The Royal Society of Chemistry is a wonderful thing. I’m not sure how they decided it was within their remit to run a competition to solve the cliffhanger at the end of the Italian Job but I like to think it’s the sort of thing they ponder during their lunch breaks only.
Around 2,000 people put forward their solutions but it was a gentleman by the name of John Godwin, of Godalming, Surrey, who was named the winner and right after I’ve told his idea, I’ll explain why it just won’t work.
For those unfamiliar with the conundrum at the end of the Great British cinematic classic, then shame on you and consider yourselves lucky that I’m going to explain it even as briefly as I am.
The situation is that, having just stolen 4 million in gold through a traffic jam, the getaway coach skids out on a windy mountain road and ends up perfectly balanced on the edge of a cliff with the rear, containing all the gold, hanging over and Charlie Croker and his men at the other end counterbalancing and unable to either leave the vehicle or reach the booty without their bodies being scattered over the side of Italian Alps along with their trappings and whatever travel sweets the driver may have chosen.
So, the rules of the comp were that the solution should take no more than 30 minutes, presumably as the crew have the Turin constabulary and the Mafia chasing them, if, fortunately, at quite some distance behind.
Thanks to the graphics I’ve borrowed from the Independent, which I hope they don’t mind, you can see how Mr Godwin’s idea is broken down into a few easy to follow steps.
First, Charlie Croker uses his shoe to break outwards the glass of the third set of windows from the rear. This alleviates at least some of the weight and, more importantly, allows the other members of the crew to break the front windows from the outside in, which keeps that lot of glass counterbalancing the gold.
Now I’m assuming that the glass on the floor of the front of the coach can be taken right to where it creates a more effective turning moment as near to the dashboard as possible.
Next a member of Team Job is lowered out of the window in order to deflate the front tyres which will stabilise the coach and prevent it from rocking so much.
Next they drain the rear positioned fuel tank of the 35 gallons of diesel thus making the back of the coach 140kg lighter.
Now there’s enough of a difference such that one of the crew can leave the coach without it tipping over the cliff. They can go an fetch as many rocks as they need to put in the front of the vehicle which they can use as counterbalance while they go and fetch the gold.
See, very neat indeed. But there is now one problem – they have flat tyres and no fuel. They’re going nowhere and surely the point of that half an hour limit was so that they can actually get away to freedom too?
So, here’s what Duncan and I discussed. One option is to siphon some the fuel into a container rather than just drain it all away. Either that or leave just enough in the tank to get them to the next petrol station. There should still be enough weight relieved for the lightest member of the crew to get off the coach and go rock hunting.
The bigger problem is the tyres. I wouldn’t fancy driving down those mountain roads with all of your front tyres out, not when the driver has already crashed once. More importantly, the coach, a Harrington Legionnaire, comes neither with enough spares nor a pump in order to fix the problem.
Even if they happen to have a foot pump somewhere or one of the crew has particularly large lungs, there’s no way they can make their escape within the half hour limit. So, any ideas, anything you weren’t telling us Mr John Godwin, of Godalming, Surrey? Answers on a postcard or in the comments below, please.
(via the Independent)