100: Lady Penelope’s FAB 1

DINKY 100 LADY PENELOPE’S FAB 1 (1966-1977):

Dinky’s Lady Penelope’s FAB 1, was a futuristic but somewhat implausible Rolls Royce that featured in the hit TV series ‘Thunderbirds‘.  This was Dinky’s first TV character toy and was hugely successful becoming the ‘must have’ toy of Christmas 1966. Dinky had beaten Corgi* to the rights, from Lew Grade’s ITC, to produce this model and it was shortly followed by the 101 Thunderbird 2. However, the Dinky FAB 1 may never have been as Doug McHard, the Marketing Manager at the time explained that getting into character merchandising was seen as a ‘something of a gamble’ at the time.

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The model remained in production for 11 years, a clear testament to its popularity.

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FAB 1 was packed with features, it had a rocket that was fired by pressing the front wheels down although the radiator had to be manually opened first.  At the back there were four harpoons launched by pressing the rear  wheels down or two could be fired by pressing down on the left wheel and the other two by pressing on the right. Underneath the movable canopy were figures of the Chauffeur, Parker and of course Lady Penelope. The early versions had a badge on the top of the front grill, which was removed on some later models because of safety concerns.

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The two main variants, dusky pink and fluorescent pink

TV PROP v DINKY MODEL:

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Top: Original prop (2 doors) – Middle: Dinky FAB1 – Bottom: AMIE Model used as prop (Thunderbirds 65)

The prop had a Rolls Royce badge under the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ figure on the radiator which was changed to a ‘P’ for the Dinky model possibly due to trade mark issues with Rolls Royce. The Dinky toy had four doors rather than the two on the main props, although the large ‘puppet’ size version had four.

THE TV PROP:

When considering the car’s make, series co-creator Gerry Anderson explained that considering Lady Penelope’s personality it could only be a Rolls-Royce. Derek Meddings incorporated a  six-wheel drive into the design to distinguish the appearance from that of contemporary vehicles. Measuring seven feet (2.1 m) in length, the plywood model, which was equipped with fully functional steering and headlights,  cost £2,500 to build in 1964 which is equivalent to £30,000 today.

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Derek Meddings, the special effects director, remembered FAB 1 for its “outrageous styling, which bore no resemblance to any Rolls-Royce ever produced”. Rolls-Royce supervised the model’s sculpting and also supplied AP Films with a genuine radiator grille, complete with Spirit of Ecstasy ornament, costing £100. This was used in close-up shots (such as the machine guns firing, and a stock photograph of the car’s front that appears in the series’ closing credits).

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Century 21 Tech Talk: FAB1

Century 21 Tech Talk – FAB1

In the original  Thunderbirds (1965–66), as well as the feature films Thunderbirds Are Go (1966) and Thunderbird 6 (1968), FAB 1 is depicted as a modified Rolls-Royce. Owned by International Rescue agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, the car is usually driven by her butler, Parker. The driver sits in a central position at the front of the passenger compartment, which is covered by a bulletproof bubble canopy.

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FAB 1 was modified by Brains, the inventor of the Thunderbirds machines, to include weaponry and gadgetry such as front and back-mounted machine guns (although grappling hooks are seen to shoot out of the rear in the episode “The Perils of Penelope”). The car was also equipped with a smoke screen canister and oil slick dispenser, extendable tyre-studs for increased traction, and hydrofoils or outriggers for travel on water and snow, respectively.

FAB 1 TECHNICAL DATA:

  • Length: 21 feet – Width: 8 feet – Weight: 3 tons.
  • Top Speed on land: Between 200 and 300 mph, at sea: 50 knots.
  • Seating Capacity: 3 (1 driver and 2 passengers)
  • Front Armaments: 2 machine guns and 1 central machine cannon.
  • Rear Armaments: 2 machine guns, 4 harpoon launchers, smokescreen canister, oil slick dispenser and 2 laser guns

The FAB 1 machine gun was replaced by a missile for the Dinky model. FAB 1 was fitted with a front rocket launcher, activated by pressing on the front wheels. The rocket provided, was also used with the Dinky SPV 104,  SHADO 2 353 and Galactic War Chariot 361, and came in 3 different colours. Later models had two rockets.

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First FAB 1 issues had a single red and white rocket and 4 harpoons provided. Later issues had 2 and the rockets came in different colours

6 spare harpoons, pack 755 and 6 spare rockets, pack 756 were available when they inevitably got lost. Or you could have looked under the sofa.

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Dinky Accessory packs 755 and 756
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Meccano Dinky Blueprint for 100 FAB1

THE FIRST FAB 1:

Note the ‘Mustang’ style wheels, pink roof stripes and a bare metal base with short rails and a Century 21 text.

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VARIATIONS:

The key variation, released in 1970,  was a fluorescent pink version but there were also changes to the wheels, the baseplate, rocket firing mechanism, the front grill, the seat colours  and the sliding roof cover finishing. The original pink paint also had different hues over the years.

This version came in both the all cardboard box and with the bubble tray box.

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Fluorescent version
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WHEELS AND TYRES:

Wheel types: Wheel 1 on the first FAB1 as 161 Ford Mustang, Wheel 2, the most accurate hub,  Wheel 3 as 218 Lotus Europa and Wheel 4 as 192 Range Rover.

FAB1 Wheels 4 hub versions.pngThere were 3 types of tyres for FAB 1 – Narrow Rubber, Large Nylon and Small Nylon tyres.

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FRONT GRILL AND HEADLIGHT SURROUNDS:

Grill 1 with mascot and silver painted headlamp surrounds. Grill 2 omits mascot and silver surround paint. Note the Rolls Royce ‘RR’ motif is replaced by a ‘P’

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BASES:

The first version had a bare metal base with short rails and a ‘Century 21’ markings. Later versions had longer rails, were painted and then varnished. The last versions omitted the ‘Century 21’.

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SLIDING CANOPY:

The earlier versions of the roof had pink stripes on the sliding canopy.Top comp.png

INTERIORS:

The first version and the most common seat colour was gold. Dark and light brown seats were also made but the rarest version has black seats which is the closest to the original prop version

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From the top: Black, Brown and Gold seats
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Close up of black interior

THE BOXES:

The first box was all cardboard with an inner tray.

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The second box had a tray with a bubble top.

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The bubble base has different text variants and some had a warning sticker to urge caution when firing the missiles.

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And there were two different font styles and the later version omitted the ‘die-cast metal’ flash.

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The third and last box had a high narrow tray with a bubble top.

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LEAFLETS

Two leaflets sometimes found in first all cardboard boxes, for models to be exported. Leaflet on the left is in French and the one on the right in Flemish

Leaflet in box COMP2

PROTOTYPE:

Black and white images of pre-production prototype.

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ODDITIES AND RARITIES:

SOLID SILVER CAST VERSION (updated Sept 6th 2021)

A solid silver FAB1 was auctioned at an auction of Gerry Anderson memorabilia in 2009. This is now owned by Bert Van Ijken and he provided the background information.

The auction catalogue appears to be incorrect as the silver hallmark says 1983 (from David Shaw Silverware). The model was not made by Dinky but by Somerville Models (see image below) in 1982 or 83. Somerville was set up by Doug McHard, formerly employed by Meccano/Dinky in their marketing department. Somerville Models was named after his grandmother.

Gerry Anderson’s Personal Memorabilia Benefit Auction 2009 (info incorrect?)

The model is made of solid Sterling Silver.

Images: Bert van Ijken

Steve Watts has also provided some information about the Somerville FAB 1.

The Silver ones were made by the original owner (Doug McHard) of Somerville around 1982. They produced two. Gerry’s was sold at auction. The moulds, parts and some information were auctioned on eBay a while ago. 

Image: Steve Watts
Image: Steve Watts

GOLD VERSION:

A blog on QDT’s site mentioned a very rare white version, as well as red and grey variants. This gold version spotted on a Belgian auction website and was sold for €1,200.

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CATALOGUES:

FAB1 features in nearly all the Dinky catalogues during its production run, although the artwork was often similar.

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Dinky 1967 and 1968 UK consumer catalogues
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Dinky 1969 consumer catalogue

The 1971 and 1972 catalogues artwork for FAB1 was a more strident pink closer to the fluorescent version released in 1972.

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Dinky 1970, 1971 and 1972 UK consumer catalogues
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Dinky 1973 UK consumer catalogue
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Dinky 1974 UK consumer catalogue
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Dinky 1975 UK consumer catalogue
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Dinky 1976 UK consumer catalogue

TV Century 21 Comics:

FAB 1 hit the front cover of TV Century 21 comics twice.

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ADVERTS:

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1967 Leaflets

leaflet x 2

MISCELLANEOUS:

Corgi FAB 1: Corgi eventually produced 2 versions in 2003, one pink and the other a chromed pink, and the former re-released in 2016.

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33 thoughts on “100: Lady Penelope’s FAB 1

  1. Hi I was wondering if the mention of the pressing down lowered the grill and fired the missile? On my car there seems to be no way that the grill was released by pressing down on the car. I have to flip it open manually and then press down on the car to fire the missile. Cheers Shane

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Shane, You are correct. Pressing down the front of the car releases the missile. The radiator has to be manually opened first though, otherwise the result is a squashed missile! The text has been altered. Thanks for sharing. Kevin

      Like

  2. Hi, something else I noticed last night when I was pulling apart a FAB 1 with the 161 Ford Mustang hubs, to restore it, was that these hubs (on mine at least) were plastic. Was that true for all of this shape hub?
    Cheers
    Shane

    Like

  3. Hi William, The usual interior seat colour was gold, some later versions had black or brown interiors. These were all a one piece solid colour plastic insert with no detailing and sat on the unpainted meal chassis. Cheers Kevin

    Like

  4. Hello There – I have one Lady Penelope’s FAB 1 here. I would like to sell it. If anywone is intersted please send me a private email. The car has a front rocket but four rockets in the back are missing. I am not an expert !! under teh car ist says SALES no. 100. Looking forward to hearing from you. I live in New York State.Best Stefan Saffer

    Like

    1. Hi Stefan, For the present time, I cannot accept sales items on the site. This may change when the current situation improves. Kind regards Kevin

      Like

  5. Hi
    I just brought a 1960s Fab 1 knowing the front rocket does not fire. The back front axle is under the firing spring housing, but the front axle is not under anything does not do anything. It does not spring up and down or even touch the rocket. it does not seem to be bent. When I poke a small screwdriver inside and touch the firing mechanism the rocket fires fine, thanks.

    Regards
    Tim

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    1. Hi Tim, There is a good FAB 1 restoration video on YouTube where you can clearly see the working innards of FAB 1. The front set of the front wheels has no suspension and is not connected to the firing mechanism but the rear has contact with a metal strip that acts as a spring for the suspension and also releases the rocket. It’s hard to tell why yours does not fire – perhaps the strip is bent, out of position or missing? Cheers Kevin

      Like

  6. The reason for FAB 1 having four wheels at the front was because (in the storyline), when Lady P joined the Federal Agents Bereau (thats where FAB comes from) they modified the car because a much heavier engine was fitted. The car was a regular Rolls-Royce when 9 year old ”Penny” first saw it in 2009 and she knew in her own mind that one day that car will be hers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What was the reasonIng behind FAB-1 being riveted together when virtually everything else (SPV, MSV, SPC, Joe’s Car, Thunderbird 2, UFO Interceptor, Eagle Transporter etc) was screwed together? I saw on your Thunderbird 2 page that the 101 version was initially riveted, then swapped to screws to ease repair of the fragile legs (the pod is still riveted, though) and this carried through to the 106 redesign. I guess they went with screws for new GA related models after that but never revisited poor old FAB-1. The missile is jammed in mine but I’m not drilling out the rivets to fix it, so it’ll have to stay jammed. 😦

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    1. Hi Andy, You make a good point there. Perhaps Dinky thought that running repairs would be unnecessary so it wasn’t worth changing the tooling? Cheers Kevin

      Like

  8. Hi
    May i ask if your statement of the wheels for the first fab one is correct .
    You have said that the first edition had mustang style wheel hubs yet I’ve been told by people on gerry Anderson sites that it was the spun hub version that was on the first edition.
    It’s a bit confusing

    Like

    1. Hi Charles, I used the information from Kevin Bailey’s FAB1 book. Kevin kindly alllowed me to download it many years ago. He goes under the name ‘rollerman’ on many forums, and is the expert on all things Rolls Royce and he states that ‘Mustang’ wheels were on the first version. I know that there are other opinions but for me he’s the expert! This is a link to a forum which confirms this.
      https://www.planetdiecast.com/index.php?option=com_kunena&func=view&catid=125&id=344841&Itemid=0
      Cheers Kevin O

      Like

      1. Hello Charles. I have replied to your message on the website where you aksed. Do you only collect Gerry Anderson models or are you into rolls-royce toys and models in general? I have a facebook group dedicated to all rolls-royce toys and models that you might like to have a look at although so far I have not featured an article about the Dinky ”FAB 1” model.Facebook Groups

        | | | | Facebook Groups

        Rolls-Royce Toys and Models Group has 151 members. Rolls-Royce, the very best available, The Best Car in the Wor… |

        |

        |

        Warmest regards,Kevin.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, I stand by my statement about the first 1966 issues having Ford Mustang wheels. When you put all 14 versions of the Dinky ”FAB 1” in their time-line you can see the production progression take place as the model becomes less well detailed and cuts or improvements are undertaken through the lengthy production period this model had. I still have my very first example ”FAB 1” (with the Mustang wheels and soft rubber tyres) brought for me in late 66 or early 67. Regards, Kevin Bailey.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello. i bought one of the corgi FAB 1 models, but found that the model didn’t come with either front or rear bullets. My question is whether the aftermarket accessories you can buy for the dinky model will fit the corgi model. Thanks!

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  10. The original Dinky FAB 1 front rocket may work in the Corgi as it has been designed with a very similar rocket body and catch method. The Dinky rear rockets will not work in the Corgi because of the different rocket body design.

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  11. I have a boxed Somerville FAB1 which I believe is from the same moulds as the silver one… if anyone has any further information I would be grateful

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  12. Hi Steve, looking at your pictures on FB there appears to be striking similarity between the solid silver FAB1 presented to Gerry A and the Somerville version. Intriguing! I’ve added a couple to the site to see what others think. Cheers Kevin

    Like

    1. Hi Kevin
      The Silver ones were made by the original owner of Somerville! Around 1982. They produced two. Gerry’s was sold at auction for £1500 we’ll be low the estimate of £3 to £5K! The second is still with the competition! A few years ago the moulds and a number of parts plus paperwork was offered on eBay but I didn’t win it! I believe Promod own the Somerville brand and archive and have some records but no details about FAB1! The one I own is the only one I have seen come up for sale, I am just interested in know if any more are out there?

      Like

  13. Thanks, Steve this is helpful. Regarding the dates though, the Gerry Anderson Office Memorabilia Auction Catalogue states that the silver FAB1 was given to Gerry in 1968. The current owner believes though that the silver hallmark is for 1971. Somerville Models was formed by Doug & Roly McHard in Britain, in 1978. [A Doug McHard was a Marketing Manager for Dinky in its later years so probably the same person]. The Somerville model was then produced in 1982 which ties in with this but not with the catalogue or hallmark dates? Could the explanation be that the same mold was used by both versions but Somerville purchased it after the silver versions were produced to make their model? If so the question is who made the two silver versions? Cheers Kevin

    Like

  14. Hi Kevin
    The question of the silver FAB1 has intrigued me a lot and motivated me to do more research. I reviewed the silver hallmark carefully and now definitely know it was actually 1983. I own the silver FAB from the 2009 auction and now know the text in the auction catalogue to be wrong. Took me some time to find out 🙂 . The silver FAB was NOT made by Dinky in 1968 and the silver mark is NOT from 1971 as I wrongly thought. Please correct my previous info. Steve was quite right! It was made by Somerville in 1982 or 1983. Two silver FAB1’s were made. One was given to the winner of the 1982 Fanderson convention raffle, the other one was sold in the 2009 auction. The silver hallmark is from the company David Shaw Silverware Ltd. Doug McHard was Meccano’s marketing director, with responsibility for the Meccano and Dinky toy ranges. However, Meccano closed down in 1978 and he had been made redundant. That year, McHard set up Somerville Models, which he named after his grandmother. A few years later Gerry Anderson got in contact with Sommerville.

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    1. Hi Bert, This is very helpful indeed and clears up the significant discrepancy between the dates in the auction information and the creation of the model. I have updated the text to reflect this. If you find any further information please do let me know. Cheers! Kevin

      Like

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