Granddad, 83, makes huge toy car inspired by Meccano

PUBLISHED: 10:02 29 October 2015 | UPDATED: 08:56 30 October 2015

Derek Waghorn and his wife Sally Spelman have created a life sized car based on the childrens toy, Meccano.

Derek Waghorn and his wife Sally Spelman have created a life sized car based on the childrens toy, Meccano.


It has long been known as the thinking man’s toy.

Derek Waghorn and his wife Sally Spelman have created a life sized car based on the childrens toy, Meccano.Derek Waghorn and his wife Sally Spelman have created a life sized car based on the childrens toy, Meccano.

And after years of watching his grandchildren play with the mechanical construction system Meccano, inventor and self-taught engineer Derek Waghorn, known as Delwag, was inspired to build a replica life-size Meccano car complete with working engine.

The vehicle has a 1300cc Citroen air-cooled engine and a standard five-speed and reverse gearbox and is made out of glass fibre, steel, brass and aluminium. The electrics are fully-functional and all switches are exact replicas of Meccano parts.

The vehicle made a rare appearance last week at Halesworth and District Model Engineering Society’s exhibition at the Ormiston Denes Academy in Lowestoft.

Mr Waghorn, 83, from Ilketshall St Andrew, near Bungay, said: “Our grandson was keen to build a trike and he had some Meccano so I gave him a hand and I thought ‘That’s it’.

The building blocks of Derek’s life

In the past, Derek Waghorn’s creations have included the Giant and the Snails and the Old Lady and the Shoe which stood for many years at the Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth; the snails at Pleasurewood Hills; numerous fairground rides and attractions; and the signs which can be seen at the side of the road welcoming people to Beccles and other towns and the villages in the region.

Self-taught, he has had a varied career, including time in the RAF when he was stationed in Germany and 22 years as a tattoo artist, but he was always more interested in creating his unique structures.

He said: “They used to call me ‘One-off Waghorn’ because I hated making two of anything. I got bored very quickly.

“Nothing is from a plan, it’s all in my head. The only time I do a drawing is if I think there is going to be a problem with something – I put it on paper and work it out before I start making it with metal.”

“I wanted to make something original and I searched the internet, and nothing like this had been made from Meccano.”

Mr Waghorn said Action Man had also played a significant part in the design as he wanted to make sure the vehicle would be big enough to drive.

“If you see any pictures of Meccano and there is a car, they quite often have Action Man as a driver.

“So I got myself an Action Man, measured him, divided it into my height, and it worked out as seven – so I knew I was seven times bigger than Action Man, and so every part needed to be seven times bigger than the Meccano part.”

History of an icon

Meccano was created in Liverpool by Frank Hornby, who obtained the first patents for his invention in 1901 when it was known as Mechanics Made Easy.

The name Meccano was first used in 1907.

Born in 1863, Hornby wanted to create something with interchangeability and where parts could be built in endless different ways to produce different models.

It is made up of metal strips, plates, angle girders, wheels, axles and gears, along with nuts and bolts. These mean that working models and mechanical devices can be made.

Over the years, Meccano has been owner by American and Japanese firms, and is now owned by a French company, based at a factory in Calais.

Like many inventors and engineers, Mr Waghorn was inspired to create from a young age.

He said: “When I was small, I was given a train set and everyone would say to me ‘Don’t take it apart’. But when they weren’t looking I would get the screwdriver out and take it apart, and then put it back together again before anyone noticed.

“I got far more pleasure watching the springs unwind and was much more interested in how things worked.”

His wife, Sally Spelman, said: “Derek is hungry for learning. He just wants to learn the ins and outs of everything.

“The original idea with the vehicle was to create something in a couple of years and go and join our friends at all the rallies with all their 
mad bikes and trikes.

“But it got more and more perfect and the MoT rules changed and all the different tests changed, and now he would need to change the whole thing to get it on the road.”

The couple, who between them have five children, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, now spend time taking the vehicle to exhibitions.

Next year he is hoping to make an attempt to get the vehicle recognised by Guinness World Records for the fastest Meccano car.

Mr Waghorn said: “We can’t even contemplate putting it on the road due to the regulations. But this is a project that is never going to end as I can always make improvements.”

Have you created a unique vehicle? Email or call 01502 712060 to speak to a reporter.

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