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Remembered Today:

Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang

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On the BBC Countryfile programme yesterday that well-known expert Ben Fogle said that the famous book and film originated in a First World War expression. The "chit" would have to be obtained to go on leave, perhaps to Paris, and the "bang, bang" would have a distinctly modern connotation!! This doesn't sound right to me but as ever I seek the expert help only available on the Forum!!! If true, I will never be able to see Dick Van Dyke in quite the same way again...


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Sounds a bit unlikely to me though never having seen the film I guess I'm in no position to comment. Was there stuff of an explicit nature in it?


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I don't know for sure if there is anything in it, although 'chit' or 'chitty' was an army word, probably of Indian origin.

I believe that the tacky film was based the 1964 children's novel "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" by Ian Fleming. From the little I know of Ian Fleming's 'strange' private life I would not be surprised if this actually was true!

It would seem that the term "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" is known to have been used to name cars as early as 1921.

"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was originally built in 1921 by Count Louis Zborowski, perhaps the best known amateur racing driver of his time, who lived at a large country house, near Canterbury in Kent. The son of a Polish Count and American mother, Zborowski was an eccentric gentleman wealthy enough to own and race many cars both in Europe and America. At Higham, along with his engineer Captain Clive Gallop, he built four aero-engined cars and called three of them Chitty Bang Bang.

Chitty 1 was the first amateur aero-engined to achieve great fame at Brooklands race track. Chitty 2 was constructed in the Summer of the same year, similar to the first car but with a shorter wheelbase, an early Mercedes chassis and an 18.8 litre Benz BZ IV series aero-engine. Both Chittys ran at the autumn 1921 Brooklands meeting but for various reasons neither was successful on the day."

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manchester terrier

Found this

Chitty Bang Bang

Higham Court




Count Louis Zborowski, the millionaire racing driver son of a Polish Count and an American mother, designed and built three aero-engined cars with assistance from his engineer Captain Clive Gallop. These cars were all known as "Chitty Bang Bang".

Chitty I was a chain-driven Mercedes chassis fitted with a 23-litre six-cylinder Maybach aero engine. In 1921, on its first outing, it won two races. At this Easter meeting at Brooklands Zborowski won the 100 mph Brooklands Short Handicap a speed of 100.75 mph (161 kph). At later meetings the car was recorded at almost 120 mph (192 kph) on the straight.

By summer 1921 Chitty II was being constructed. This had a shorter wheelbase with a 18,882 cc 230 hp Benz BZ IV aero engine also based on a Mercedes chassis. Both Chitty I and II were run in the same races at Brooklands but this was Chitty II's only racing outing. It was later used as a road car and Zborowski and friends even drove it in the Sahara desert in January 1922.

Chitty I was last raced by the Count at the September 1922 race meeting at Brooklands as during practice he left the banking and crashed after shedding a tyre. Although rebuilt, Zborowski never raced the car again.

In 1924 Count Zborowski was invited to drive for Mercedes. It was while competing in a Mercedes 2-litre car at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza that the Count was killed after crashing into a tree.

At the time of his death, a fourth, much larger car was being built. This car was known as the Higham Special (later to be renamed "Babs") and was the car in which Parry Thomas died at Pendine Sand during his final land speed record attempt in 1927.

Chitty I was bought by the Conan Doyle brothers (sons of Sir Aurthur, writer of the "Sherlock Holmes" books) who ran it at a speed trial at Brooklands in the 1930's. The car was on display for some time but was eventually cut up for parts.

Chitty II, the only surviving car, was bought by Bill Hollis of Temple Ewell near Dover, Kent from a motor dealer for £300 and a Hillman Aero Minx. Hollis ran a fleet of motor coaches from his Orange Motors business in Dover and Chitty II was kept at his market Square premises. He used it regularly until the outbreak of war. During the war the car was moved to a barn on Hollis' farm at nearby Sutton but was later stored outside under a tarpaulin.

An American collector bought Chitty II in the 1960's for £16,500 and it eventually went on display at the Western Reserve Historical Society museum in Cleveland Ohio. Lord Montague of Beaulieu arranged for it to be loaned to The National Motor Museum in Hampshire and had Chitty II shipped to the UK in 1992. It was displayed alongside one of the 1968 Ford powered film cars that had been built by Alan Mann of Surrey.

The author Ian Fleming was inspired by the Count and his cars to write the children's novel "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" which was made into a successful film by MGM in 1968.

Although in the film the name "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" came from the noise the car made for the real cars it actually comes from the words to a World War I bawdy soldiers song about Officers based in France. Officers would obtain a weekend pass or "chit" so they could go to Paris to "enjoy the favours of the ladies". Hence "Chitty Bang Bang".

from this site http://www.britishmm.co.uk/history.asp?id=221

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manchester terrier

Yes it's quite odd. What I would like to know is what was the original song. It's not in Brophy's The Long Trail but I don't know where else to look.

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The car used in the film was not an existing one but was instead made to the design of Ken Adam, Production Designer on the film. Ken was a German Jew, born Klaus Hugo Adam and is perhaps the greatest Production Designer of the last 50 years. He also happens to have been a Typhoon pilot with 609 (West Riding) Squadron during World War 2 - he and his brother (also on 123 Wing, but not with 609) being the only two naturalised Germans to fly with Fighter Command. Quite how the Typhoon and Chitty Bang Bang differed in flying characteristics is uncertain.....

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manchester terrier

Thanks for the info about the film cars Mark,fascinating.

Its remarkable that so many talented people have emerged from the conflicts and upheavals of 20th century Europe.

Mark, I meant the alledged song that inspired the name Chitty Bang Bang.

"Although in the film the name "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" came from the noise the car made for the real cars it actually comes from the words to a World War I bawdy soldiers song about Officers based in France. Officers would obtain a weekend pass or "chit" so they could go to Paris to "enjoy the favours of the ladies". Hence "Chitty Bang Bang"."

Otto Dix is a particular favorite of mine. His imagery is very powerful and very evocative of Wiemar Germany. in my view. Just having an Isherwood re reading sesh at the moment.

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Yeah, Dix is very powerful. I prefer Joe Colquohoun though - of Charleys War fame. I can see some reference to Dix's work too - notably the gas mask cover. Not a fan of Dix's later work though.

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