For the heroic ‘International Rescue’ organization, mission success can only be achieved with the skilled use of its futuristic, dependable machinery. As International Rescue moves from the small screen to the big, Ford has helped to ensure that success by providing design and technical support for the forthcoming live-action film, based on the cult ‘Thunderbirds’ TV series. Universal Pictures will release THUNDERBIRDS in the summer of 2004.
Set in 2010 the film is directed by Jonathan Frakes, famous for his role as William Riker in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ TV series, and as the Director of ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ and ‘Clockstoppers’ feature films. It is produced by Working Title, Europe’s most successful production company, which numbers amongst its hits ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, ‘Johnny English’, ‘Notting Hill’, ‘Bean’, ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, ‘About A Boy’ and the current box office hit ‘Love Actually’.
The cast is headed by Sir Ben Kingsley (The Hood, number one villain), Anthony Edwards (Brains, head boffin for International Rescue), Bill Paxton (Jeff Tracy, head of International Rescue), Sophia Myles (Lady Penelope) and Ron Cook (Parker).
A Car is the Star!
One of the stars of the movie, and a key part of the International Rescue fleet is a machine known as FAB 1 – the personal transport of London Agent, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward.
The term ‘supercar’ falls a long way short of beginning to describe the capabilities of FAB 1, which travels at amazingly high speeds on land, air or sea. John Beard, the film’s production designer, and his team turned to Ford of Europe’s Design Group for help in creating this fantastic six-wheeled transportation device. FAB 1 is set to amaze audiences under the guidance of Lady Penelope and her chauffeur, and partner in international crime busting, Parker.
In addition to FAB 1, Ford has provided a number of other vehicle concepts that fit into the spirit of excitement, adventure and slightly off-the-wall fantasy needed for the THUNDERBIRDS film.
Thunderbirds Director, Jonathan Frakes commented: “We were anxious to pay appropriate homage to the original TV show but at the same time deliver a film that would appeal to the latest generation of movie goers and provide the best representation of the 2010 time frame. Ford’s vision of the future has been crucial in achieving the look we needed for the movie.”
Ford and the Future
FAB 1 is a collaborative effort between the THUNDERBIRDS production team and Ford’s European design team. John Beard said: “We had a concept that updated the original, 1960’s-designed pink, six wheeled, glass topped limousine for the 21st century. Ford’s designers, who coincidently were also re-inventing design classics for the future, came on board and successfully perfected the concept and gave it the Thunderbird identity.”
Chris Bird, Director of Design for Ford of Europe commented: “Ford’s involvement in Thunderbirds was a wonderful opportunity for our designers to work with similarly minded people working in a completely different field. We had the opportunity to put some serious thought, and fun, into designing a futuristic 27 foot six-wheeled vehicle that met the needs of the film makers while staying true to the THUNDERBIRDS spirit.”
THUNDERBIRDS producer, Tim Bevan, commented, “FAB 1 provides the first glimpse into the new look THUNDERBIRDS movie. We hope to realize fully the genius of the original series and bring it to life for an entirely new generation worldwide.”
From Thunderbird to THUNDERBIRDS
The name of the film provided a head start for the Ford design team and the THUNDERBIRDS production team in determining the exterior design theme for FAB 1. It simply had to be derived from the legendary Ford Thunderbird. Recently, this American icon has remerged in the United States as part of Ford’s ‘Living Legends’ line up. It received widespread acclaim when it first appeared in 1999 as the Ford Thunderbird concept car and subsequently as an award-winning production car.
The Ford Thunderbird design theme has been translated into an exquisitely executed, three-dimensional reality that is the stunning, metallic pink FAB 1 through the joint efforts of the Ford and THUNDERBIRDS design and production teams.
Subtle badging on FAB 1 confirms the Ford connection. As well as the ‘Thunderbird’ emblem above the distinctively rounded and generously proportioned grille, with its clear Ford Thunderbird overtones, there are also Ford blue ovals discreetly located on FAB 1.
FAB 1 sits on six 22-inch wheels. Much of its 27 foot overall length is dedicated to the hardware required to deliver its awe-inspiring land, air and sea transportation modes but it still manages to incorporate an extravagant, high-tech cabin, with a one-plus-one tandem seating arrangement and space for two extra occasional passengers under the aircraft-like bubble canopy.
“For our design team, it was essential that the new FAB 1 captured the essence of the original – its size, power and sheer presence,” added Chris Bird. “The people that have worked on this car were already fans, so we hope the end result will please ‘THUNDERBIRDS’ purists as well as the new generations of movie goers who will see it in action on-screen.”