I'm assuming most of you here are in the casual-to-decent-knowledge range of being Bond fans. Some of you may not even know that the films are based on a series of successful novels written in the 1950's and 1960's by the author Ian Fleming. You've seen some of the movies, Sean Connery is probably your favorite James Bond, and you have no idea what movie came out when, but you love them because they have explosions, guns, and more importantly, they have cars. Cars with fricken' laser beams. While sometimes playing a large role in their respective films, only one Bond car was actually given its own movie, and it was never driven by James Bond.
I'll wager that almost all of you had no clue that the same man who wrote the Bond stories also wrote the original Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang novel. This fall, his original tale of a flying car celebrates its 50th Anniversary of publishing.
It may strike you as odd that the creator of the most successful and often brutally violent and sexually risque spy characters managed to produce a highly successful children's story. It is indeed a unique addition to Ian Fleming's literary resume, as fourteen of his stories were Bond fiction, two published books were non-fiction travel logs, and just the one book, Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, is a fantastical fiction designed as a family friendly exploration of a car with magical powers. Fleming's inspiration for publishing the story came from, quite literally, a change of heart. In April 1961, the year before the first James Bond motion picture Dr. No would be released, the author suffered a major heart attack. Slightly annoyed at the thought of bed rest and with a diminishing outlook towards life, Fleming needed something to ease his mind but didn't require physical activity. A close friend then suggested he write out a bedtime story he often told to his son, Caspar.
Ian Fleming's inspiration for his bedside story came from the aircraft-engined racers of the early 1900's. These cars adapted aircraft engines to automobile platforms from the surplus of wartime equipment. The direct inspiration for the book came from Louis Zborowiski's and Captain Clive Gallop's race cars nicknamed Chitty Bang Bang. Fleming had seen the drivers race at a young age, and later visited Higham Park, the estate where the vehicles had been developed. The vehicles ranged from 180 to 450 horsepower, and were so loud laws were passed that prohibited them from entering the town. Both the racing team and Fleming adopted the name from the noise produced by the powerful engines.
Louis Zborowski in Chitty Bang Bang 1
Ian Fleming didn't live to see the book's publishing. He passed away on August 12th, 1964, his son Caspar's 12th birthday. The book was originally published in three volumes from October of 1964 to January of 1965.
The film adaptation in 1968 starring Dick Van Dyke has many ties with the James Bond universe besides sharing Fleming as its creator. The movie was produced by Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, whose family has produced all 23 official Bond films as well as the upcoming 24th. Desmond Llewelyn, famous for his role as the quartermaster "Q" in the Bond franchise, stars in Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang as the scrap yard salesman. Gert Fröbe, famous for his role as the villain Goldfinger in the Bond film of the same name, also stars as a character not originally in the novel, Baron Bomberst. The movie is currently available to stream on Netflix.
Other adaptations include a novelization of the 1968 film, a musical, and a radio play. Fleming also did some work on a treatment where James Bond is tasked with saving Stirling Moss from a Russian-staged wreck at the Nurburgring, which is currently being made into a novel.
So maybe the flying car in Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang is not exactly a "Bond car", but there is enough of the Bond DNA to keep it PG and still be fantastic storytelling.
"Never say 'no' to adventures. Always say 'yes', otherwise you'll lead a very dull life." -Caractacus Pott
Justin Westbrook is a 20-year-old General Manager of a Jimmy John's sub shop in North Carolina, and spends his spare time watching James Bond movies, thinking about going to college, and participating in "the internet."