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Friday, March 1, 2024

The UFO Cars of 1969: Gerry Anderson's Unearthed Sci-Fi Rarity

SHADO Treasures - Gerry Anderson, known for his iconic sci-fi puppetry in the '60s, surprised everyone in 1969 by delving into a new realm – a little-known show featuring live actors. If you're yearning for a touch of silver catsuits and purple wigs in today's society, this journey back to 1969 might be just what you're looking for.
SHADO's Commander Ed Straker's car is a notable addition to the UFO car series featured in Gerry Anderson's visionary sci-fi TV series from the 1960s. (Picture from: Hemmings)
In the realm of '60s sci-fi and Gerry Anderson's visionary creations, this lesser-known gem not only provided a glimpse into an imagined future but also left an indelible mark with its unique blend of creativity and practicality. As we ponder the show's idiosyncrasies and innovations, one can't help but marvel at the audacity of envisioning a world where alien defense and stylish cars converged in a captivating symphony of imagination.
The show transported us into the futuristic landscape of 1980, accurately predicted an alien invasion aiming to abduct humans for their body parts – a dark and captivating premise. The defenders against these otherworldly threats were the members of SHADO, the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization, a club seemingly as exclusive as escaping Virgin Media's relentless mailing list. Intrigued by the title sequence?
The SHADO Commander Ed Stalker's car touted as turbine-powered with power-operated gull-wing doors and a built-in mobile phone. (Picture from: SlotForum)
Derek Meddings, the creative genius behind the show's design, had previously lent his talents to numerous Gerry Anderson productions. For a more in-depth look at his work, particularly the two full-sized vehicles in this TV series—the cars driven by SHADO's Commander Ed Straker and field commander Paul Foster—explore his book, '21st Century Visions'.
Commander Ed Straker's car stood proudly among the operational jeeps of the SHADO board in front of its headquarters. (Picture from: Forum-RetroRide)
The special effects team, well-versed in crafting models for filming, took an unconventional approach when tasked with creating a real car. Alan Mann Racing, renowned for their work on the iconic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was given the responsibility, drawing on their expertise in racing Fords.
All cars, including SHADO Commander Ed Straker and Foster's, were built over a six-month period on modified Zephyr-Zodiac Mk4 platforms, equipped with Escort engines and gearboxes. (Picture from: TheNorthernEcho)
The Ford connection added an interesting layer as the UFO cars featured in the series were constructed on Ford Zephyr running gear, equipped with a 1600 Cortina engine. UFO cars, indeed! Colonel Foster sported his own attention-grabbing lilac stunner.
Straker's car is the 'basic' version, while Foster's vehicle boasts added details like air scoops and subtle extensions to alter its appearance. (Picture from: Forum-RetroRide)
Yet, the most prominent in the fleet was the brown coupe used by SHADO's Commander Straker for his daily excursions. This vehicle had its roots in the 1969 movie "Doppelgänger" (also known as "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun"), a film produced and written by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.
Both car bodies (Straker and Foster's) were handcrafted from aluminum, with doors requiring manual lifting by a stagehand off-screen for character exits, as they did not open automatically. (Picture from: SlotForum)
Touted as turbine-powered with power-operated gull-wing doors and a built-in mobile phone, the truth behind the glamour was fascinating. The car, with its aluminum bodywork, sat on a modified Zephyr-Zodiac Mk IV chassis, housing an Escort engine and gearbox.
As you can see, Foster's car appears longer than Straker's; these extensions not only add length but also enhance its sleek appearance. (Picture from: SlotForum)
Contrary to the futuristic depiction, the phone was merely a prop, and the doors required manual effort to lift, as revealed in several pictures. Ultimately, it stands as a testament to the enduring charm of vintage sci-fi, resonating with enthusiasts and curious minds alike, bridging the gap between the past and our present fascination with the unknown.

Foster's car featured prominent air scoops and subtle extensions to the front and rear bodywork. (Picture from: GerryAnderson)
While the 1980s ushered in car phones, the futuristic features of SHADO cars remain unrealized. Similarly, the moonbase hasn't materialized till today. The distinctive gull-wing doors of these cars never became mainstream. In the 1970s, Canada produced just shy of 3000 Bricklins with gull-winged doors. Meanwhile, in the early 1980s, Northern Ireland manufactured fewer than 10,000 Deloreans, famously featured in Back to the Future. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | GERRYANDERSON | HEMMINGS | DIKNYTVSPACE | THENORTHERNECHO | FORUM-RETRORIDES | SLOTFORUM | BRITMODELLER | EPGUIDES ]
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