The puppet size FAB 1 model

Sylvia Anderson poses with FAB 1
Sylvia Anderson poses with the puppet scale FAB 1

For Thunderbirds, at least three sizes of the shocking pink six-wheeler FAB 1 were made back in the early Sixties, including a six-inch version, and a seven foot puppet-accommodating model which cost £2,500. "To produce this to the same standard today would cost in the region of £30,000," Gerry Anderson told me recently. "This particular size model was used the most in the show. It was the star."

The man who built FAB 1 from these plans was professional model-maker Wag Evans, who still works for the same company, Space Models, today. "We made the puppet-sized version of FAB 1 first, before going on to produce the smaller model," he told me. "The 7ft version was a feat of engineering. "The car had to come apart, at the rear, the front and each side, so they could film the interior shots. The doors had to open and slide underneath and the two sides of the moulded canopy were removable. They were not hinged, but would simply lift off. "All sorts of features on the vehicle had to work too, like the cannon in the radiator grill. The car had to steer and roll along and the lights had to function"

FAB 1 was largely built from flat sheets of plywood, with solid wooden tops to each wing. The wheels had wooden disc centres with vac-formed tyres fixed with a black rubber bag to hold it all together. The hub caps were made from turned aluminium. "l remember building the radiator and the miniature Flying Lady, all from brass which was then chrome plated," he went on.

studio personnel surrounds FAB 1
studio personnel discuss the puppet scale FAB 1

"It looked magnificent when it was finished, but what upset me was the design," he said. "On a motor car you rarely find straight lines and if you look at the bottom of the car you will see that the line between the wheel arches is straight. "We spent a long, long time making FAB 1. I recall going out to buy the battery-driven headlamps from a bicycle shop. We then adapted them as, all we wanted was the rim and the reflectors."

FAB 1 only came back for repair once and that was to replace the two 3" diameter tubes which held the vehicle together when pulled into sections. The smaller models of FAB 1 were much simpler to construct, featuring removable undersides in order that the passengers could be redressed for different scenes.

A full-size version of the car was made for promoting the series around the country and it can be found today, restored, in the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum, Keswick.

article originally appeared in Century 21 Magazine #6