Doctor Who’s much-loved car Bessie, which was a favourite with millions of viewers for its futuristic features in the Seventies, has been put on show in On Screen Cars at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu.
The Earth-based transport for Jon Pertwee’s third Doctor was a bright yellow vintage car replica which starred in many episodes of the cult sci-fi show across two decades.
Bessie was fitted with space-age modifications fit for the Doctor’s adventures, including remote control which allowed him to drive her from a distance as well as an anti-theft force-field.
The Siva Edwardian, built on the chassis of a 1954 Ford Popular, first appeared in the Doctor Who and the Silurians episode in 1970 when the Doctor was stranded on planet Earth and exiled by the Time Lords without the use of his TARDIS. With a need to stay mobile in his fight against monsters and villains, the Doctor adopted Bessie as his four-wheeled transport.
Even when a new car, the Whomobile, appeared on set as a dramatic winged creation, Bessie remained essential for tackling such foes as humanoids, giant spiders, intelligent reptiles and the hypnotic Master.
Tom Baker drove Bessie in his first episode in 1974, using the car to help defeat a giant robot. After a hiatus, the car reappeared in 1983 in The Five Doctors, when Peter Davison’s Doctor encountered four other versions of himself. Dusted down for another adventure with Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor in Battlefield in 1989, Bessie’s last hurrah on the small screen came in 1993 with the charity special episode Dimensions in Time.
Bessie may look like a vintage car but in reality is a 1954 Ford Popular 103E, fitted with a fibreglass tourer body made by Siva Engineering of Dorset. The four-seater Siva Edwardian body was available in kit form from 1969 until the mid-1970s, along with a two-seater Roadster model, allowing any keen DIY mechanic to transform their second-hand Ford 7Y 8hp, Anglia or Popular into a replica of a much older machine and re-live the good old days of motoring.
The original chassis, suspension, engine and transmission from the Ford were all retained in the build of the Siva Edwardian. However, the 1172cc side-valve engine was low-powered and, together with the widely-spaced ratios of the three-speed gearbox, meant that Bessie was not a fast machine. Later on in her filming life, Bessie was fitted with a larger engine which required the nose of the car to be lengthened.
Bessie joins the prestigious line-up of motoring stars in On Screen Cars at Beaulieu. In the hall of fame is Rupert Grint’s flying Ford Anglia from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Del Boy’s Reliant Regal Supervan from Only Fools and Horses, Mr Bean’s lime green Mini, the Jaguar XKR from James Bond film Die Another Day and Jennifer Saunders’ and Joanna Lumley’s getaway car – the Piaggio Ape from Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie.