Talking Motors: My dream car – pink, and driven by an OAP

FAB1, the pink Rolls Royce driven by International Rescues Lady Penelope and her chauffeur, Parker
FAB1, the pink Rolls Royce driven by International Rescues Lady Penelope and her chauffeur, Parker
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Hopefully a mention of Thunderbirds will awaken memories of puppets and strings rather than last year’s reboot using computer animation.

And, more importantly, hopefully a mention of Thunderbirds will make a pink Rolls Royce appear in the mind’s eye, with the registration FAB 1.

The new TVR car, as unveiled by owner Les Edgar, will be built in Wales

The new TVR car, as unveiled by owner Les Edgar, will be built in Wales

The reason the television programme’s theme tune has been on loop in my head is because of the sad news last week of Sylvia Anderson’s death – the joint creator of the programme with her husband, Gerry, and the voice of Lady Penelope.

It may have been a 1960s creation, but most kids since have been drawn in by the iconic ‘five, four, three, two, one..’ countdown which started the programme.

So obsessed were we about Thunderbirds, my poor parents were among the scrums in Warrington’s Toys R’ Us when kids went bananas over Tracy Island playsets in the 90s (they managed to get me one, which I still have somewhere) and Blue Peter resorted to telling us how to make them.

I loved Thunderbirds. Even though it was set in an age where there were space stations and rockets being launched from a remote island, the only cosmetic changes to FAB 1 appeared to by adding two more wheels and a glass roof.

Of course, FAB 1 wasn’t just any Rolls Royce, if there is such a thing. I rarely approve of heavy modifications, but then again I’ve never known anyone to have their car fettled by Brains, inventor of the Thunderbirds machines.

International Rescue is a business not to be taken lightly, and FAB 1 came with machine guns, grappling hooks, a smoke screen canister and oil slick dispenser. It also boasts tyre studs (for traction) and outriggers for travel on water and snow... a bit more impressive than the Amphicar!

Had FAB 1 been in our dimension, it would still be a generation away from its 2065 launch date and punters would be expecting a 21ft monster capable of 200mph on land and 50 knots on water (about 58 mph). And it had to be a Rolls Royce. The Rolls Royce grille and Spirit of Ecstasy mascot have an affect on people, and on the selection of the car’s make, series co-creator Gerry explained: “Considering Penelope’s personality, and the role she played in International Rescue, it could only be a Rolls Royce.”

I’m not sure how Penelope, or her chauffeur Parker, would have felt when the 2004 film shunned the original FAB 1 for a customised Ford, but perhaps that’s why people don’t remember that film, but will be able to find a pink Rolls Royce model in the loft (and if you can find a Dinky model from the 60s, the going rate is about 300 quid).

And, looking up the reg, it’s pleasing to see FAB 1 adorns a Rolls Royce in real life, even if it’s black instead of pink and a 2012 and not 2065 model – though I’m sure Penelope would have Brains on the case with a spray gun if she gets her hands on the car again.

A welcome in the hillsides for the rebirth of TVR

There must be something in the water in South Wales – as TVR announced this week they are moving to The Valleys.

It’s hard to imagine one of the best sports cars in the history of ever was built a stone’s throw away in Blackpool – and aside from the best name for a marque (TVR is an abbreviation of the first name of founder Trevor Wilkinson) the people at the factory were very welcoming. I remember one day in a summer holidays as a kid when my dad took me and I ended up being shown around and leaving with an armful of posters. The new TVR project will see a new version of the iconic marque rumble past on the streets for the first time since 2005. And there are already more than 350 orders in place for the new, F1 inspired car featuring ground effect technology. The Welsh Government will also invest in the car maker, further enhancing this project which has people shaking with excitement. It represents more than £30 million of capital expenditure over the next five years.

Les Edgar, chairman of TVR said: “This is a fantastic opportunity both for TVR and the Welsh Government. We have a sports car project that has garnered global approval and excitement, and we are delighted the Welsh government wish to become a part of an exciting new era for TVR.”

It would be safe to hazard a guess that the new model will be designed in a more technologically advanced way than the foam cut-outs which formed the base of the marque’s cars in years gone.

One legend goes that the air intakes on the Chimera were a result of Wilkinson’s dog taking a bite out of one of the models – which ended up looking pretty good.

It almost makes me feel guilty. My parents had a TVR 3,000s in the 80s but had to get rid because they had me. Doesn’t seem like a fair swap!

Alonso crash reignites debate over driver safety

It didn’t take a full race of the new F1 season before the issue of driver safety flooded websites and social media.

Everyone watched anxiously as Spaniard Fernando Alonso climbed from his crumpled McLaren in Melbourne after a 180mph smash. The double world champion admitted he was ‘lucky to be here’ and the pictures of the wreckage issue a cold reminder that despite the number of injuries (and fatalities) becoming a rarity, F1 drivers take a risk every time they climb into the cockpit.

The much-debated ‘halo’ device is planned for 2017, with people already divided on the pros and cons of the structure planned to offer protection to drivers’ heads, and it was criticised by Lewis Hamilton as being “the worst-looking modification in F1 history”. After Alonso’s crash, he climbed out of his upturned car and walked away, leading some to say a halo device would have trapped him in. But team-mate Jenson Button said there was “no need for him to get out in that situation”. He added: “It’s better to have a halo system. They [safety workers] would tip the car over to get him out, so it takes a bit longer. But he was OK.”

One thing that must be agreed on though, is that driver safety needs to be paramount.