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Finding Straker’s Car

Straker’s Car – An Obsession

This weekend’s guest blog comes from Straker’s Car obsessive Sean Robinson. Many of you will already know about Sean’s quest to own/restore/rebuild/replicate Straker’s Car, but you may not know the whole story.

“It was early 1970. I’m six years old. Christmas had come and gone and I had used up my quota of presents for the foreseeable future. My parents were not particularly well off but we three kids wanted for nothing, until the day my two friends and I wandered into the local ironmongers.

The ironmongers was an incredible place, packed to the rafters with everything anyone would ever need including us kids – one corner was an entire toy shop. And there were shelf after shelf of everything a kid could ever want. There was a set of shelves just for Dinky cars and my eye went straight to one in particular. It was new; it hadn’t been there yesterday. I knew because I had scanned the shelves for anything new. A new Dinky car was exciting in itself, but this one was something else altogether because this car was the toy version of a car that had captivated me some months earlier. It hadn’t just captivated me; it had me mesmerized. It was Ed Straker’s car from the new Gerry Anderson series, UFO.

strakers-car-0

Now I will tell you, the ironmonger had only one of these cars, and there were three kids all wanting it and running home to ask their parents to buy it for them. One of the fathers turned up later with cash in pocket and duly bought it. The ironmonger asked the guy, “who is this for?” The father replied, “I’m Sean’s dad.” The ironmonger said, ”I knew he would get it.” And he was right because I was obsessed with all things Century 21, and in particular, that car.

This car was incredible because it was real and I knew it was real and what a stunner! I remember sitting on the sofa with my dad waiting for the first episode of the eagerly awaited new series UFO and on it came and there in the titles was this incredible car and I was hooked, mesmerized and obsessed within a few seconds. I wanted it and not just the toy: I wanted the real thing and I was going to have it.

I was born in a Sunderland council house in the summer of 1964, the son of a mechanical fitter. We were not wealthy, but that did not change the fact that I wanted this car more than life itself.

During my childhood and early teenage years I followed the work of the man that for me was everything I ever wanted to be in life. That man was Derek Meddings. The man that could make magic happen! Apart from designing the effects on all of the shows, he designed all of the Thunderbird machines, the SPV, SPC, Angel Interceptor, Mac’s car and hundreds of others in those shows. He also, of course, designed Straker’s car.

Thanks to magazines such as TV21, Lookin and others, I tracked the car’s progress after the show ended and found out that the DJ Dave Lee Travis bought it straight from the production company.

I know that he used to show the car around the country in the mid-seventies but it never made it to the northeast so I missed out. The last photograph I saw in a Lookin magazine was the car with Dave after it had been sprayed white (I have no idea what possesses some people!) but after that I lost track and the car seemed to have disappeared.

I entered the film industry in 1990 where I started work for BBRK at Shepperton studios. It was a busy time and an exciting one but one thing in particular blew my mind. On my first day, I met Derek Meddings! To say this changed my life forever is a drastic understatement; it rocked it to its very core.

I was very lucky to have a friendship with Derek that lasted until the day he died. A sad loss to all of us he had inspired, and those who still work in the effects world. I talked a lot to him about Straker’s car and how he designed it. He told me that although it was a pig to drive, being built on top of a ford zodiac, he was really pleased with the way it looked and he was very fond of the design. This only fueled my burning passion to own it. But it had disappeared from the face of the earth.

It wasn’t until early 2000 that a photograph appeared on the Internet. It was in a terrible state and in someone’s back garden – location unknown. But it still existed! The fire was burning again even more fiercely than ever; I had to find this car…

strakers-car-1

I approached several people, including one or two who are known around the collecting fraternity regarding the car’s location. They either point blank refused to help me or deliberately pointed me in the wrong direction (they know who they are!) It took me another twelve years of searching though and in 2012 I decided to go all out to find this thing before it killed me. I was eventually very kindly given a clue to the town where it was and after spending a few hours on Google earth I saw what looked like the car under a tarpaulin.

I jumped into the car and had a two-hour drive ahead of me. I had a case of stage fright as I knocked on the door. After a rambling explanation to the lovely and understanding present owners, I was allowed around the back to come face to face with the car I had spent more than 42 years looking for. A very strange feeling I can tell you! But there it was. My next problem was how to get my sweaty little hands on it…

I developed a friendship with the owner and then summoned up the courage to ask him to sell it to me. After thinking about it for a few weeks he decided that he couldn’t sell it for very personal reasons. This was a disaster – after 42 years of looking there it was just out of reach! I wasn’t prepared to give up and I came up with a plan B. Would he allow me to mould it? He agreed and for the first time I really felt that I could own this car (or at least an exact replica). The only problem I had was I that I would have to mould this car in situ – meaning in the back garden of a house in the midlands.

I gathered a small team, and we decided the best and only real option would be to take a plaster cast of the whole car, and then bring the cast back to my workshop, cast out the sections in fiberglass and reassemble the pieces back into a car. Only once we had done that could we start to repair the car as it has been battered, corroded, collapsed, walked on, and is in a terrible state.

strakers-car-2

We waited for the weather to break and then went for it over a weekend last spring. Over the course of a day and a half, three of us worked like crazy to finish the mould. Then we had to disassemble the sections and carry them over a hedge, through another garden and out onto the road where we loaded them into our large van. The owner’s family was amazing, every one helping out with the loading. By Sunday afternoon, the plaster casts were in my workshop.

We quickly cast out the sections in fiberglass and pulled them out of the moulds, the plaster moulds were then skipped and we assembled the pieces back into the car. We at last had a copy of Straker’s car sitting in the workshop and the real work was about to begin. We then spent several months filling and sanding, straightening and re-fibreglassing until we had something decent.

strakers-car-3

We then made a new set of fiberglass moulds from this master and then cast out a new shell. I realized that I needed help to make it into a real car. I never wanted just something to look at. I want to drive it and for this I will need a specialist.

Being in the film industry I’m lucky that I can tap into a network of experts in their trade. I decided to approach Edd China from Wheeler Dealers’ fame and was very lucky to have hit on just the right guy. Edd is a genius and this project is right up his street. He loves the car and we have become great friends in the process.

strakers-car-4

Our plan now is to have the cast fiberglass shell scanned so that Edd can put right all of the discrepancies in the cast and make the bodywork symmetrical, (something the original car never was and even less so now). We then will have a perfect body laser cut in foam and we’ll make a new mould from that. It is our intention to fit the car with a gas turbine engine which could run on eco fuel, it will go like a rocket, sound the way it did in the show and have an actual turbine engine as was depicted in the show. It will also have a flawless body and working Gull wing doors. All this and it will be road legal.

I do pinch myself when I walk into the workshop to be greeted by this car and the best thing is, I will be able to drive it every day. Dreams really do come true, eventually!”

strakers-car-5

Sean’s going to keep us up-to-date with his progress on the replica of Straker’s car. Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook to make sure you get all the latest news.

 

 

  • Carl Stirling-Stewart

    This is a great story! having spent 10 years re-building a Classic car I find this story very interesting and will follow with interest. Keep us up to date Sean and good luck.
    Regards,
    Carl.

  • http://leestringer.com Lee

    Great story! Hope to see it one day all finished and driving. And with any luck the original will be fixed up too!

  • graham Hardy

    Sounds like your making great progress and with Edd’s experience from the show it will surely look fantastic. All I need to do is find a copy of the SHADO interceptor and I can strat my build :-)

  • Stephen R Corbett

    I wish I could be there in England to help you with this project! You are truly living my dream too! Well done for getting Edd involved in the project. He’s a top man, and he can bring the car back to life mechanically. I’m a huge Wheeler Dealers fan myself! I will be watching the progress from here in the States!

  • Charlie Woodall

    Wonderful!! Like others, I’m building…rebuilding…a car and understand how he feels.
    When you’ve finished, could you do Fireball XL5 for me please?

  • Nick

    What a fantastic story. I work on classics but love these one off projects. It’s a massive undertaking but I take my hat off to you.when you spend so much time on one cars rebuild that’s what gives it a soul. Will be watching your progress and good luck.

  • peter

    Brilliant!!!! I loved the show as a child. I love the show as an adult. I love the fact there are people in this sad world that still have passion for keeping the past alive!!! I look forward to reading and seeing pictures of the finished car. I want to buy you all a pint!!! Best of luck!

  • Freddie Thompson

    Great progress you and Edd are making Sean. Now, next challenge, a full size, working SHADO mobile???, now…..Bovvy Tank Museum is just up the road from me, wonder if they have a spare tank chassis I can blag…….

  • chris young

    I love! UFO, the classy production, the sheer scale, the vision, the actors, especially Ed Bishop and Micheal (should’ve been Bond) Billington, not to mention Wanda and Gabrielle.

    To me UFO easily stands alongside slick American stuff like ST TOS (I like that too) I’ve just got the restored DVD boxsets (both UFO & ST TOS) and I’ll probably get ‘em on BluRay when/if they become available at reasonable cost.

    To see this iconic car at last being restored is tremendous, it’s something I’ve thought of often, was one of my lottery winner fantasies. I even Mentioned it on the WD FaceBook page once, sooo! glad it’s ongoing :-) I can’t wait to see it finished

  • http://www.vintagecarheritage.com Igor

    Warms the cockles to learn about this effort.

    A similar story surrounds the recreation of the 1955 Lincoln Futura dream car after the original was altered into the TV series Batmobile.

    Once the finalised body shell of Ed’s Car has been laser scanned into a CAD file, I would suggest making available vacuum-moulded copies in 1/25 or 1/24th scale…or possibly 3-D printed. I for one would buy such a model kit – beats trying to sculpt and scratch-build it.

    Sean might appreciate my suspicion that the original wore wheel covers from the Rover P6 of the time.

    In restoring a 1980 Toyota Celica Liftback, I noticed the proportions and body ‘hard points’ could be used to mount a different body shell – a Spectrum Patrol Car! Compare the two in profile and you’ll see what I mean, especially the door/C-pillar relationship. Perhaps THAT could be Sean’s next project…

  • brianwee

    Any pics of the finished car??

    • http://www.gerryanderson.co.uk/ Gerry Anderson Official

      You’ll be able to see it’s official unveiling at Andercon next April. It won’t be shown anywhere else before that :)

      http://www.andercon.co.uk

      • Sean Evans

        Actually finished and with turbine engine?

        • Tony Hill

          Hi,any chance this UFO mad grp car fanatic can meet with Sean to see his amazing vehicle?Have a chat and take some snaps for the grp album,I have a `64 grp classic,its rare & lovely but I`d love Col.Paul Foster`s car – anyone know where that beauty is? I think the wheel trims on Ed`s car were Rover P6 – am I right?i had a 3500S car & they look very similar.

          • Indy!

            What about the other car? If you watch the series, there is one episode where Straker pulls into the parking lot of the studio and there is another car with the same body type – only pink – parked in the lot. Any word on what happened to that one?

  • Sean Evans

    Dave Lee Travis eh? Well, serves him right! Painting Ed’s car white FFS!

  • Dave Hutchinson

    Just saw a pic with what Looked like Colin Chapman getting out of it, did it have any connection with Lotus? It would make sense using a ready made chassis. The wheels in the pic look like P6 Rover and Rover (Real Rover) had a prototype gas turbine powered P6 and of course the Rover BRM, Any connections there?

  • Pavel Pavel

    Any chance of body shells being for sale please?

  • David Dickinson

    What’s happened to the series and/or film remake?

    • http://www.gerryanderson.co.uk/ Gerry Anderson Official

      No idea, David! It’s nothing to do with Anderson Entertainment or the Gerry Anderson Estate. We’ve not heard anything about it for a -very- long time!

      • David Dickinson

        Thanks for your prompt reply,very refreshing.Perhaps you could help me with another issue?I have just been reading on Wikipedia that Ed Bishops voice was recorded at 24 fps but played back at 25 fps therefore making his pitch higher,if this is the case wouldn’t everybody’s voice have been changed?

  • Joe Bloggins

    So, has the car progressed any further?

  • Frankie Webb

    wow ” I Lived & worked with this car for a while it was in our workshop in Shropshire , I missed the chance to buy it as a young mechanic & was pipped to the £50 give away by a guy that bought it , His name was Horris don’t know his surname but he took it away as far as I know to his home in willenhall west mids is that where you went to cast it ? I can add to the story as I saw it in a garden in Bridgenorth & nearly fell over when the tarp was pulled off it as I was an avid watcher of the series as well but to see it for real was wow … I would love to see find know any more of where I can be part of this , you can contact me at webbee66@hotmail.com Regards Frankie webb

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