I am a retired NYPD police sergeant and 911 survivor living on Long Island, NY. I currently perform as a John Lennon impersonator in the Broadway Beatlemania
show – with Strawberry Fields
– playing weekly at BB King’s Blues Club in Times Square, NYC.
In 1968, my mother took me to see the premiere showing of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
at Radio City Music Hall during Christmas. My uncle worked for United Artists Pictures on the production set of the movie, so he got us premiere showing tickets. As a 4-year-old, seeing this movie car on the big screen for the first time, as well as seeing the real car parked in front of the theater for promotional purposes, was the thrill of a lifetime! I told my mom as a small boy; “Some day I'm going to build that car!”
As a kid growing up in NYC, I eagerly watched and learned everything about cars from my father, who was a garage "do-it-yourself’ mechanic. As a teen, I quickly learned to do everything on my own car as well as fixing everyone else’s car in my neighborhood.
I joined the NYPD in 1986, got married, had two kids, and continued fighting crime on the dangerous streets of NYC. All the time trying to figure out how and when I would build this famous movie car replica.
I retired from the NYPD in 2006, and sadly enough, my mother died from cancer the same week as my retirement, at the age of 65, so we never got to share that childhood promise of driving in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang together. This was the year I decided to build the car, a tribute for my mother, but how and when?
In 2010, I found an ad in Old Cars Weekly
advertising a 1914 Overland model 79 for sale in New Jersey. It looked pretty rough, but had a right-hand-drive steering wheel, so figured this might be a good candidate for building Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Prior to that, I only saw overpriced antique cars that I couldn't tear apart, or cars that were badly eroded and rusted. This car was in-between that, so I traveled 5 hours in the dead of winter to look at the car. Quite frankly, I had heard of Willys-Overland, but never thought that they built cars back in 1914, or even earlier than that. I arrived, saw the car, and had mixed feelings about it. It was badly neglected, and rusted, however it did have right-hand drive, a solid chassis, and an engine, drive-shaft, and rear axle, as well as wheels. I decided to buy it… the journey begins!!