Supercar: The Wonder of the Age (for Six Decades!)
by Austin Tate
Gerry Anderson’s TV series were a backdrop to my school years in the early 1960s, a favourite when returning home from school. Having seen the programmes from Twizzle, Torchy and Four Feather Falls… Kaiya Kalamakooya kala kaiya! … and beyond. But my absolute favourite was always Mike Mercury in Supercar!
Reg Hill did a fine job of designing Supercar and giving it exciting capabilities on land, under the sea, in the air and even into space!
Well… there she is Mike… Supercar!
… exclaimed by Professor Popkiss to Mike Mercury as Supercar is finishing a ground test at Black Rock Laboratory in the first episode still sends tingles through my spine. The tech details were really appealing and engendered an interest in science, engineering and aerospace. All the procedures for the familiar Gerry Anderson style “launch sequence” began in Supercar…
Charging port engine, …, 9000, 12000, 15000, interlock on, Fire One!
There are lots of superb details… I like the one where Dr. Beaker is examining a Supercar engines test and commenting on the crazing of the ceramic material of the blast shield.
The sound effects for Supercar startup and flight added much to the atmosphere and Barry Gray’s music added a lot to all the Gerry Anderson TV series… and Supercar has a very rich repertoire of themes and incidental music. The “Mike Mercury March” (Mike’s Theme) played as Supercar races to the scene of another rescue is wonderful.
TV Comic ran strip stories in colour for many years and promoted the “Supercar Club” offering a golden “wings” badge and pilots licence to members. Supercar Club had a tie up with “Super National” petrol and produced a flexi-disc with a Supercar story along with the Supercar theme and more Barry Gray music. I still smile when I remember my dad pulling into a National station to fill up, and as we drove away he accelerated fast and shouted out “zooooom”. The annuals each year, several Shipton Plastics “Plaston” PVC models (which we floated in our fish pond and tried to film in action in front of a back projection sheet), Budgie diecast Supercars and more merchandise followed. My dad, who had been in the Navy, even got me a captain style hat like Mike Mercury wore which I mounted my Supercar wings on.
While still at school I was so keen that I arranged a petition and got thousands of signatures from locals to send to ITV and AP Films to ask them to produce more episodes and show Supercar more on TV.
When Supercar was still on air in the early 1960s, I was taken by my dad to a TV trade show at Earls Court on London, as he ran a TV retail and repair store. And as we went around I heard a loud announcement that “Anything can happen in the next half hour!” Turning round to the big screen just in time to see the black and white image turn to COLOUR and STINGRAY appear. So there was plenty to look forward to, even though Supercar remained my interest.
It is wonderful that over the years since then we have been able to get the whole 39 episodes of Supercar from Series One and Series Two on DVD and that many new merchandising items and fan produced materials have appeared to keep the contents alive.
A number of scientists and engineers have noted how they were influenced in their career choices and areas of interest from watching early Gerry Anderson programmes. And so it was in my case too. The Black Rock Laboratory team under the Professor Popkiss and Doctor Beaker created Supercar (fictionally) using a grant from the US Air Force and their research people. Reality can follow fiction. I have (in real life) received research funding for my Artificial Intelligence work on planning, command and control of spacecraft and in search and rescue applications from the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the US Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) using the very same research mechanism that funded the X-15 rocket plane (and, one imagines, Supercar).
I have been fortunate to be part of the international community who continue to enjoy Gerry Anderson TV and work with some very creative people all round the world who are also very interested in Supercar over the years.
60 years later and Supercar is still in my life via the detailed and accurate 3D models produced 25 years ago with friends and collaborators around the globe and still looking good today as computer graphics have improved. The fan produced resources and computer models created with others internationally has enabled me to create virtual world and virtual reality experiences to continue to enjoy Supercar, to visit the (virtual) Black Rock Laboratory and take Supercar out for a spin in flight simulators and space simulators.
More info, computer models and images can be found HERE.
Roof Doors Open!
Our thanks to Austin for sharing his wonderful memories of Supercar from a television series that captured the imagination through to inspiration for exciting real-world projects!