From Delta to the big screen
By Annette Brand
Published Wednesday, November 9, 2016 11:00 am
Simon Birchall of Goole, England, stands with the 1924 Dodge Brothers Touring car he sold to Warner Brothers. The touring car will appear in Warner Brothers Harry Potter spin-off production, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." The movie, which star
In mid-November a Warner Brothers movie will be released which co-stars a 1924 Dodge Brothers four-door touring car that formerly traveled the streets and roads of Delta and surrounding countryside.
The movie, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them," is a new Harry Potter spin-off and stars Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne.
The movie is based on a textbook for Hogwarts pupils, published in 2001. It will follow the adventures of "magic-zoologist" Newt Scamander who dedicates his life to the search for magical creatures in an extension of Harry Potter's world of wizardry.
Redmayne's co-star, the 1924 Dodge Brothers touring car, was once owned by Sky Fairlamb of Delta.
"I bought the 1924 Dodge Brothers car in the winter of 2003 from a dealer in Montrose. He brought it down to me in Delta on a trailer hitched to his pickup," Sky said.
"Cars made by the Dodge Brothers were prized. The Dodge Brothers had worked for Henry Ford but in 1915 decided to go off and make their own cars.
"The Dodge Brothers' cars were rugged and well built; they could be taken out in rough country. The Dodge Brothers used very good metal in their cars, solid metal. They used good steel, steel made in the United States that will last forever. Their cars were low-geared and had high clearance," Sky continued.
When Sky took possession of the touring car, it was completely black. It had wooden wheels with spokes made of hard wood, and they were painted black. The interior was black and the black leather upholstery was in good condition.
However, the touring car needed a lot of work.
It was hard to get parts. There were many telephone calls to Oklahoma, Arkansas and other places and lots of shipping of parts to Delta.
Harold Smith in Paonia, an antique car aficionado, did a lot of work on the 1924 Dodge, including installing an electric starter.
To replace a missing canvas top, Sky had a frame made. The bows were made from wood steamed, bent and molded to the right shape in Pennsylvania.
He took the frame to Andy Mallett. Andy had retired by then but still had a car lot and garage on Hwy. 50.
Sky remembers with fondness Andy's working style. Andy would measure a section, light a cigarette, look it all over, then go back and tweak something he noticed while smoking and looking. It took about two months to get the bows installed on the car.
Upholsterer Sam Carr in Cedaredge made the canvas top and installed it to fold back like a convertible top folds back.
Sky enjoyed driving the 1924 Dodge around town and on back roads in Delta and Montrose counties. He drove the car in Deltarado Days parades.
But, alas, another antique car won over Sky's heart -- a 1928 Model A Ford, which he still delights in driving today.
Sky advertised the 1924 Dodge Brothers touring car for sale on the internet.
Robert Mark Wells, a British citizen in Goole, England, saw the ad. Sky and Robert shared a little correspondence before Robert bought the car and had it shipped to Yorkshire, England.
Sky remembers vividly the day -- April 18, 2007 -- when a man from a transportation company from Wyoming arrived at Sky's house, driving a double-deck semi with an open back, to pick up the 1924 Dodge. Sky drove the Dodge into the bottom level of the semi and returned to the street to see the Dodge being raised to the upper deck, its first stop on its way to Yorkshire.
In September 2015, Sky received a letter from Robert Wells, with a newspaper article enclosed. Mr. Wells wrote:
Dear Judge Fairlamb,
I thought you'd be interested in this article about the Dodge you sold me back in 2007. The man in the article bought it from me a couple of years ago, he works nearby. He is himself famous as a former motorcycle racer.
The newspaper article, from the Goole Times, June 4, 2015, carries the headline: CAR TO STAR IN HARRY POTTER FILM.
Simon Birchall, who runs Birchall Engineering in Goole, is shown standing beside the 1924 Dodge Brothers touring car in the article.
Mr. Birchall said he bought the 1924 Dodge from Mr. Wells in 2013 with the aim of restoring it to its former glory.
In the article he says, "I saw it and loved the look of it so decided it would be a great project.
"When we got the car the interior was in a bit of a state so we refurbished it. We also rebuilt the wheels, which were black when the car arrived. After stripping them down we realized the wheels were wooden and were a great original feature."
When the refurbishing of the 1924 Dodge was completed Mr. Birchall listed it on a vintage cars website as being for sale.
He received a phone call from a Warner Brothers producer asking to look at the car. Warner Brothers was looking for such a car to be a part of their new Harry Potter spin-off.
From photos, the producer said they loved the look of the 1924 Dodge and it appeared to be just what they were looking for in a car to be in the movie.
Mr. Birchall said, "They came to look at it the day afterwards, walked around it once and just said 'we'll buy it', in a very matter-of-fact way. He didn't even ask for the engine to be turned on!"
Mr. Birchall added, "I am sad to see it go in a way as so much work has been put into it, but it is fantastic that the car will always be there in film long after it isn't around anymore."
Asked about his reaction to having his former 1924 Dodge in a starring role in the Warner Brothers movie, Sky Fairlamb said, "It's exciting, really good. I'm happy about it. However, if I had my druthers, I wish I had been the one to sell it to Warner Brothers."
Sky says he will definitely see the movie "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and is telling all his family to be sure and see the movie.
Note: All quotes from Simon Birchall are taken from the newspaper article CAR TO STAR IN HARRY POTTER FILM, Goole (England) Times, June 4, 2015.