Richard Gentle - History
At the age of nearly 6, our family moved to Leicestershire. It was here, between the ages of 7 and 10, that I began to build vehicles, experiment with science, and invent gadgetry to solve problems. The first vehicle built was WHO 1 based on the television series, Dr Who.
Later came the Bugatti based on a racing car seen at a museum.
At the same time as working on the vehicles, I set up a museum in an old chicken shed, and raised money for school funds by charging a small admission fee to visitors. I also experimented with old Vandagraph Generators and other scientific equipment inherited through my parents from my grandfather. I would have experimented more with chemistry, but my younger sister got into my room one day and mixed all the powdered chemicals together!
In 1972 our family moved to South Yorkshire. I carried on making vehicles, and experimented with a variety of designs. However, it wasn't until my Dad offered to buy me some wood on condition that I produced a design drawing and model, that things really progressed to another level. At the age of 11, I built the Charabanc.
This was a 3-seater bus designed to transport my younger brother and sister, or any friends willing to play along. It was designed around a specially devised frame for strength, and benefited from having a steering wheel and column from a Morris Minor car. This arrangement had first been tested on my Austin 7:
One of the recurring difficulties with the vehicles was the method for steering. Several mechanisms were tried. Perhaps you can tell by looking closely, which systems were used?
In addition to making vehicles, at age 12 I built my own Dr Who Tardis:
I discovered the lid of an old chicken incubator half buried under a hedge. It consisted of a pyramid shaped lid with a small round glass window, hinged on a square frame. This became the roof of the new Tardis and the whole thing was painted black. I proved that it was bigger on the inside than the outside by persuading my Dad to squeeze in with me while I demonstrated the controls!
The Tardis travelled around the local landscape, fitting into new locations as befitted the Dr Who stories of the time...
... until one day, at the age of 13, I decided that what I really needed was a proper Tardis control console. It took me a while to cut six equal sides and then mount them on a smaller base, but once the woodwork was completed, adding controls became highly enjoyable.
Although there were never any photographs taken of the fully completed console, I can describe to you some of the finer details. The circular hole in the top was lined with transparent plastic that protruded vertically to about six inches in height, and an upturned plastic sweet jar, attached beneath to a hidden clockwork meccano motor, that turned clockwise or anticlockwise, was fitted into the top. Small coloured lights were hidden around the inside, and these shone through the jar as it rotated. Because the sweet jar was slightly rectangular rather than round, an interesting 'lightning' effect was produced by the light reflecting through the more angular parts of the jar.
On one face of the console I fitted a purple, translucent plastic screen. This was to be the Radar. Beneath the screen I had some pieces of wire attached to a control knob on the console. When the knob was rotated slightly in opposite directions, the wires became taught or slack. Small lights, switched independently and mounted below or to the side of the wires, cast shadows onto the screen.
In 1974, the Schools Council published a book called 'Children's Growth through Creative Experience'.
My Dad played a big part in contributing to the publication, and a number of my drawings, constructions, and vehicles were included. A few years later in 1978, more of my drawings appeared in a publication called 'Learning Through Drawing'.
This booklet accompanied an exhibition of drawings by children from pre-school to eighteen years, put on by the North Eastern Region of the Art Advisors Association. My Dad played a major role in putting the exhibition together and producing the booklet. In 1985, My Dad had his own book published, 'Children and Art Teaching. More of my drawings were used, including these: