fourth version was the fastest and for good reason. It was powered by a 450 hp 27 liter V12 engine. In 1926, shortly after the count's death, this car set the land speed record at 171.02 mph! Yikes!

1 comment:

Laura said...

The book is SO much better than the movie! You will love it!