Dick Van Dyke’s Iconic Floating ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ Car Had a Politically-Inspired Color Scheme

by Emily Morgan

The floating car in the beloved family musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has to be one of the most memorable parts of the movie. However, it also included a nod to a movement some may have missed when watching it for the first time. The floating car’s iconic color scheme, consisting of purple, green and white, wasn’t used out of coincidence. The colors actually have quite a significant meaning: they represented the woman’s suffrage movement at the time. 

While many assume white is the color of the movement, it was purple, green, and white. During the suffragists’ parades in the early 20th century, color played a crucial role in the campaign. Suffragists would use the colors to garner the attention of onlookers during public demonstrations such as pageants and parades. When the film was released in 1968, it coincided with a pivotal moment in the women’s movement.

That year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an executive order prohibiting sex discrimination. That same year, he also put in place more plans for hiring women, marking a huge moment for women in history. 

Eight Cars Made Appearances in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Audiences got a chance to see the “Boat” version when the film used it for the “At sea” chase escape. This version of Chitty was a fiberglass shell that the production crew mounted to a speedboat hull. Heather Ripley, who played the role of Jemima Potts, recalled how someone controlled the water version via remote from a helicopter.

She also added that Dick Van Dyke would spin the steering wheel around, as production didn’t attach it to anything, amazed that they didn’t fall out of the car. As unique as it was, there was no use for the car after filming, and the boat Chitty destroyed and scrapped. In addition, the film used a total of eight cars while making the movie. 

Besides, the floating Chitty, there was the original red and yellow Chitty, most often seen by audiences. There was a flying version with wings and stabilizers. There was also a trailer Chitty with removable chassis, and one used for transitions into the floating car. The last Chitty was used for driving, which also had a second set of steering controls concealed on the floor by the front seats.