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Bean: Miles of smiles from car nut

2013-09-16 10:05

NOT A HAS BEAN: The writer never seems to tire of the antics of Mr Bean, alias Rowan Atkinson. Image: DAVE FALL


When columnist DAVE FALL can't sleep he turns on the telly - which prompted this reminiscence based on the incomparable 'Mr Bean' and his cars.

The other night I just couldn’t get off to sleep. Switching on the TV at 3am revealed further antics of TV comic actor Rowan Atkinson – Mr Bean to most people. This larger-than-life character might seem an unlikely petrol head but he’s definitely worthy of these columns – but in real life he really is a car nut.

After tracking down one of his Minis in a car museum during a trip to the UK I just had to find out more about the incredible duo (man and car)


Global success comes easily to Mr Bean (alias Rowan Atkinson). Every time he makes a full-length movie he buys himself yet another sports car, among them a classic D-Type Jaguar reputed to be worth the equivalent of R120-million, to stand alongside his collection of Bentleys, Aston Martins et al.

When he made the original Mr Bean movie he bought himself a McLaren F1 supercar that he promptly drove into the back of a Rover Metro being driven by a little old lady on the Lancaster bypass! She was fine – he was fine, the Rover was OK but the McLaren needed a serious nose job.

Atkinson’s brother Rodney reckons: “Rowan, whose Mr Bean character drives a Mini rather than a high-powered supercar, is an ‘absolute fanatic’ about wheels. The faster they are the more he likes them. He’s a very good driver, there’s little doubt about that – and to my knowledge this was the first accident Rowan has ever had.”

Rowan (58) and father of two teenagers, takes his hobby seriously it seems. British Car magazine used his services for some time and even gave him his own column, such was the success of the Mr Bean TV series, and of course the collection of Minis he used. In the early shows he had an orange 1969 Morris Mini MkII (RNT996H). This car met an early demise — no, not Mr Bean’s fault this time!


In a series of 14 half-hour Mr Bean shows he went through four cars — another was flattened by a Chieftain tank — the picture that accompanies this article survives thanks to the National Car Museum down at Beaulieu, along with other celebrity cars such as another British TV favourite, the Trotters’ (from Peckham) three-wheeler Reliant.

Mr Bean and his Mini were often featured in conflict with a blue Reliant Regal that usually got tipped over, bumped out of a parking space, or crashed into, to become something of an on-going joke throughout the series.

Three-wheelers rarely made their way to South Africa for obvious reasons but KZN readers may remember local motorsport personality Colin Dove from in Pietermaritzburg who owned a Bond three-wheeler . . . I wonder what happened to that car after Colin shuffled off this mortal coil?

Bean rarely spoke on any of his shows — except for mumbling to his Teddy, of course. A dark-brown, knitted oddity with buttons for eyes and bloated limbs, he too often ended up broken or in various states of destruction. Several “Teddy’s” graced the show as well, research tells me.

Ever wondered about Bean’s girlfriend who occasionally appeared on the show? Her stage name was Irma Gobb — real name Matilda Ziegler. Usually treated more as a friend than a companion, she always seemed to come up short when invited for dinner or taken to a dance.


Atkinson (Bean) is certainly learned; he has a Ph.D from Oxford University, in English. An unusual aside to the comedy show was the choral performances that appeared before, during and after most episodes. Sung at the beginning by the Choir of Southwark Cathedral (later Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford) was Ecce homo qui faba (Behold the man who is bean); Pars secunda — Part II (sung after any commercial breaks); Finis parties primae — End of Part One (sung before the commercial break) and Vale homo qui est faba — Farewell, man who is a bean).

Did Bean unwittingly reveal the secret of how to secure your car in these shows? In 'Mr Bean Rides Again' he would hide the ignition key under the car bonnet, the key for the bonnet was kept in the boot, the key for the boot was attached to the sun visor above the driver, and the key to the car door that was heavily bolted was kept on his person!

Are you wondering where Mr Bean, alias Blackaddder and the main actor in The Thin Blue Line will appear next? He will star in a new movie version of 'David Copperfield' as Mr Micawber, one of Charles Dickens’ best-known comic features… perhaps I won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to watch him this time.

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