Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Rest of the Story

by Pa Rock
Collector of Trivia

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a 1968 film about a crackpot inventor who transforms an old racing car into a flying wonder, wasn't a great movie by anyone's standard, but it was entertaining and colorful - sort of like the love child that might have resulted if Willie Wonka had ravaged Mary Poppins.  West Plains' own Dick Van Dyke portrayed inventor Caractacus Potts, a man who was out to instill a zest for life in his children.  Sally Ann Howes was Potts' love interest, a candy mogul's daughter by the name of Truly Scrumptious.  The film also featured British comedian Benny Hill as a toymaker.

Famed author Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for the movie - all of which was based on a children's book by Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond spy novels.

All of that trivia related to the movie is fairly well known, and anyone who ever watched the film has only to hear the title before the tune of the title song begins breaking forth as a hum or a whistle.  What isn't so well known, however, is that Ian Fleming got his idea for the book from an actual race car whose name was "Chitty Bang Bang."

Count Louis Zborowski, the son of a Polish nobleman and his American wife, was a millionaire playboy and automobile enthusiast living in Great Britain at the beginning of the twentieth century.  He built and raced four cars of his own design, each of which were named "Chitty Bang Bang."   Ninety-four years ago today on August 23, 1922, Count Louis Zborowski drove his newest version of "Chitty Bang Bang" in the first Southsea Speed Carnival in England, clocking an amazing 73.1 miles per hour as he won the race.

A very young Ian Fleming was in the audience of one of the races where Zborowski competed, a race the lad never forgot.

There are two stories regarding the unique car name.  The first is that it is a play on the sounds made by the very loud engines of the early automobiles.  The second, and far more likely, is that the name came from a more bawdy source:  soldiers returning from the front in World War I were given a "chit" which they could take to Brussels, France, or England and swap it for a "bang" - a story that adds a whole new layer of meaning to the title of the movie and the song!

Interestingly, to me at least, Count Zborowski was killed in a race in Italy when his car crashed into a tree - on October 19, 1924 - the exact day my father was born.  The Count was twenty-nine at the time of his death.

And that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story!

No comments: