Appearance in 1960s TV series and films[edit | edit source]
In the original Supermarionation TV series Thunderbirds (1965–66), as well as the feature films Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968), FAB 1 is depicted as a modified Rolls-Royce. Owned by International Rescue agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, the car is usually driven by her butler, Parker. The driver sits in a central position at the front of the passenger compartment, which is covered by a bulletproof bubble canopy.
FAB 1 was modified by Brains, the inventor of the Thunderbirds machines, to include weaponry and gadgetry such as front- and rear-mounted machine guns (concealed behind the radiator grille and front and back headlights, although in the episode "The Perils of Penelope", grappling hooks are seen to shoot out of the rear of the car). It is also equipped with a smoke screen canister and oil slick dispenser, extendible tyre-studs (for increased traction), and hydrofoils (or outriggers; for travel on water and snow, respectively).
Appearance in 2004 film[edit | edit source]
In the 2004 live-action film, Thunderbirds, FAB 1 is still seen to be pink and powered by a six-wheel drive system. Its glass canopy is tinted, and it is now capable of flight in addition to travel on land and sea. FAB 1's boot panels open to expose the gas turbine engine prior to flight, and the wings extend from the undercarriage. During flight, the rear set of wheels folds into the main vehicle body to prevent unnecessary drag. The passenger compartment doubles as a life raft in the event of an emergency at sea; buoyancy tanks hidden in the body panelling ensure that the compartment remains afloat after it has broken away from the rest of the vehicle.
Ford Motor Company supplied the prop, which was a heavily-modified, 11th-generation Ford Thunderbird. The Ford vehicle was fully functional and roadworthy, and appeared in a segment in the British motoring TV series Top Gear, in which it was road-tested by James May. May noted that it was not the most practical of cars, mostly due to the excessive length that made it difficult to drive through small English villages. The FAB 1 vehicle used in filming is currently displayed at the Heritage Motor Centre in Warwickshire.
Replica cars[edit | edit source]
In 1966, a full-sized replica of FAB 1, based on a Chinese six-wheel (four front, two back) Bedford Duple Vega coach chassis, was constructed to transport screenwriters and producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to the London premiere of Thunderbirds Are Go. Under the supervision of Sylvia Anderson, it was built by the company Toby Baxter Contracts at a factory in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire. The replica was fitted with a Bedford six-cylinder petrol engine, connected to a two-speed Powerglide gearbox. Its axles were widened to fit the width of the body, which was a steel-covered framework "moulded" with filler to imitate the angles of the vehicle as seen in the TV series and films. The wheels were supplied by Land Rover, and the aluminium bumpers by a specialist welding company. The replica's perspex sides lifted up on screws, while the sides of the body folded out and under the vehicle to form a step. The radiator grille, which was not vertical as in standard Rolls-Royce models, was custom-built and inclined forwards at the top, complete with moveable slats and imitation machine gun. Since a custom number plate with the registration "FAB 1" had already been issued, the replica incorporated revolving plates, which read "FAB 1" on one side and gave the real registration number on the other.
On the night of the premiere, the replica broke down a few hundred yards into its journey and the Andersons were forced to take a taxi to cover the rest of the route. Rolls-Royce were not impressed by the car, which had a poorly-built fibreglass body, and made several attempts to purchase it and have it destroyed. For a period, the company were successful in forcing the removal of the authentic RR radiator grille, which was replaced by a version bearing the initials "LP". The vehicle ultimately survived and, after being fully restored, was based at the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, Cumbria until 2012. In early 2013, it was sold; it is now on display at the Dezer Car Museum in Miami, Florida.
Gerry Anderson would later commission the construction of a second, full-sized FAB 1 replica. This vehicle was a modified Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, with the bonnet line extended to house the six-wheel drive, complemented by double Ackerman steering. It did not have the bubble canopy or centre-mounted steering of the original, and apart from the pink paint job and re-trim, the passenger compartment was stock Rolls-Royce.
FAB 2 and FAB 3[edit | edit source]
FAB 2, Lady Penelope's private yacht, appears in the Thunderbirds episode "The Man From MI.5". At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Parker has lost the ship in a game of poker. FAB 3 is a race horse owned by Lady Penelope. It is kept at Ascot Stables and has won many Derby races.
References[edit | edit source]
- Thunderbirds (1965–66), Century 21 Television/ITC—various episodes.
- Thunderbirds Are Go (1966), Century 21 Cinema/United Artists.
- Thunderbird 6 (1968), Century 21 Cinema/United Artists.
- "Historic Vehicle Collection at the Heritage Motor Centre". British Motor Industry Heritage Trust. Retrieved on 23 February 2011.
- "Television Cars—Page 9—FAB 1—Thunderbirds". Cars of the Stars. Retrieved on 23 February 2011.
- Thunderbirds (1965), Century 21 Television/ITC—Series 1, Episode 17: "The Man From MI.5".
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