Count Zborowski with Chitty Bang Bang 1 at Brooklands

Chitty Bang Bang was the informal name of a number of celebrated English racing cars, built and raced by Count Louis Zborowski and his engineer Clive Gallop in the 1920s, which inspired the book, film and stage musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The Chittys were built and stored at Higham Park, Zborowski's country house at Bridge near Canterbury in Kent. The cars were so loud that Canterbury reportedly passed a by-law prohibiting them from entering within the city walls. The origin of the name "Chitty Bang Bang" is disputed, but is believed to have come from a salacious World War I song.

Chitty 1[]

Chitty 1 was a chain-driven customised Mercedes chassis containing a 23 litre 6 cylinder Maybach aero-engine. It won two races at its debut at Brooklands in 1921, coming second to another Zborowski car in a sprint race at the same event. Chitty 1 was fitted with four seats and a crude, over-sized exhaust pipe, in order to misguide the handicappers and spectators. Its top speed on the day was 100.75 miles per hour.

For its next outing, Chitty 1 was refitted, as a two-seater with a cowled radiator and a properly plumbed exhaust. It attained nearly 120 mph on one occasion, and had its race handicap consistently reappraised. It subsequently crashed, removing three fingers from a timing official. The car was rebuilt, and passed into the ownership of the sons of Arthur Conan Doyle, but was quickly retired as a race car, and was later butchered for spare parts.

Chitty 2[]

Chitty 2 had a shorter wheelbase, and an 18.8 litre Benz BZ IV aero-engine. It was never as successful as its predecessor, but took part in several road races, including a Sahara Desert expedition in 1922. It later became the property of the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and is currently displayed at the National Motor Museum in England.

Chitty 3[]

Chitty 3 was based on a modified Mercedes chassis with a 160 hp Mercedes single overhead camshaft six cylinder aero engine, tuned to produce 180 hp. The car recorded a lap of Brooklands at 112.68 mph. Louis Zborowski later used it as his personal transport, and drove it to Stuttgart when he negotiated to join the Mercedes racing team.[1]

Chitty 4[]

Chitty 4 (also known as the Higham Special) was Louis Zborowski's largest car yet. Using a 450 hp V12 Liberty aero engine of 27 litres capacity, with a gearbox and chain-drive from a pre-war Blitzen Benz, it was the largest capacity racing car ever to run at Brooklands. Still not fully developed by the time of Zborowski's death in November 1924, it was purchased from his estate by J.G. Parry-Thomas for the sum of £125.

Parry-Thomas rechristened the car Babs and rebuilt it with four Zenith carburettors and his own design of pistons.[2] In April 1926, Parry-Thomas used the car to win the Land speed record at 171.02 mph (273.6 km/h). However, he was killed in the vehicle in a later attempt on 3 March, 1927. Babs was buried with Parry-Thomas at Pendine Sands in Wales, but the car was later recovered and restored and is now on display at the Pendine Museum of Speed.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang[]


Chitty Chitty Bang Bang landing in Vulgaria.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the fictional vintage racing car which features in the book and musical film of the same name.

Writer Ian Fleming took his inspiration for the car from a series of aero-engined racing cars built by Count Louis Zborowski in the early 1920s, christened "Chitty Bang Bang".

Film props[]

For the film version, a number of props were created, including a fully functional road going car. It was built by Alan Mann racing in Hertfordshire in 1967, and fitted with a Ford 3000 V6 engine and automatic transmission. It was allocated a genuine UK registration: GEN 11.



  2. Jo Payne, ‘Thomas, John Godfrey Parry (1884–1927)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 9 Sept 2006

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