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FAB 1 is a pink, six-wheeled car seen in the 1960s British science-fiction television series Thunderbirds, its three film adaptations,[2] and the reboot TV series Thunderbirds Are Go.

FAB 1 (1960s)
Rolls-Royce FAB 1 (1960s) of Lady Penelope, Thunderbirds Exhibition in Miraikan, Tokyo, 2013.jpg
Scale model at a Tokyo Thunderbirds exhibition
First appearance"Trapped in the Sky"
General characteristics
ArmamentsMachine guns, laser guns, harpoon launchers, smoke screen canister, oil slick dispenser, tyre slashers
DefencesBulletproof armoured chassis
Maximum speed200 miles per hour (320 km/h)
50 knots (93 km/h) (on water)
PropulsionRolls-Royce gas turbine
Vortex aquajet (on water)
Mass3 long tons (3.0 t)
Length21 feet (6.4 m)
Width8 feet (2.4 m)[1]


1960s TV series and filmsEdit

In the original Thunderbirds (1965–66), as well as the feature films Thunderbirds Are Go (1966)[3] and Thunderbird 6 (1968),[4] FAB 1 is depicted as a modified Rolls-Royce. Owned by International Rescue agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, the car is usually driven by her butler, Parker. The driver sits in a central position at the front of the passenger compartment, which is covered by a bulletproof bubble canopy.

FAB 1 was modified by Brains, the inventor of the Thunderbirds machines, to include weaponry and gadgetry such as front- and back-mounted machine guns (although grappling hooks are seen to shoot out of the rear in the episode "The Perils of Penelope"). The car is also equipped with a smoke screen canister and oil slick dispenser, extendable tyre-studs (for increased traction), and hydrofoils (or outriggers; for travel on water and snow, respectively).


On the choice of make, series co-creator Gerry Anderson explained: "considering [Penelope's] personality, and the role she played in International Rescue, it could only be a Rolls-Royce."[5] In 2004, Rolls-Royce's public relations manager during the 1960s stated that the company "couldn't see any harm in [AP Films'] request, and as the series was aimed at children we thought it would be good for the cars – give them a modern image and, you never know, inspire a child to own one, one day."[6]

A six-wheel drive was incorporated into the design to distinguish the appearance from that of contemporary vehicles.[7] Measuring seven feet (2.1 m) in length, the plywood model (which was equipped with fully functional steering and headlights) cost £2,500 to build in 1964 (approximately £49,800 in 2018).[8][9]

Derek Meddings, the special effects director, remembered FAB 1 for its "outrageous styling, which bore no resemblance to any Rolls-Royce ever produced".[10] Since it was the most expensive prop to be made for the series, special security protocols were followed on-set.[10] Rolls-Royce supervised the model's sculpting and also supplied AP Films with a genuine radiator grille, complete with Spirit of Ecstasy ornament, costing £100.[11] This was used in close-up shots (such as the machine guns firing, and a stock photograph of the car's front that appears in the series' closing credits).[8][12]

2004 filmEdit

FAB 1 (Thunderbirds)
FAB 1 on display at the Heritage Motor Centre
General characteristics
ArmamentsMini-guns, heat-seeking missile launchers, torpedo tubes
Maximum speed199 mph (320 km/h)
100 kn (190 km/h) (on water)
5,664 mph (9,115 km/h) (in air)
PropulsionGas turbine jet engine, hover engines
PowerNuclear fusion reactor
Mass3.3 long tons (3.4 t)
Length26 feet (7.9 m)
Width7 feet (2.1 m)
Height5.5 feet (1.7 m)[13]

In the 2004 live-action film, Thunderbirds, FAB 1 is still seen to be pink and powered by six-wheel drive. Its glass canopy is tinted, and it is now capable of flight in addition to travel on land and sea. Prior to flight, the car's boot panels open, exposing the gas turbine engine; the wings then extend from the undercarriage. During flight, the rear set of wheels folds into the main vehicle body to prevent unnecessary drag. The passenger compartment doubles as a life raft in the event of an emergency at sea, while buoyancy tanks hidden in the body panelling ensure that the compartment remains afloat after it has broken away from the rest of the vehicle.


Rolls-Royce declined to build the new FAB 1.[6] Instead, the filmmakers approached Ford Motor Company, who adapted the car from an 11th-generation Ford Thunderbird. According to the designers, "there was a level of restriction that we had to encompass, because FAB 1 has to fly, go on water and drive. Then we had to identify the link with the Thunderbirds theme and, from our perspective, identify a T-bird essence that wasn't a deliberate rip-off."[6]

The vehicle was fully functional and roadworthy, and appeared in a segment of the motoring TV series Top Gear, during which it was road-tested by James May. May noted that it was not the most practical of cars, its excessive length making it difficult to drive through small English villages. Testing the car for The Daily Telegraph, Ian Adcock compared the driver's section to a "command module", noting its armrest controls and "fighter aircraft-style joystick" in place of a steering wheel. He also observed that the car "understeers like a yacht, so you constantly have to feed more and more lock on as you power through corners."[6]

The car is currently displayed at the Heritage Motor Centre in Warwickshire. The UK registration mark FAB 1 was originally issued in July 1946 and later assigned to a white Jaguar XJ6 before the number was purchased by broadcaster Chris Evans in 2012 for the sum of £75,000. FAB 1 was temporarily assigned to a Rolls Royce Ghost during 2013. Rolls Royce donated the bespoke pink vehicle for a year to be used for breast cancer awareness.[14]

Replica vehiclesEdit

In 1966, a 22-foot-long (6.7 m) replica of FAB 1, based on a "Chinese six" (four front, two back) Bedford VAL coach chassis, was built to transport writers-producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson to the premiere of Thunderbirds Are Go in London.[6] It was constructed by the company Toby Baxter Contracts in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire under Sylvia's supervision. The replica was fitted with a Bedford six-cylinder petrol engine, connected to a two-speed Powerglide gearbox. The axles were widened to fit the width of the body, which was a steel-covered framework "moulded" with filler to simulate the angles of the vehicle as seen in the TV series and films. The wheels were supplied by Land Rover, and the aluminium bumpers by a specialist welding company. The replica's perspex sides lifted up on screws, while the sides of the body folded out and under the vehicle to form a step. The radiator grille, which was not vertical as in standard Rolls-Royce models, was custom-built and inclined forwards at the top, complete with moveable slats and imitation machine gun. Since a custom number plate with the registration "FAB 1" had already been issued, the replica incorporated revolving plates, which read "FAB 1" on one side and gave the real registration number on the other.

On the night of the premiere, the replica broke down after a few hundred yards and the Andersons were forced to complete the journey by taxi. Rolls-Royce were not impressed by the car, which had a poorly built fibreglass body, and made several attempts to purchase it and have it destroyed. For a period, the company were successful in forcing the removal of the genuine RR radiator grille, which was replaced by a version bearing the initials "LP".

The vehicle survived and, after a full restoration, was installed at the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Keswick, Cumbria in 1989.[6][15] To prevent distraction to motorists and potential traffic accidents, police asked the museum's owner, Peter Nelson, not to drive the car on public roads. Nelson described the car as "utterly scary [to drive] at any sort of speed."[6] In 2013, the car was sold to the Dezer Car Museum in Miami, Florida.

Gerry Anderson would later commission a second full-sized FAB 1 replica. This vehicle was a modified Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, with the bonnet line extended to house the six-wheel drive, complemented by double Ackermann steering. It did not have the bubble canopy or centre-mounted steering of the original, and apart from the pink paint job and re-trim, the passenger compartment was stock Rolls-Royce. This model attended Anderson's funeral on 13 January 2013.[16]

FABS 2 and 3Edit

FAB 2, Lady Penelope's private yacht, appears in the Thunderbirds episode "The Man From MI.5". At the end of the episode, it is revealed that Parker has lost the ship in a game of poker.[17]

FAB 3 is Penelope's racehorse. It is kept at Ascot Stables and is the winner of many derby races.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bleathman, Graham (2000). Thunderbirds FAB Cross-Sections. London, UK: Carlton Books. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-1-84222-091-7.
  2. ^ Thunderbirds (1965–66), Century 21 Television/ITC – various episodes.
  3. ^ Thunderbirds Are Go (1966), Century 21 Cinema/United Artists.
  4. ^ Thunderbird 6 (1968), Century 21 Cinema/United Artists.
  5. ^ Archer and Nicholls, p. 104.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Adcock, Ian (29 May 2004). "FAB Two". telegraph.co.uk. London, UK: Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on 6 November 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2020.
  7. ^ Archer, Simon (2004) [1993]. Gerry Anderson's FAB Facts: Behind the Scenes of TV's Famous Adventures in the 21st Century. London, UK: HarperCollins. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-00-638247-8.
  8. ^ a b Archer, Simon; Hearn, Marcus (2002). What Made Thunderbirds Go! The Authorised Biography of Gerry Anderson. London, UK: BBC Books. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-563-53481-5.
  9. ^ Bentley, Chris (2005) [2000]. The Complete Book of Thunderbirds (2nd ed.). London, UK: Carlton Books. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-84442-454-2.
  10. ^ a b Meddings, Derek (1993). 21st Century Visions. Surrey, UK: Paper Tiger Books. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-85028-243-3.
  11. ^ Archer and Nicholls, p. 105.
  12. ^ Marriott, John (1993). Supermarionation Classics: Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Rogers, Dave; Drake, Chris; Bassett, Graeme. London, UK: Boxtree. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-85283-900-0.
  13. ^ Pang, Alex; Richards, Jon (2004). Thunderbirds X-Ray Cross-Sections. Oxford University Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-19911-249-4.
  14. ^ "Historic Vehicle Collection at the Heritage Motor Centre" (.pdf). Warwickshire, UK: British Motor Industry Heritage Trust. Archived (PDF) from the original on 16 November 2013. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  15. ^ "Television Cars – FAB 1 – Thunderbirds". Keswick, UK: Cars of the Stars Motor Museum. p. 9. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
  16. ^ Gerry Anderson Funeral - BBC South 2013-01-11 on YouTube
  17. ^ Thunderbirds (1965), Century 21 Television/ITC – Series 1, Episode 17: "The Man From MI.5".
Works cited

External linksEdit