Newcomers to Doctor Who may not know about the famous time traveler’s Whomobile.
The futuristic (well, futuristic for the 1970s) automobile appeared in at least one episode of the legendary British sci-fi show. But it also made a guest appearance on a popular children’s TV show in 1973.
A clip (below) shared this week by the BBC Archive shows Jon Pertwee – the actor who played Doctor Who from 1970 through 1974 – chatting about the Whomobile after driving the contraption into the studio.
“It’s a one-off, there’s nothing like it in the world,” Pertwee says.
“It’s a very exciting-looking machine,” the presenter responds, noting its “beautiful silver-shine finish.”
While children watching at home may have been eager to hear that the Whomobile uses some kind of sci-fi magic to glide over the ground, Pertwee description is rather more prosaic, explaining that “it’s on three wheels, one at the front and two at the back. ”
He adds that it’s “a proper car, taxed and insured.”
Realizing that Pertwee may have just shattered the fantastical illusion of Doctor Who for millions of young viewers, the presenter quickly draws attention to the Whomobile’s “air scoop for the jet motors.” Pertwee finally decides to play along, confirming that the jets are for when the car takes off and flies.
Clearly ahead of its time, the Whomobile features a TV set on the dash, though the screen offered little beyond fuzzy lines when they switched it on. It also includes a “computer,” if you can call a bunch of randomly flashing lights such a thing.
Interestingly, the vehicle, which apparently has a top speed of “well over 100 mph,” was commissioned by Pertwee – not the BBC – and built by a guy called Pete Farries who spent much of his time designing and building outlandish automobiles.
But once the Doctor Who makers saw the finished product, they quickly wrote it into the script for the Invasion of the Dinosaurs episode, using it to replace an army motorcycle as the Doctor’s mode of transport.
And Pertwee was serious when he said he’d taxed and insured it for driving on regular roads. Here’s some old news footage of the man himself taking it for a spin, “much to the amazement of fellow motorists,” according to the reporter.
After Pertwee’s death in 1996, the Whomobile reportedly ended up in private hands and is occasionally put on public display.