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Cambridge man puts TV Sooty’s ‘rave mobile’ up for auction




Matthew Corbett’s original TV Sooty Mobile has been unearthed from a garage after 20 years spent gathering dust – and a spell spent living on the wild side.

In fact, it could be renamed the Sooty ‘Rave’ Mobile thanks to the adventures it enjoyed with its current owner, Bruce Harward, 43, from Cambridge.

Fancy owning a bit of TV history? (21698954)
Fancy owning a bit of TV history? (21698954)

He said: “When I was 18, I took it on a road trip across Europe and even to the odd rave. I always kept a vintage Matthew Corbett Sooty puppet in the glove compartment. He got a bit tatty and tattooed with Biro but he had some fun.”

The dad-of-one, who works in removals and at a theatre, was given the vehicle by Matthew Corbett, the son of Sooty inventor Harry Corbett, in the mid-90s.

Sooty's TV Mobile van set to go up for auction after Cambridge owner decides to sell (21698938)
Sooty's TV Mobile van set to go up for auction after Cambridge owner decides to sell (21698938)

“Matthew was my old next-door neighbour in Camberley, Surrey,” said Mr Harward. “I got to know his son, Joe, very well. In fact, Joe came on the European road trip. We took the Sooty Mobile to various countries including France, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and Austria. It stored all the camping equipment and Joe took his car too.

Sooty and Sweep wave goodbye to their once loved TV mobile van (21698950)
Sooty and Sweep wave goodbye to their once loved TV mobile van (21698950)

“Back in 1995, the Sooty Mobile was my everyday vehicle. I used it to get to work at Camberley cinema. In 1999 I eventually put it away in a garage and that’s where it’s been for the last 20 years.”

But now the Sooty Mobile – which is a rare Honda van and in need of serious TLC – is coming up for auction on November 19 at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers with an estimate of £400-£600. However, it needs someone with a big vision to bring the tired motor back to life.

Vintage puppets Sooty, Sweep and Soo, given to a Yorkshire family by Harry Corbett, will also go under the hammer (21698940)
Vintage puppets Sooty, Sweep and Soo, given to a Yorkshire family by Harry Corbett, will also go under the hammer (21698940)

Mr Harward said: “It feels like a wrench to part with it but the longer I leave it, the more it will deteriorate. I tried to start it about six years ago and had the engine rebuilt after the European road trip. Technically, if you changed the oil and put on a new fuel pump, it should roar into life.

Enjoying a last outing in the TV mobile van are Sooty, Sweep and Soo.
Enjoying a last outing in the TV mobile van are Sooty, Sweep and Soo.

“I’d like it to go to someone who will restore it to its former glory and appreciate it for what it is. It’s not just important in the context of being part of the Sooty Show heritage, it’s a rare early Honda TN Acty van.

These puppets are also set to be sold (21698948)
These puppets are also set to be sold (21698948)

“It was registered in Tokyo 1976 then transferred to Honda UK to be used as a promotional vehicle. As far as I’m aware, it was the first Honda Acty van to be imported to the UK.

“It’s only had three owners - Honda in Chiswick, London, Matthew Corbett and me. Matthew was my neighbour from 1976, the year I was born, to 2000.He did a free Sooty and Sweep show at a street party to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977.

The mobile van in action in the Back Hand Hall episode (21698956)
The mobile van in action in the Back Hand Hall episode (21698956)

“Later on, I did work experience on the Sooty Show at Granada studios. At the time I was studying media at Basingstoke College. Matthew eventually retired and moved to Cheshire and the Sooty Mobile stayed with me.

“It was used for many years on the TV Sooty Show from around 1978. It used to have white livery with Sooty painted on the side. In 1983 it was resprayed to its current colours.

Can you spot us? Sooty, Sweep and Soo keep the fun going (21698952)
Can you spot us? Sooty, Sweep and Soo keep the fun going (21698952)

“Matthew used the van until 1994 but then he moved to Granada TV and started using a new radio-controlled camper van in his Sooty shows.”

The Sooty Mobile, lot 3387, will be sold on November 19 at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS. In the same sale, vintage Sooty, Sweep and Soo puppets, given as a gift by Harry Corbett to a Yorkshire family, will go under the hammer with a starting price of £2,000 and are expected to fetch between £5,000 and £7,000.

To find out more please email: charleshanson@hansonsauctioneers.co.uk

All pictures courtesy of Hansons Auctioneers



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