Skaters and doorknobs propel this ice car

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car takes to the arena for ice trials

ice car: Peter Lefeaux  and John Stewart are accompanied by members of the Sandy Shores Figure Skating Club as they take a spin in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car.

ice car: Peter Lefeaux and John Stewart are accompanied by members of the Sandy Shores Figure Skating Club as they take a spin in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car.

When you’re responsible for creating the star of the show, it’s not unreasonable to lose sleep before opening night.

John Stewart and Peter Lefeaux are in that situation now as they work out the last bugs and wrinkles out of their creation: the car that will star in the Sandy Shores Skating Club’s production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Designing and building a 15-foot car that can be propelled around an ice rink by four young girls was no mean feat and Stewart and Lefeaux were forced to go back to the drawing board on at least one occasion.

“Getting it to the point where it would work on ice was the biggest challenge,” Stewart said. “

When we first did it we put skate sleds underneath and it wasn’t right,” Stewart said. “You couldn’t turn it. It was only made to go forwards and backwards and when I heard they actually had to drive around the ice I had to rip it all apart and redo it.”

Besides maneuverability, the main concern was the car’s weight.

“We were worried about weight because young girls have to move this 15-foot car around and there’s a lot of concerns about it. I kept thinking, ‘Oh my goodness we’re building it too heavy.’ … I wasn’t sleeping at night. Now that it’s here and it’s on the ice, I can just push it and it just goes.”

The car, said Lefeaux, now weighs somewhere around 100 pounds and while the rear of the vehicle is on skates, the front is actually riding on doorknobs, allowing the four girls skating inside the open back to steer it where it needs to go.

The pair built it in Lefeaux’s shop and have spent two weeks making drawings and turning those plans into reality.

Stewart has worked with Sandy Shores in the past, helping to create sets for their last production three years ago, Mary Poppins. This time however, he knew he was working on something special and he knew he needed some help.

“This is the most important prop in the show, so Peter and I decided to team up on it,” Stewart said.

“It’s about 75 per cent done. In order for us to button it up we need to make sure it’s ice-worthy, which is why it’s here today, to make sure the girls can maneuver it and it can do what it needs to do.”

Sure enough, the four skaters who climbed aboard were able to turn left, right, start and stop all within the parameters of the show.

Lefeaux was obviously pleased.

“This is the star of the show, so we have to do it right,” he said as the girls took the car for a counter-clockwise spin around the ice.

“I’m happy with the design.”

Now that they know the car is going to work as it should, the pair will begin working on the final finishing touches.

“We need to have it ready for the dress rehearsal in about two weeks,” Lefeaux said. “Unless we run out of black chloroplast, it will be ready.”

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on ice is March 2 and 3 at the Oceanside Place arena. For details, call 250-248-3252.