WhoMobile in Planet of the Spiders

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The WhoMobile / the Alien

The Whomobile is a futuristic streamlined silver vehicle designed by the third Doctor. Resembling a cross between a racing car and a hovercraft, this jet-propelled vehicle was also capable of flying.

The 3rd Dr Who, Jon Pertwee (1919 - 1996), asked Peter Farries to design a custom-built car that would suit his futuristic character in the Dr Who series. Designer Peter Farries at the time was Chairman of the Nottingham Drag and Custom Club.

Andrew Deans is not a fan of the Whomobile

The need for the Doctor to do a James Bond, and ride the grooviest technology (although generally well short of a BMW) eventually brought us the Whomobile. Although I am a great fan of Jon Pertwee the actor, it has always puzzled me why he had such obvious love for that lump of quasi-futuristic plastic. Although it was actually named in the script as 'the Alien', it falls well short of looking like it came from any further afield than southern Wales. It was made of fiberglas, on the body of an early ford. An absolute master of early seventies engineering, it even got around on three wheels (although we all know that the illusion was complete when it appeared to be hovering in mid-air!).

Thankfully it only ever appeared in two Who stories (although appeared to go down quite well on Blue Peter). The fact that one of them was Invasion of the Dinosaurs indicated the level of sophistication of the Whomobile's association. As the other was Pertwee's finale, it was probably quite fitting that it should leave with him - king of the gadget. I've often heard rumours that Pertwee wanted to be buried in the Whomobile, but unfortunately the futuristic silver finish had faded to such a poor shade of yellow, at his death it was decided it would be unfitting for the star. This is a shame, because as long as the Whomobile is still above ground, it will continue to be dragged out at fan fairs and conventions and be the topic of much mirth. As much as I hate the Whomobile, it really doesn't deserve that.

Andrew Dean is one of the writers for Sonic Screwdriver, magazine of the Doctor Who Club of Victoria

The Whomobile was created in 1973, built by Farries in Nottingham and took 6 months to make. It was named The Alien by its makers. Like the Bond 875, it had three wheels: two at the back, one at the front; and it was powered by a 875cc Hillman Imp engine. Only this engine was a Sports unit, specially prepared by Chrysler UK. (I think it must have been 875cc, though both sources state it to be 975cc).

Andrew Laurence interviewing Jon Pertwee for a student project -
I was assigned the task of interviewing key WHO luminaries for a documentary which was to be aimed at people with no prior knowledge of WHO. Jon was most forthcoming, giving up his dinner break to answer questions just so that I could get an A-Level in Communication Studies. Well I got the A-Level and I also got the chance to know one of this country's most underated actors.

The Whomobile was my design with a brilliant young man from Nottingham called Peter Farris and was built in two mouldings. The experts said that this was impossible, but Peter did it in two.

The vehicle was 14 feet long and 7 feet wide with large fins extending five foot from the ground. The body was made from fibreglass and constructed in just two sections (which was a task considered impossible by other designers at the time). This was then mounted on to a steel box section chassis that incorporated a sheet steel floor pan for added strength.
To give the illusion that the vehicle was a hovercraft, an 8 inch rubber skirt was attached to the underside of the body which concealed the wheels.
It weighed fourteen hundredweight and could reach a speed of roughly 100mph. It was classified by the DVLO as an 'invalid tricyle'.

It had a futuristic cockpit. The electrics and wiring were done by Joe Thornhill.

It was seen in only two episodes. By late September 1973 the Whomobile was written into the Dr Who series and was first featured in 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' where the Doctor would have been otherwise riding on a motorbike. The car still had to be fully completed and lacked a roof and windscreens when filming took place and so a makeshift motorboat windscreen was used as a temporary measure to ensure it was legally roadworthy (register: WV0 2M - Nottinghamshire C.C., 1973).
By the time it made its second and last appearance in the series in 'Planet of the Spiders' it had been fully completed.

On screen, the vehicle was not called the WhoMobile, though that was how it was generally referred to. Jon Pertwee calls it the WhoMobile in his memoirs.
In later years Jon Pertwee 'lent' the Whomobile to a bereaved fan whose mother had died tragically. He would then borrow it back for Special Events.

Doctor Who is a trade mark of the BBC. Jon Pertwee played the Doctor for just over 4 years, from January 1970 to June 1974. Both 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' and 'Planet of the Spiders' were series of six, broadcasted in the 11th season: 15 December 1973 - 8 June 1974.

During Jon's time, the Doctor became known for his love of gadgets and vehicles. Several vehicles were incorporated into the show such as his beloved Whomobile.
Debbie Fisher interviewing Jon Pertwee on Wednesday, 29 December 1982 on Two Counties Radio, a local independent radio station:

Then I produced this remarkable Whomobile, this beautiful, streamlined car which used to fly and come out of the sky. I built that and took it to the BBC car-park and said to Barry Letts, 'I want to show you something out of the window - look.' And he said, 'My God! Who's is that?' I said, 'That's mine, it's the Whomobile.' So in it went.
Jon recalls one instance when he was driving the Whomobile through London he caused one family to hit the back of a bus as they were looking on at the Whomobile and not the road! After this incident he decided to cease driving on the road. Jon was regularly stopped by the police in most cases to ask for Jon's autograph for their sons.

Radio Times [25-31 May 1996]; Doctor Who supplement

What's your favourite souvenir?
'The Whomobile, which I drive at conventions. But it caused the most hideous accidents because people took their eyes off the road to look at it!'
Whomobile on display outside  

'30 Years In The TARDIS' was a 50 minutes show, broadcasted 29 November 1993. The Producers thanked Paul Buckland for the Whomobile. This special anniversary documentary included interviews, clips and newly shot footage recreating famous moments from Doctor Who. One of the clips that was shown was a Blue Peter item of 5 November 1973 on Whomobile.
This was released on BBC video as 'More than 30 Years in the TARDIS'.

Jo Grant. Planet of Spiders? Didn't she have a conversation with the Doctor about magic? Things that no one anywhere in the universe could explain: that, she felt would be magic. The Whomobile driving off by itself before her eyes, controlled surreptitiously by a remote control in the Doctor's pocket.

It was later hijacked by Lupton after he stole the Blue Crystal.

It sat at the entranceat the Dr Who exhibition in Llangollen years ago. Edward Mann wrote on Yahoo Answers in 2006 that he took photos of it at a custom show years ago. I would love to have scans of his photos...

  From: Invasion of the Dinosaurs
- Doctor ! We're flying !!!
- Yes, of course we're flying.

The Doctor Who Vehicles : A look at Bessie & The Whomobile. - Doctor Who Monthly 1983, April (issue 75). - p. 29-31

Pertwee, Jon
I am the Doctor : Jon Pertwee's final memoir / Jon Pertwee & David J. Howe. - London : Virgin, 1996. - 128 p : ill. (some col.) ; 31 cm
ISBN: 1852276215
Notes: At head of title: Doctor Who
Jon Pertwee's final memoir
Science Fiction Foundation Collection

Bale, Bernard
Jon Pertwee : the biography / Bernard Bale. - London : Andr Deutsch, 2000. - x, 246p, [16]p of plates : ill. ; 24cm
ISBN: 0233998314

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