DOCTOR WHO MONTHLY -
Issue 75 - April 1983
Extract from article
"Bessie and the Whomobile". Pages 29-31.
The mainstay of the seventies, coming
second only to the TARDIS, undoubtedly was Bessie, the Edwardian
roadster. This car was introduced in the second Pertwee story, The
Silurians and remained right through until Tom Baker's Robot. The
last season for Jon saw the introduction of the Whomobile which
sadly belonged to Jon personally and left the programme with him.
Unlike the Whomobile, which was a "one off" specifically designed
and built for Jon Pertwee, Bessie was one of a limited edition of a
kit car made by Siva/Neville Trickett (Design) ltd; of Blandford,
It was possible to obtain either a two or four seater version, the
latter being chosen by then Producer, Barry Letts. "Yes, we think
viewers will grow quite affectionate towards Bessie." Prophetic
words indeed! The Press of the day also spoke very highly of the
little car (*1).
THE SUN: "The flighty young crock-useful acceleration with all
the motoring pleasures."
THE EXPRESS: "Highly popular."
THE SKETCH: " . . . the car that gives you 100 smiles an hour."
MOTORING NEWS: "The incredible Ford Popular based Edwardian Dummy
handles amazingly well."
CUSTOM CAR: "Its appeal is enormous and as a crowd puller it has few
HOT CAR: "Without a moments hesitation I can fully recommend this
exciting little buggy ."
The Siva two-seater Roadster and the four-seater Tourer were
designed to fit directly on to an unmodified E93A For chassis. These
chassis were used by Ford from the late 1940s through to 1958
for their Ford Popular, Prefect and Anglia's. Cars that have since
earned the nickname of "Sit up and Beg" cars. The E93A chassis was
chosen simply because of its popularity and availability in Britain,
Construction of the Tourer was a fairly simple business for the
mechanically minded. Detailed fitting instructions were supplied and
Siva's maintained that the basic car could be completed in as little
as two to three weeks of spare time working. This estimate was
perhaps a little enthusiastic for one person but with two working,
it was possible.
The first step was to remove the body and in order to do this all
lights and instruments with their respective wiring had to be
removed. These would be kept for re-use unless one chose to fit new
components. Next all the electrical gear from the engine side of the
bulkhead had to be disconnected, including the starter cable; choke
cable and handbrake.
This done, the throttle pedal and linkage, together with the plates
from the brake and clutch pedals were unbolted and removed. The
steering wheel and column could remain although the fixing brackets
had to be dispensed with. All the flooring (which incidentally was
plywood!) had to go as did the front wing support brackets, The
metal cowling between the front chassis members could remain, if
The body-shell was now ready to be removed and the simplest method of
doing this was to dismantle it piece by piece where convenient i.e.
wings, bonnet, radiator shell and boot lid. As any good mechanic
will tell you, if the nuts are rusted on (which in this case they
were not) take a cold chisel threaten the offending bolt. If that
doesn't work then hit it!
Once all the removable parts were off one had to cut the body-shell
along the join of the chassis, which was a lot simpler than it
sounded; chopping off any remaining rivets or welds where necessary
(remember that in the 1950s the body was bolted to the chassis,
unlike today where the chassis is an integral part of the design and
therefore inseparable). The body could then be lifted clear of the
chassis and nine times out often, one was left wondering what to do
Next, the floor covering and the fuel tank had to be cut away as far
back as the cross-member behind the back seat. This upright piece
was left attached in order to give added strength to the chassis.
The fuel tank could then be removed and the chassis had to be
shortened by cutting off to the rear of the back cast spring
mounting chassis member.
Then came the easy part, remove radiator and cut the fan down to a
diameter of 10 1/2 inches. For the best results, steam clean the
chassis and engine preparing it for painting. Red Oxide is
It was sensible at this stage just to check braking cables, shock
absorbers and wiring, implementing repairs if necessary. The
fibreglass Tourer body, with the two seats bolted on, could then be
slid into position over the steering column. Then the fuel tank had
to be fitted into its new position. The wiring and fuel pipe was
then connected. This done the body could be bolted into place on the
chassis having been pushed forward as far as it will go. The running
boards and mounting brackets were mounted next, ensuring equal
distance between the wheels. Having done this, the rear mudguards
and brackets were bolted in position.
The front mudguards were bolted through the front edge of the
running board and a modified mounting was bolted to the front wing
support. Next, the only new part needed, a 105E Ford Popular
radiator was fixed 1" in front of the fan.
The new bulkhead had to be drilled next to accommodate such things
as instruments, choke, starter ignition etc. This was where
personalisation came into the fore as it was entirely up to the
individual what was used and where. The front headlights were then
mounted, as were the rear lights.
Finally, the steering column could be raised to suit by elongating
the holes in the top of the chassis and placing washers between the
chassis and steering box front bolt. The floor had to be drilled to
accept the throttle pedal and the bulkhead to accept the linkage.
This had to be bent slightly for completely free movement.
The join between the body and chassis could then be filled with body
filler and the car was ready for painting. The simulated artillery
wheels when painted were bolted to the original hub caps (now
When dry, the seats were upholstered using the supplied foam
cushioning and leather-cloth covering and popper buttons. The
battery is fitted to the running board and the car was ready to go.
For everyday use or just weekend jaunts this little car was one of
the most practical and reliable vehicles of its type in the world.
Spares were available through any Ford stockist while various
manuals were available for servicing and tuning. It was for these
reasons that the Doctor Who 'production team chose this car.
The basic kit comprising of an elegant glass fibre body, seats,
bonnet, mock artillery wheel trims, mudguards, foam cushioning and
brackets for the bonnet, radiator, running boards and fuel tank cost
a mere £160. On top of this were several optional extras which
Bessie had. These included bulb horns, luggage trunk, coach lamps;
Cibie headlamps, hood and side curtains, battery-box, seat covers,
screen and bonnet straps and carpets. The cost of which amounted to
£182.00. The total cost of Bessie then equalled £342.00.
Unfortunately, the number plate, WHO 1, was not available when the
BBC took possession of Bessie. In order to get round this legal
problem a special WHO 1 plate was made and used on the car when
filming on private ground" i.e., quarries, large houses and even
Welsh slag hills. When the location, filming necessitated use of the
public highway then the legal registration plate, MTR 5, had to be
used. These sequences were always long shots (as when driving
through Derbyshire in The Silurians) so that the number plate could
not be read.
Throughout the series bits and bobs were added by the Special
Effects team which ranged from a plastic hand to radio control and
an elongated bonnet. Plus, a few fictional additions were made such
as the "SuperDrive" in The Time Monster and an "Anti Thief
Ambassadors of Death. Thus making Bessie a truly unique and amazing
car. Her last appearance in the programme was Tom Baker's Robot (*2).
Since then, however, Bessie makes frequent appearances at fetes and
charities and is always in the Parade at Blackpool's illuminations.
In fact, at the moment, Blackpool is Bessie's home (*3).
While Jon Pertwee was the Doctor he suggested that a toy model of
the car, made by someone like Lesney, Dinky or Corgi might be a
viable concept. Surprisingly, the toy manufacturers did not agree
and a model of Bessie never saw the light of day. The nearest we got
was a cardboard cut-out on the back of a Kellogg's Sugar Smacks
packet. There is no reason why the option could not be still taken
up by a manufacturer reading this article (*4).
Along with the Whomobile, they would make an ideal gift set. The
only other merchandising to be connected with Bessie were a couple
of jigsaws. The first was a splendid publicity shot of Jon sitting
in Bessie when collecting her from Siva's in Dorset (*5). This was one
puzzle of a set of four. The others being of Daleks and Ogrons. Much
later in the first set of Tom Baker jigsaw puzzles, Bessie turned
up again with publicity shots from Robot which introduced Tom as the
Will she ever return to the programme? Well, will the Doctor ever
visit present day Earth again? Only time will tell!
(*1) Much of this article
paraphrases heavily on the SIVA documentation of the day.
(*2) This article was written
before subsequent appearances in the Five Doctors, Battlefield and
Dimensions in Time.
(*3) Bessie was housed at Blackpool until 1985.
(*4) This article was written
before the Corgi models of Bessie were manufactured.
(*5) Probably incorrect as the jigsaws feature Jon Pertwee in his
season 8 costume and Bessie first appeared in season 7.
DOCTOR WHO EXPERTS
DISCUSSION FORUM - April 2000
Extract from article
about Bessie's License Plate number.
The number plate of the vehicle when
used in the show was simply WHO1, however the actual registered
number plate was MTR5. When Producer Peter Bryant realised that most
of the stories for the new Season Seven of Doctor Who were to be set
entirely on Earth and that the Tardis would be virtually redundant
as a prop for the show, he decided to commission the manufacture of
a new prop for the Doctor. This prop took the form of a vehicle for
the Doctor to still be able to remain mobile.
The Third Doctors Yellow Roadster
'Bessie', which makes it's first appearance in Doctor Who And The
Silurians, was a limited edition Edwardian 'kit car' made by Siva
And Neville Trickett (Design) Limited of Blandford, Dorset. It
fitted onto a E93A Ford chassis, from the type used from the late
Forties through to the end of 1958. The chassis were used on the
Ford Popular, Prefect and Anglia models. The basic kit cost £160 and
comprised the fibreglass body, seats, bonnet with foam cushioning
and brackets, mock artillery wheel trims, mudguards, radiator,
running boards and fuel tank. On top of this Bessie had a lot of
optional extras including, bulb horns, luggage trunk, coach lamps,
Cibie headlamps, a hood with side curtains, battery box, seat
covers, screen and body straps and carpets. These extras cost a
total of £182.
Two versions were offered, a
two-seater or a four-seater. The producer, Barry Letts, chose the
latter. Sometime during the Pertwee era the bonnet was extended to
accommodate a ten horsepower engine, rather than the original eight
horsepower one. The number plate 'Who 1' was not legal as it was
already owned by someone else, Mister Aubrey Stevens, Clerk to the
Magistrates for Alton, Alresford and Petersfield, and was only used
on private roads. If it was necessary for Bessie to actually be shot
on location on a public road then it was nearly always in long shot
or in close-ups that didn't reveal the official number plate which
was MTR5. In total, back in 1969, the car cost a mere £500, £342 for
the kit and another £160 for a chassis and engine from a Ford
Popular! This kit car is no longer commercially available.
during the making of Season Ten, Bessie had broken down on several
occasions, then Producer Barry Letts had it sent to a company called
Gluntura Plastics for a complete refit and overhaul. The roadster
was given a new chassis, gearbox, new larger capacity engine, and a
more rounded saddle bonnet. Fully re-sprayed and refitted, the car
was back at the BBC in time for location footage filming for The