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Robot Wars legend Rex Garrod dies at 75 after long illness with Alzheimer's

PUBLISHED: 07:52 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 07:52 11 April 2019

Rex Garrod outside his workshop near Debenham in 2006. He was working on a water-powered clock   Picture: Phil Morley

Rex Garrod outside his workshop near Debenham in 2006. He was working on a water-powered clock Picture: Phil Morley

Suffolk inventor’s quirky genius also seen in Teletubbies and Brum − and he rode speedway for Ipswich Witches, too

Suffolk inventor Rex Garrod – the man behind the adventurous car in children’s TV show Brum and a legend of BBC series Robot Wars – has died peacefully at 75. He had Alzheimer’s.

Before he became known for his engineering prowess – and his creative eccentricity – Rex was a speedway rider. He rode for Ipswich in 1971 and then Scunthorpe between 1972 and 1974.

He created the remote-controlled car for the TV series Brum, which ran between 1991 and 2002. Rex also made objects for children’s show Teletubbies.

The large and quirky clock that for years stood in the seafront gardens in Undercliff Road West, Felixstowe, was also his handiwork.

It was crafted from an odd assortment of materials designed to get passers-by talking, including bomb parts, sections of a BBC sound desk, video tape featuring the first Doctor Who episode, parts of the wing skin of Concorde, DC10 engine bolts, and rods from a nuclear power reactor.

Rex was leader of Team Cassius, which entered robots in early series of the BBC’s Robot Wars in the late 1990s. (One invention, Recyclopse, was runner-up in the first series.)

In the late 1980s and early 1990s Rex co-presented Channel 4’s The Secret Life Of Machines with fellow Suffolk-based inventor Tim Hunkin (the brain behind the curious gadgets on Southwold Pier).

The series was written by Tim and looked at how everyday items such as the fridge and TV worked.

Rex leaves wife Sally, whom he married in 1992, and daughters Kay and Kim. He lived for a long time in a village near Debenham.

Sally says the work of which Rex was most proud was converting a Leiston-made microlite for Trevor Jones, left a tetraplegic by a ski-ing accident. Rex converted it so the former helicopter pilot could control it by using only his hand and mouth, and thus attempt a cross-Channel flying challenge.

Rex also produced special effects and props for Anglia Television. “One prop I remember vividly was a severed hand, complete with bone and arteries protruding from the wrist,” says Tim. “This used to sit on his bandsaw table, sometimes with fresh ‘blood’ when he wanted to impress visitors.”

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