How we built our Chitty

Building chitty

The building of Chitty has been a fantastic challenge involving plenty of time and money.To build an exact replica has its own problems from copyrights through to D.V.L.A. approval, so to overcome these issues we chose a car that could be adapted. Finding a car built on a chassis in todays market is very hard, therefore we used a 1973 series three Landrover. Once we found the correct model we stripped it down, keeping only the engine and chassis. After learning to weld, I designed a frame that would support a metal bonnet and wooden body and then borrowed steel rollers to bend the panels, and spent endless days at Beaulieu Auto Jumble looking for period parts.  The wood for the boat frame came from Claire Lallows boat builders in Cowes on the Isle of Wight and the steel came from a small metal supplier called Newport Steel.

I found it hard, but nevertheless achieved the tracking down of brass and with the help of the guys at Sandown Airport who rebuild Spitfire aeroplanes I was able to make the brass grille. The brass fuel tank was found at an auto jumble but when tested, it leaked, so help was once again sought from the Simms & Leppard welding company who put it right.

An extract form our book “Port Out Starboard Home” below

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu in the New Forest was one of the best visits we made.  The auto jumble covers about ten acres and you can find just about anything. Lord Montagu opens his doors twice a year to the event and if you can’t find it there, you probably can’t find it.  The day was unseasonably hot and in bright sunshine thousands of people jostled between cars and stalls littered with auto bits and bobs reminiscent of an automobile graveyard!  Clearly some vendors had just carried out autopsies and the organs were left lying around with  dirty 50p stickers on them. One man hidden under a huge cowboy hat and dark glasses had a notice stuck on his back. I expected it to say ‘Kick Me’, but no it was a request for parts for an old Bugatti.  He’d be lucky!  Then bingo, there in the ‘You can sell any heap of junk’ car mart area was a huge chassis from a 1920s Lee Francis, complete with chain drive.  Perfect, just like the film. We had spent hours freeze-framing the DVD for a good look at Chitty and had scoured the internet and movie stills, and this was spot on.

After wrestling with the idea of chopping to bits a 1920s chassis, I noticed a small paper tag attached by string to the steering wheel: 35,000 euros written in soft black pencil.  Our hearts sank.  This was about £20,000 and £19,900 over our budget!!!  I soon realised after looking at brass headlights at £2,000 a pair and an original snake’s head horn for £750 that financially we were well out of our league.

Disheartened, we caught the Lymington to Yarmouth ferry home and I rolled on and was ushered by the crew to park close behind a long-wheelbase Land Rover.  I took one look and said to Carolyn, ‘That’s it, that will do.’

Carolyn looked at me with disapproval, ‘It’s a Land Rover,’ she said.

‘Yes, but it is one of the only cars still on the road with a chassis. That’s perfect – and not only that, they are cheap and you can get the bits everywhere,’ I went on.

We had a debate in the car whether it would be long enough, so right there and then, Carolyn jumped out and started to measure the sixteen feet by walking alongside the vehicle.  The poor bloke inside was obviously concerned at a female stalking his car, having to wait until Carolyn had finished before he could get out, looking slightly bemused!  He retraced her steps and looked intently at his car then darted upstairs presumably to recover with a cup of tea.

building chitty

With thanks to:

My wife
Sandown Airport
Simms & Leppard
Graham Potter Bonchurch
Newport Steel
Noggins
Scott Matthews technical advice
Richard Smith
Beaulieu