This article is from issue 4 (Spring 1991) of the UK magazine "Century 21"
UFO 1 WAS FAB, SAYS DLT
Simon Archer adds to the post-series history of a much-loved Anderson vehicle in this exclusive article with top Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis
Combine the interests of science fiction, gadgets and futuristic machines and you have the qualities of a true Gerry Anderson fan.
One such person is top BBC Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis, who has long been fascinated by things ahead of our time. One glimpse at his video library, plus the photos of the cars he has owned tells the story.
Back in the seventies, DLT was the proud owner of the Ed Straker Car from the UFO series. At the time he was presenting a weekday show on Radio 1 and lived with his wife Marianne at Ealing, just a short drive from Broadcasting House.
Dave was already a committed fan of the Anderson series. By coincidence, his sixties DJ posting on the pirate station Radio Caroline was mirrored in the Thunderbirds episode "Ricochet". The story told of a damaged satellite pirate radio station, a storyline based on the cult pop station at the time, located not in space, but the North Sea!
As most enthusiasts know, the sleek car used by Commander Straker was, beneath the aluminium bodywork, a modified Zephyr -Zodiac Mk IV, fitted with an Escort engine and gearbox.
So what was the interest in owning the unique car of the future for DLT?
"It was a fabulous machine to have", he explained. "I bought it on a whim, the same way that you might go out and buy a new stereo system. Anyway, I loved the series and to actually own the car was something very special. I heard about the car from a mad guy who was in the promotions business. All I can tell you about him was that he specialised in buying stage props and owned a bicycle that, when you steered it to the left, it turned to the right!"
When DLT took delivery of the UFO car it was in need of repair.
"The body frame itself had nothing wrong with it, but the paintwork was ropey and two of the windows were broken - and it wasn't licensed. I don't think many people had driven it on the roads. It wasn't an easy car to handle."
"At one point I was thinking of having a system built in with a speaker in the back so that the car could produce a jet engine noise when in motion, but, like many things, I didn't get round to it!"
But Dave did have the car resprayed, new seats fitted, and had sign-writing (UFO) applied to the sides of the car - matching exactly the letters used in the series' opening titles.
"The inside of the car was nothing special", he continued. "The most interesting part was that the centre console was high up alongside you, making it very difficult to change gear. What you ended up doing was lifting your arm up and dropping your hand down a hole inside the console to wriggle around and change the gears."
Another feature of the car which wasn't quite as it appeared on the screen was the gull-wing doors which were not electronically, but manually operated. "There was a button, but it didn't do anything!" remembers Dave. Because the large doors were counterbalanced, opening and propping them up was a two-man operation.
Visibility was restricted through the perspex windows and access to the boot was from inside the car.
"I had the car for two years, with the intention of hiring it out for promotional use," added Dave. "I even had colour leaflets produced, but I never really got this moving."
In the end, with Dave's radio commitments increasing, he had less and less time to devote to UFO 1 and finally sold it to an enthusiast from Birmingham. This leaves the burning question. Where is the car today? Does it still exist? Perhaps this article will throw some light on its possible whereabouts.
Since the 1970s, DLT's, vehicles have included a Renault 5 Gordini, a Trans-Am - known as the Flying Banana, several large American cars including a rare 1963 Thunderbird and a massive Winnebago motor home.
In 1980, he transformed his secretary's troublesome Austin Allegro into the London-proof Car. Like UFO 1, it too was used for promotional purposes. But what, you may well ask, is a London-proof car?
In order to combat the strains of driving in the capital, a pet hate of Dave's, the car was equipped with such extras as an anti-taxi Polaris missile launcher on the roof, anti traffic-warden bars on the front and rear, and 12 spare tyres to prevent knocks.
To enable Dave to park the car anywhere, double yellow lines were painted over the boot, roof and bonnet!
Today, our weekend Radio host drives 1 DLT, a metallic green Turbo-charged Mitsubishi Shogun, which, when the Turbo is engaged, sounds not unlike UFO 1.
He's never alone in the vehicle. Perched at his side is his co-pilot Biggles, a brown Teddy bear kitted out in flying jacket and goggles - ready to take on the baddies, or aliens, at any time!
Preceding page: Confirmed UFO fan Dave Lee Travis.
Bottom: Ed Straker's car outside the Harlington Straker film studios.
Top: Straker's car as it appeared in the series.
Middle: The Cover of DL T's promotional leaflet for "UFO 1."
Bottom: Centre spread from the same leaflet.
Closeup of brochure