‘Car on roof’ student prank explained as boffins recreate the stunt with pulleys and an Austin 7

June 10, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

The secrets of one of the most famous student pranks ever – lifting a CAR onto a university roof – have been uncovered in a recreation of the stunt.

A group of engineering undergraduates somehow hoisted an Austin 7 car 70ft into the air and on to the top of the Senate House at Cambridge University in June 1958.

It took university officials and police a week to get the vehicle down and the culprits – who struck at night – never revealed how they had pulled off the feat.

Members of Cambridge University OTC recreate the Senate House Austin Seven car stunt

Members of Cambridge University OTC recreate the Senate House Austin Seven car stunt

But now the University’s Officer Training Corps has demonstrated how easy it is to lift a car in the air with a series of pulleys.

A team raised a similar Austin 7 20ft off the ground at the city’s Jesus Green park on Saturday – 55 years to the day since the original escapade.

The car was lifted in just 10 minutes with a gyn – a three-legged frame with a rope and four pulleys which is used for hoisting loads vertically.

The weight of the load is shared between the different points of contact between the rope and the pulleys and means heavy objects can be lifted with relatively little effort.

Staff sergeant Carl Webber said: “We came down at 10am to get the gyn up and there were a few technical problems but in the end we got the car up in 10 minutes.

Members of Cambridge University OTC recreate the Senate House Austin Seven car stunt

Members of Cambridge University OTC recreate the Senate House Austin Seven car stunt

“We explained how it was done and had a lot of interest from intrigued people coming over to ask what was going on.”

Cambridge Mayor Cllr Paul Saunders, said: “The re-enactment is a real tribute to an event that is now known as part of the mythology of Cambridge.

“It’s great that the Royal Engineers and the officer cadets came to hoist the car up as otherwise it would be impossible.

“I would be quite horrified to see a similar stunt happen but I think we are more aware of the dangers now.

“In the high spirits of the 50’s after the war it is understandable but we can’t afford to damage any of our old buildings today.”

Basil Jaques, a committee member of Cambridge Austin 7 and Vintage Car Club, said attempts were made to invite the original perpetrators of the prank.

He said: “We did try to get them to come along but they are now scattered across the country and are elderly.

“It was a good little show and we had a great response.”

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