2020-04-21

Who really killed Ford Timelord?

One of my favourite blog pieces of 2019 was the final one, detailing the remarkable history of the KLF's famous Ford Timelord police car. After a year of extensive research and separating myth from fact the conclusion was that the car was most definitely dead, having been banger raced at Swaffham in June 1991 by Paul Bickers after an eventful few years in the hands of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. That seemed to be that and the case was finally closed after so many years of rumours, but now there have been fascinating further developments that shed some very different light on the situation and mean it may not be as straightforward as everyone thought...

Did Paul Bickers really kill Ford Timelord?


Darren at the hunttimelord blog was recently able to interview Jimmy Cauty about the car, and from this conversation came some amazing new revelations that blow the case wide open again just when we thought we had cracked it. When Bill Drummond casually remarked that "there were two of them", he was referring to a second Galaxie after all and wasn't confusing it with the LTD as Cauty revealed that two almost identical 1968 Ford Galaxies had taken the role of the JAMsmobile! Even accounting for his memory probably being a bit fuzzy after more than 30 years and the KLF's deliberate spreading of misinformation to add to their mystique, the story is quite convincing and maybe means both of Ford Timelord's rumoured fates are true!


According to Cauty, the original WGU 18G bought from Flinton Chalk was in fact never repaired after returning from Sweden with a seized engine. Instead, he managed to acquire a second Galaxie, almost identical to the first except that it had an automatic gearbox and was painted bright red. There can't have been many 1968 Galaxies sold in the UK so the chances of finding another almost 20 years later would be slim but not impossible. This was intended simply as an engine donor, but then the great storm of October 1987 supposedly saw the original car damaged beyond repair by a falling tree. Cauty says he transferred most of its panels, the roof lights and crucially the numberplates to the red car and painted it black and white to create a clone.

The original car with the numberplate on the bumper, indicators in the wings and no sunstrip


What remained of the first car was reportedly then scrapped and it was the second that morphed into Ford Timelord in 1988 and made many subsequent appearances with the KLF. That would certainly explain the various small changes to its look after the Swedish trip if it was really another car masquerading as the same one. Before Sweden it had a chrome front bumper with the indicators in the corners of the wings (their standard location on a '68 Galaxie) and numberplate mounted on the offside of the grille, but afterwards the plate and indicators were on the bumper, which had been painted black, and a tinted sunstrip appeared on the windscreen that wasn't there before.

Repositioned indicators and numberplate and a sunstrip by 1988 suggest this is a different car


This was the car that starred in 'Doctorin' the Tardis' and then went to Spain for The White Room, where it was covered in white paint that Cauty says was never fully removed and was still all over the car when it was filmed for the '3 A.M. Eternal' video in late 1990 but can't be seen in the close-up interior shots. The giveaway is the crumpled offside front corner that was damaged in a collision with a Dalek in the 'Doctorin' the Tardis' video, but unfortunately this part can't be seen in any of the Trancentral or Swaffham photos so there is no way to confirm for definite that the same car was involved here.

That white paint may not have been cleaned off as we thought


Cauty can't remember what happened to it after the shoot, but thinks he might have left it at Pinewood Studios, never bothered to collect it and eventually forgot about it, in which case things had come full circle as it was at Pinewood that the Timelord saga started with Superman 4. This fits nicely with Paul Bickers's involvement, as working in the film industry means he was no doubt a regular visitor to Pinewood and would easily have been able to acquire the abandoned car from there. Its condition was so poor that it required a lot of repairs and much of it was repainted for the race so any traces of white or red paint would have been eliminated, but the dashboard area appears to be red so this was the second car.

Red dashboard indicates Paul Bickers's banger was the second Timelord. Pity we can't see the front corner though.


It's possible that the car photographed by Jon Mace at Trancentral was actually the original, which wasn't scrapped in 1987 but had been dumped there ever since. Its numberplates are conspicuously missing, tying in with Cauty's claim that they were transferred to the red car, there is no trace of any white paint and it has a GB sticker indicating it had been abroad. On the other hand, he said it was badly damaged and many of its parts were put on the red one, but this car looks complete and has no visible damage so maybe that part of his story isn't quite right. If this was indeed the first Galaxie it might have survived longer than its successor and would make sense of a few things that supposedly happened after the Swaffham race.

GB sticker and no numberplate so is this the first car that blew up in Sweden?


Firstly, Jon Mace's quoted date of October 1991 could now be correct, and an unverified sighting of the Timelord being removed from Trancentral and taken to a storage compound when Cauty moved out at the end of 1991 becomes plausible. That he planned to race it at the 1992 charity event is also now a possibility, as is a suggestion that the famous incident in 1994 where the KLF burned £1 million, then wrote a contract forbidding themselves from talking about it on a hired Nissan Bluebird and pushed it over a cliff was the intended fate of the Timelord, which I had previously dismissed as nonsense as it happened three years after WGU's apparent death at Swaffham.

Maybe the Wimbledon Chevy was a substitute Timelord after all


Cauty is quite clear that there were definitely two Galaxies and he isn't getting confused with something else as he mentions both the Ford LTD and the Chevy Nova separately and confirms what we knew about them. The LTD he says was the third police car but was never used as an official KLF vehicle and was quickly sold to Gen Matthews. The Chevy, the fourth police car, was totally destroyed that night at Wimbledon and left for the organisers to dispose of, so it didn't return to Bickers's yard to be raced again and the rumours of Timelord's survival under a tarp didn't originate from this car.


JLE 67K should have become the third Timelord, not the second


Another regeneration?

Okay, there were two cars, but both died 30-odd years ago so that doesn't change the outcome of the saga, or does it? Here's where things get really weird as the DVLA record for WGU 18G has just been updated! It's still untaxed since 1989 but now has a keeper change on 23 February 2020 and a new V5 issued only days ago on 6 April. From my own experience with the Renault, it's unlikely that the DVLA would just issue a V5 for a long-untaxed car without any evidence of its continued existence, so this suggests very strongly that one of the Timelords is still alive and has just been rediscovered by a new owner! Either that, or Jimmy Cauty is onto us and playing some clever games with those researching the car, especially as 23 is a very special number in KLF mythology...

Who was that new V5 issued to, and why?


Now we know there were two cars, maybe that means both fan theories are true: one was banger raced and the other survived in storage. The DVLA update is a remarkable development that gives hope that one of the KLF Galaxies is still with us, but nothing has been mentioned about what would be a very exciting discovery so maybe it's being kept secret for now and we'll have to wait and see what is revealed in the future. It seems the car is a true Timelord after all and has displayed an ability to cheat death, travel forward in time and regenerate three decades after it was thought lost!

18 comments:

  1. Stumbled across this article after searching online details of the car as earlier today (22nd June 2020) on the A52 between Beeston and the M1 junction, I saw what I would swear was the Timelord with a huge pseudo speaker on the roof. Unfortunately it was on the opposite side of the dual carriageway so I didn't get a proper look. But possibly on the road 4 months after a new V5 issued?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it had a giant speaker on the roof, what you saw is probably a Bluesmobile replica as there are a few of those about and they do look a lot like the Timelord. WGU 18G is still untaxed so it shouldn't be on the road, but weirdly it's just had another new V5 issued a few days ago!

      Delete
    2. It's a guy in the arqa who has a blues band.
      It's not even close to the timelord

      Delete
  2. UPDATE: another new V5 issued 10 July 2020!
    Vulpine9, UK

    ReplyDelete
  3. I loved reading both articles regarding Ford Timelord!

    Amazing!

    Pov 99

    ReplyDelete
  4. I saw Ford Timelord on a flatbed truck on 11.2.17, Northbound M40. Definitely not a Bluesmobile-alike, as the KLF's speaker/beatbox was clearly visible. There were rumours of a KLF activity that year, including a Guardian article, but it came to nothing.

    But I know what I saw, dammit...



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are two replicas of it on the road that I know of, one much more faithful to the original (that being the one that had paint poured over it by the KLF themselves in Liverpool around that time at an event) and one built more as a fan tribute than a homage to the original Timelord, so it may well be one of those you saw.

      Delete
  5. As The KLF undeleted their back catalogue yesterday could it be that we are also about to see the return of Ford Timelord and the end to this mystery?? Was the new V5 a prep for a future stunt. 23rd Jan/23rd Feb 2021 we await you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. With the release of some back catalogue onto streaming music platforms, I watched the video to Doctorin' the Tardis, pausing the video for that all important vehicle reg WGU18G - pumped it into an online vehicle checker and yes, it has a new V5 but it is also taxed which is due to run out 1st July 2021.
    Perhaps we are due something more from the men behind Mu? :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. There is a Ford Timelord replica often seen driving around St. Ives, Cambridgeshire in recent years. I assumed it was a replica and not the real car but I never managed to catch the registration number.

    ReplyDelete
  8. WGU18G - Latest V5 issued 29th Jan 2021. Veeeery interesting.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  10. This is very good post I have read and I must appreciate you to have written this for us.Its really informative.
    Great article with excellent idea i appreciate your post thankyou so much and let keep on sharing your stuffs
    Thanks for the article…
    wreckers near me

    ReplyDelete
  11. Have seen a post today on Facebook from someone who claims to have owned the car for a short while around '86, before swapping it for a van. Presumably from there it went on to Pinewood.

    Interestingly WGU18G is now showing as SORN on the DVLA site rather than just untaxed

    ReplyDelete
  12. SORN . V5 change - 1 March 2022. 01-03-22
    Being a classic car does not need tax or MOT .


    Vehicle make
    FORD
    Date of first registration
    September 1968
    Year of manufacture
    1968
    Cylinder capacity
    3933 cc
    CO₂ emissions
    Not available
    Fuel type
    PETROL
    Euro status
    Not available
    Real Driving Emissions (RDE)
    Not available
    Export marker
    No
    Vehicle status
    SORN
    Vehicle colour
    BLACK
    Vehicle type approval
    Not available
    Wheelplan
    2 AXLE RIGID BODY
    Revenue weight
    Not available
    Date of last V5C (logbook) issued
    1 March 2022

    * just a thought about the £1 million burning. Even though back catalogue deleted for physical media , song rights would still 'earn' for KLF . IF ( I havent checked ) KLF still have income from songs used in adverts, played on radio worldwide etc... then that £1 million pounds could be an 'expense' ? and used to counter paying tax on songs income? Maybe they had/have 'Limited' company or partnership and they used the destruction of £1 million pounds as a cost. So in reality they didnt 'lose' a £1 million pounds. Similar if making a movie you spend £1 million on CGI or wages for actors or whatever..in your accounts it goes down as a 'cost' and reduces paying part or ANY income tax on 'income' ....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. But destroying £1M cash by burning it, and in total admission, is not a cost. It’s a loss. I don’t think you could declare it as it’s been willfully destroyed by the owner. Don’t think the tax office would look upon that very favourably.

      Delete
  13. I spotted this in Essex a few days ago..
    Reg looks like WGU 18E though?
    https://www.imagebam.com/view/ME9W4SQ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just worked out it's the replica that was painted white in Liverpool in 2017.. sorry!
      It was still very exciting to spot on the road though!

      Delete

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