When the actor Jon Pertwee became the third Doctor Who in 1970, he integrated his love of gadgetry into his TV character. This eventually led Pertwee to approach car designer Peter Farries with an idea for a hovercraft invention dubbed The WhoMobile.
The WhoMobile is not a true hovercraft; it is formally classified as an "invalid tricycle." The vehicle's three wheels are obscured by a rubber skirt, giving it the appearance of hovering. Though it first appeared in the Doctor Who episode "Invasion of the Dinosaurs," The WhoMobile was only shown to fly in its second, and last, appearance on the show in "Planet of the Spiders."
The WhoMobile was never referred to with a name in either episode. It was originally dubbed "The Alien" by Pertwee and Farries, and the name was on one of the five-ft. tall wings. When Pertwee convinced the studio to put the vehicle in the show, the name The Alien was scratched off; the director felt that it was best to have the vehicle remain nameless. It is now known as The WhoMobile because that is how Pertwee refers to it in his memoir.
Farries managed to stymie other car designers when he was able to build the WhoMobile out of fiberglass with just two castings. Though it lacks doors, The WhoMobile does have seat belts, lights, and indicators (turn signals). The interior controls feature a functional television and cassette player. An on board computer blinks lights, and Pertwee once explained that the computer was for running tests and flying. There is no trunk, as it has a rear engine. It actually lacks storage all around, even for people. Though it measures at 14 feet long and 7 feet wide, the interior is really quite cramped.
Pertwee eventually managed to have The WhoMobile certified as road worthy. He did drive it regularly, which was sensible as it got about 50 miles to the gallon in gas consumption and was able to drive as fast as 100 miles per hour. He eventually stopped driving The WhoMobile around town, as more than one accident occurred when other drivers were busy gawking and not watching the road.
Pertwee continued to show his WhoMobile at conventions and special appearances. He eventually gave it away to a fan who was mourning the loss of his mother, on a sort of perma-loan basis. Under this agreement, Pertwee remained able to take The WhoMobile out when he wanted.
Though it is a technological marvel, being made of only two casts and getting 50 miles to the gallon, The WhoMobile eventually fell out of favor. Though John Pertwee paid for the creation of the vehicle and it belonged to him, The WhoMobile ended up being sold at auction in the 1980s for the sad sum of about £1700. Since 1996, it has been locked away in a secure location in Britain, leaving fans (and vehicle inventors) with only a few photos and video shots.
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Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conducting science experiments at home. Nicole has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Transylvania University, and has experience in copywriting for education, print, business, and the web. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter via @HuTerra.