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Old 09-07-2007   #1
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Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

Been talking to Fred alot reciently with me being off and the other half being at work all day. He's been on all of the panda adventures and goes out in the car with me all the time and really tries his best to help with all the panda problems...



Well, he was telling me about his hero, Mr Woppit....

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In 1956, Merrythought produced a Woppit teddy bear. The bears were 9 inches tall, and made of brown plush with blue felt inner ears and matching shoes and the red felt jacket. Woppit only appeared in the Merrythought catalogue for one year and the bears produced are extremely rare today


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One of them at least was to have an extremely interesting life history -- as the mascot of Donald Campbell, famed land and water speed record breaker.

No-one is quite sure how Campbell acquired his little friend, and theories range from his being a gift from Campbell's wife to a publicity gimmick dreamed up by his manager. Another version, mentioned in Sally Morris and Jan Hallwood's Living With Eagles, is that Campbell was given the bear by Peter Barker, who was in charge of merchandising for the Hulton children's paper. Campbell was pictured with his bear in Robin in August 1959.

Woppit travelled with Donald on all of his record breaking attempts in the UK and the US, and together they broke the world water speed record in Australia in 1964, achieving 276.3 mph. All of Donald Campbell's cars and boats were named 'Bluebird' and Woppit had a little bluebird badge sewn on his jacket to mark his role as official mascot. He also had a slight name change, always being referred to as 'Mr. Whoppit' by Campbell; he is often called by this name even today.


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Three years later in 1967, Donald Campbell attempted to break the water speed record again, this time on Coniston Water in the Lake District. Mr. Whoppit was accompanying him in the cockpit as usual, but this time disaster struck -- the Bluebird somersaulted and capsized at 300 mph. "She's tramping... the water's not good... I can't see much... I'm going... I'm on my back... I'm gone." These were Campbell's last words over the radio, before he and his mascot overturned with the Bluebird and plunged deep into the waters of the lake. Campbell's body was never found, but during the search, rescuers found Mr. Whoppit, drenched but relatively unharmed, floating on the surface of the lake.

After this tragic accident, Mr. Whoppit was given to Campbell's daughter Gina but his days as 'The World's Fastest Teddy' were not yet over. Gina was continue the record breaking tradition set by her father and grandfather, with Mr. Whoppit once again taking his position as mascot in the cockpit. Fate seemed to repeat itself when during one of Gina's water speed attempts, her Bluebird also capsized at 122 mph. Fortunately both she and Mr. Whoppit escaped uninjured and eventually they both retired for a more sedate lifestyle, Gina opening a small restaurant on the South Coast with Mr. Whoppit placed on display for the visitors to see.

In December 1995, Gina placed many items of Campbell family memorabilia in auction including Mr. Whoppit who, surprisingly, didn't reach his reserve price despite his interesting history. Still, perhaps he would have preferred to stay in the family with whom he had shared so many fur-raising adventures. At least he could console himself with the thought that the Nineties has a whole new generation of Mr. Whoppits, courtesy of his creators Merrythought. Following the success of their replicas of the 'Titanic Bear', the company decided that he would be perfect for their next limited edition series of a bear with a history behind him. As well as referring back to their original Woppit patterns from the Fifties, the designers even visited Mr. Whoppit himself to ensure that they captured his likeness exactly. The result was 5,000 little relatives exactly like their forebears, which all came complete with a presentation box containing Mr. Whoppit's life story with the Campbells.
Not that panda related but we all need a wee mascot when times are rough to ease us thou...

Jim

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Old 09-07-2007   #2
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

Brera really enjoyed your story. Still being the Alfa mechanic he is he still wouldn't let me off on the price of the DIY he assisted in over the weekend

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Old 09-07-2007   #3
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

Erm...
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Old 09-07-2007   #4
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

we have a pig, hes called pig and we won him in skegness around 12 years ago. he comes on all our holidays even though he hasnt a passport and we hide him at all the customs posts. he doesnt fly though, only motoring trips.
hes not mechanically minded though and once we forgot him and had to turn back to fetch him... hes been to Ireland you know.
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Old 09-07-2007   #5
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

Anyone else care to admit to having a furry friend?

Jim
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Old 09-07-2007   #6
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...



Mutley watches over Twinky
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Old 09-07-2007   #7
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

That's probably because Twinky has the nicest seats ever in a panda!

Jim
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Old 09-07-2007   #8
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

Where's Jim, Fred?
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Old 09-07-2007   #9
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

Jim's more of a bedroom bear.... He's hibernating untill september cause he needs to conserve his energy for the big one!

Jim
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Old 09-07-2007   #10
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

Manda Panda has surprisingly a panda belted up on the back seat!!!!

She has been everywhere with us...... You could say she gets about a bit.

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Old 10-07-2007   #11
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Re: Fred the Fiat bear's hero...

looking for his next ride...
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