Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Remade  by Tony Garofalo


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!!

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I began tearing it apart, only to find a badly dried-out rear-end, gear box, and bearings. The engine was actually from a model 83 with two badly broken lifters, no crankshaft, no water pipes, carb, or exhaust manifold. What do I do now? My first order of business was joining the Willys-Overland-Knight Registry. I learned about the car, it's parts, and how to find them. I made very good friends with members Frank Whitney and Tom Fahey, who both owned my exact car. They were very helpful in restoring this car. Unfortunately, after a year of hunting engine parts, I decided to possibly abandon my dream and cut my losses. But then my friend, a “Ford” guy said, "What would be so bad about putting in a Model-A engine? You can find every nut and bolt in a catalog". So after careful deliberation, I decided to “sell-out” and put in a Ford engine and abandon the jug-style Overland engine. Knowledgeable readers would probably cringe at the thought of using a Ford engine in an Overland car; but hey, I did save this car from the junkyard… right?

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I acquired a 1928 Model-A engine, tore it apart, rebuilt it, and started the daunting task of mating it to the original Overland universal joint and propeller drive shaft assembly. This procedure is too long and involved to explain here, but trust me, I did get it to work marvelously, and without a hitch. The car was now a running, rolling-chassis. All four wheels were rebuilt by Calimer Wheels in PA, who worked from Overland wheel patterns and they look great. The steering box was in great shape. I cleaned out the rear axle and gear box with kerosene, and lubricated everything to factory specs.

In 2011, I had the unique opportunity to see the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang movie car that was being auctioned in Los Angeles. It was then that I got to study, in person, the actual dimensions and sizes that I needed my Overland to mimic the real Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car. After making an appointment with the auction house, I was given 2 hours of quality time for inspection and driving, an opportunity of a lifetime!

I continued to fabricate parts, like the iconic brass radiator shell and rear basket shelf on the car, as well as planning the running board supports and converting to a 12-volt electrical system. But Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has an iconic passenger body compartment that looks like a boat, and I’m not a boat builder… so what now?

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In 2013, I contracted a master boat builder-carpenter who helped me in building the cosmetics for the car. All of the boat work you see in the photos is hand-made, steam-bent wood. He used oak, pine, red and white cedar, and obeche. These were the types of wood used on the original car. This boat work and various cosmetic sample wooden bucks for many parts took almost 3 years to complete. I additionally contracted the help of several local fabricators who helped in making all of the brass parts, stainless steel hood, and fenders. This process was not only time consuming but very expensive. In the end it was all worth it, because they followed my designs and direction to the letter, making the finished product really beautiful!

The car was completed on June 30, 2015. The project took over 5 years to complete at a cost of over $100,000. The last finishing touch was installing retractable wings that fold out from under the car using two 12-volt actuators, just like in the movie. I am continually asked; "does the car fly?" Now I can say, yes! Ha!!

I am most proud of the final car, in that it turns crowds of both young and old heads… wherever we go!

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the world’s most iconic movie car, and I'm actually driving it down the street. It is uniquely registered with original 1914 New York license plates. People can't believe they’re looking at a 1914 car. I am also proud that I saved a 1914 Overland from the scrap yard, and got to meet such great dedicated Overland car lovers. They are friendly, helpful, and so proud of their cars. I now know the feeling!

The car has been viewed by many car enthusiasts and I've already been offered a half-million dollars for it by a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang investor fanatic. I'm flattered, but I don't think I'll part with it for a long time, we're having too much fun with it!!!

This car is dedicated to Anna Garofalo, for her loving support. Hey Mom, "I did it"! An additional thanks to Willys-Overland-Knight Registry!


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Tony with Dick Van Dyke in January of 2015. Behind Dick is the Clown Costume that he wore in the original movie. Tony has a large collection of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang memorabilia including this costume and the U.S. Broadway Touring prop-car from the stage production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (shown below)

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