Thunderbirds manual is go! Technical experts Haynes delve into the engines of Tracy Island spacecraft
By RAY MASSEY
If building a papier mache Tracy Island using tips from Blue Peter seems a little too simplistic for scientifically-minded Thunderbirds fans, the answer may finally be here.
Car maintenance experts Haynes have published an off-beat manual that opens up the secret world of the cult 1960s TV series.
Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the astronaut puppets remain as popular today as when the futuristic show was first screened nearly half a century ago.
Iconic: The manual will be the perfect resource for fans of the show who want more than a papier mache imitation of the famous Tracy Island
The fascinating Thunderbirds Agents’ Technical manual delves into the inner workings of the high-tech spacecraft launched from the remote Pacific island.
It explores the reality behind Thunderbirds 1 to 5, their base at Tracy Island and famous images including the Mole, and London agent Lady Penelope’s iconic pink Rolls-Royce FAB 1. There are also profiles of the space-age show’s key characters and a rundown of every episode.
Researched and written by Thunderbirds authority Sam Denham, it features stunning cutaway illustrations by artist Graham Bleathman and includes contributions from the programmes original production artist Mike Trim, who designed many of the famous ‘pod’ vehicles.
Author Sam Denham said: ’When Thunderbirds was first screened in 1965, none of the programme’s product team could have Imagined that the series they had created would still be held in great affection by viewers around the world almost half a century later, or that the futuristic world they had brought to the screen might be the subject of a manual such as this.’
‘But thanks to the care and attention with which they visualised the 21st Century adventures of the Tracy family and their Thunderbird machines, the series has enjoyed continued popularity following re-screenings and video and DVD releases.’
Puppet power: The quirky book shows scientifically-minded readers how the impressive spacecraft in the TV show would work
Mr Denham added: ’Although many of the scientific advances anticipated in the series are still technically believable, others have been superseded or proved unworkable.
‘Despite any resulting inconsistencies, the principles behind the programme still hold strong and with the advent of the digital age are perhaps even more relevant in a world increasingly reliant on science and technology.’
The series, first screened at the dawn of the space-age in in 1965 but set in futuristic 2065, centres on the exploits of former astronaut and aeronautics tycoon Jeff Tracy who sets up a secret rescue service called International Rescue following the tragic death of his wife.
He is helped by his five sons: Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon, and John – all named after real-life NASA astronauts.
They are supported by their technical wizard Brains and their household manager Kyrano and his young daughter Tin-Tin. Their mortal enemy is Kyrano’s evil brother, known as ‘The Hood’, who seeks to sabotage their rescue efforts.
It spawned a series of schoolyard catchphrases from ‘F.A.B’, to the opening countdown launch sequence of: '5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Thunderbirds are go!’
Despite featuring puppets rather than live actors, each episode was filmed in high saturation colour, cementing their impressive longevity.
The cinematic impact, epic music and production values dubbed ‘Supermarionation’ proved an instant hit, and in the age of Concorde, the sci-fi vehicles were futuristic but believable – if mainly running on atomic power.
Haynes says: ‘The confidential Thunderbirds Agents’ Technical Manual details how Jeff Tracy can launch and manage missions from his Pacific island base, the secret hangars and specialised equipment used in missions to date.'
‘It offers unprecedented insight into the workings of the Thunderbirds craft and associated rescue vehicles.’
Managing director of Haynes Publishing Jeremy Yates-Round said: ’Nearly 50 years after Thunderbirds first hit our screens, fans of all ages still want to know about Tracy Island, the International Rescue team and the fabulous Thunderbird crafts. We are delighted to have the chance to bring this manual to a new generation of fans, as well as the many who grew up with this wonderful show.’
The Thunderbirds book follows other quirky Haynes technical manuals including Star Trek’s USS Enterprise; the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars; Titanic; Thomas the Tank Engine; Wallace and Gromit’s ‘cracking contraptions’; the Routemaster London Bus; Sherman and Tiger tanks; HMS Victory; and ‘Man – workshop manual: 120,000 BC to Present Day.’
Now every fan can have the chance to build their own spacecraft, ready to descend into the belly of green heavy-lift air transporter Thunderbird 2.
Thunderbird 1 (pilot - Scott Tracy)
Like a cross between a rocket and a harrier jump-jet, International Rescue’s high-speed reconnaissance craft is designed for maximum supersonic speed (15,000mph) and hover-like flexibility using four engines and four booster rockets powered by an atomic fusion reactor.
Launch: From beneath the Tracys' swimming pool, which slides back.
Magnificent drawings: The hangar beneath the Tracy family's swimming pool, from which the TB1 was launched
Thunderbird 2: (pilot - Virgil Tracy)
Flagship of the International Rescue fleet, this versatile jolly green giant is IR’s heavy lift specialist. Its unique feature is a series of interchangeable giant ‘pods’ carried at its centre which it can pick up and deposit. Each pod contains a different tailor-made rescue vehicle and back-up kit. These vary for the screw-nosed digger dubbed Mole, to the extinguishing Firefly and Thunderizer, or submersible Thunderbird 4.
Launch: Emerges from beneath Cliff House built into the rock-face of Tracy Island, trundles down a runway bordered by artificial palm trees which tilt back to make room for it. Concrete ram allows T2 to launch with maximum thrust.
Thunderbird 3 (pilot - Alan Tracy)
A 300ft tall space rocket used to shuttle the Tracys from Earth to their monitoring space-station, Thunderbird 5 in permanent orbit around the globe. Powered by an ion-drive atomic fusion reactor and chemical rockets.
Launch: Through the hole at the centre of the Round House building.
Thunderbird 4 (aquanaut - Gordon Tracy)
Smallest of the five Thunderbird craft, this bright wedge-like mini yellow submarine is transported to oceanic disaster sites in a special pod carried in the belly of Thunderbird 2. Powered by twin atomic fusion reactors and designed to operate in the deepest oceans it is vital for underwater rescues, aided by the bright front floodlights and multi-function tools, including a grab-arm and demolition missiles.
Launch: From a ‘pod’ down a rail into the water.
Thunderbird 5 (space monitor - John Tracy)
Stationed far above the Earth in orbit, it constantly monitors global communication with the aid of multi-waveband receivers as the electronic eyes and ears of International Rescue constantly scanning and filtering to identify potential distress calls.
FAB 1 (chauffeur - Aloysius 'Nosy' Parker)
The six-wheeled pink Rolls-Royce, which transport’s International Rescue’s sophisticated and aristocratic London agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward on her missions.
Powered by a compact gas-turbine jet engine, it will manage 200mph on land and 50 knots at sea when hydrofoils are selected. Armed to the teeth with two machine guns which emerge from behind the headlamps and a central machine cannon which emerged through the grille to fire explosive charges.
Video camera looks through the ‘R-R’ badge. Boot contains twin machine guns, laser cannons and a hydraulic lift. Computer video and TV screen. Dashboard sat-nav. Spirit of Ecstasy doubles as a signal locator.
- Thunderbirds Agents’ Technical manual is published on June 7, pirced £14.99. Visit www.haynes.co.uk
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