It’s one of the silver screen’s most famous cars – the original magical flying machine long before Harry Potter’s Ford Anglia was a twinkle in JK Rowling’s eye.
And for John Rothwell there’s no need to wait until the annual Christmas Day TV showing to indulge in his favourite childhood film.
Believed to be the world’s only three-wheeled Chitty replica, the car – officially a tricycle – is built on the framework of a Reliant Rialto and took John three years to complete in a garage rented from the council.
“Back in May 2011 I joked to some of my trike-riding friends that I’d one day build a trike version of the Chitty car,” said John. “A lot of support from them, and just over £4,000 later, and I now have the world’s only Chitty trike – and I couldn’t be happier!”
Released in 1968 and based on James Bond creator Ian Fleming’s book, John, 51, loved the story of the magical flying car, the sinister childcatcher and the heroic toymaker from the moment he saw it.
Despite a love for the musical and a taste for motorbikes and trikes, it wasn’t until work started on the car that John realised the scale of what his friends had cheered him on to.
“I’m a jeweller by trade, so I’m pretty good with my hands, but even so this project came with a steep learning curve,” John said. “I didn’t have any designs and I’ve never even seen the original in real life, so my trike is based completely on pictures from the internet.”
Despite it being John’s first attempt at custom car creation, the Chitty trike passed its MOT with flying colours, though the open roof and leather seats restrict it to fair-weather driving. Being one of a kind and a beloved family favourite means that John’s trike draws admiring glances wherever it goes.
“I’ve worked at Addenbrookes hospital for the past seven years and have been using the trike at shows and events to help raise money for the Addenbrookes Charitable Trust, and the response I get is fantastic,” he added.
“I also took part in a motorbike tour around the children’s wards in December to help deliver toys for Christmas.”
Owning the world’s only Chitty Chitty Bang Bang tricycle presents some unusual challenges for John, not least in its construction.
Despite avoiding the more stringent DVLA rules by basing his replica on an existing vehicle, getting an MOT and insurance on a heavily customised vehicle can be difficult.
Luckily for John, he tracked down specialist insurance broker Adrian Flux, which has a long history of providing insurance for unusual vehicles, and obtained cover that includes exhibiting the car at shows.
Gerry Bucke, general manager at Flux, said: “We love what John has created – it’s hard to believe this car started out as a humble Reliant Rialto.
“As long as it’s got an MOT, we’ll pretty much cover anything on four – or three – wheels.”
With insurance from Adrian Flux sorted, his MOT passed and a diary of events booked, John has plenty to keep him busy over the coming months. The work isn’t over on Chitty though, and John is already making plans for the future.
“Once the weather picks up I might be tempted to start using the car for weddings and school proms, but I’m really just looking forward to getting back out on the road in it,” he said.
“The car is still a work in progress, and I tinker with it whenever I get the chance, so it could be even better by this time next year.”
And that’s a Truly Scrumptious prospect…