Arts & Entertainment

'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' car expected to soar at auction

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For sale: custom vintage auto with Hollywood pedigree. Three-liter V-6 engine, polished aluminum hood, serpent horn, wings. Has history of issues with exhaust system.

Sure, you could drop $2.6 million on a Bugatti Veyron to cruise the Sunset Strip, but for less than that you might be able to really make an impression with the "fantasmagorical machine" from the classic 1968 film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" starring Dick Van Dyke.


FOR THE RECORD:
"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" car: A headline on an article in the May 12 Calendar section about the sale of the car from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" said the movie was a Disney film. The film was not made by Disney. It was released in 1968 by United Artists. —


The roadster, designed by Ken Adam, goes up for auction Sunday at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. This particular model, one of seven Chittys built for the film, was the one used in principal photography (including the driving sequences filmed in 70 millimeter),and the publicity campaign. It's registered in England (with GEN 11 plates), making it legal for jaunts through the countryside.

The additional Chittys were mostly incomplete and used for stunts, such as the floating Chitty, which was attached atop a motorboat. Another, built with a more muted silver hood to accommodate lighting, was used for the close-up flying sequences.

Owned by British stunt driver and actor Pierre Picton since the film's promotion ended, the car is expected to fetch between $1 million and $2 million.

"I'm very sad," Picton, 76, said from his home in Warwickshire, England. "It's like losing a child. I'm getting old and I love the car dearly, but I think it's time. I'll miss it terribly. It really is a magical car. You feel like a king with something that everyone wants to see."

After penning about a dozen James Bond novels, Ian Fleming wrote the children's storybook "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magical Car," in the mid-1960s, inspired by an actual monstrous European chain-driven racing auto from the 1920s. Producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, who steered the Agent 007 film franchise, put the vehicle into flight on movie screens, capturing the imagination of children and adults alike with breathtaking scenes shot in England, France and Bavaria.

Van Dyke, in his recent memoir, recalls that the car was a little difficult to maneuver "with a turning radius of a battleship."

Picton meticulously maintained the car in running condition; it's made appearances all over Europe, beginning with an audience with Queen Elizabeth when the film premiered. "We presented Corgi model cars of Chitty for her children, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew," Picton recalled.

Picton is confident the iconic auto will "go to a wonderful home." And he and his wife will be there to hand the keys to the highest bidder.

If "Chitty" is a bit beyond your budget, there are some other pieces of pop culture memorabilia also on the block at the auction being held by Profiles in History, run by appraiser Joe Maddalena of "Hollywood Treasure" fame.

Among the items up for bid are signed, original animation cels from Disney movies, including the classics "Cinderella" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (expected to fetch around $20,000 each); an early draft of John Lennon's handwritten lyrics for "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" ($200,000 to $300,000); and the first concrete slab footprints, of Sid Grauman, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, from Grauman's Chinese Theatre ($35,000 to $55,000). Visit latimes.com/memorabilia for a photo gallery of some of the more intriguing pieces that might look fabulous on your fireplace mantle.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Noelene Clark contributed to this report.

calendar@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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