Robot Wars Wiki

"...two spikes and a ram make this Detonator explosive!"
Jonathan Pearce in the War of Independence

Detonator was the first robot from the Dartford Girls Grammar team, which initially competed in Series 1 of Robot Wars. In its heat, it reached the Trial stage, where reliability problems resulted in it being eliminated there after not moving at all during the British Bulldog trial.

The robot made a one-off return for the War of Independence, which was filmed and broadcast as part of Series 4. One of four robots representing the United Kingdom, Detonator lost its first-round battle to American representative frenZy after sustaining heavy damage from the latter’s hammer.


"A school-designed robot, runs off a lawnmower engine and a 12-volt electric motor salvaged from a Vauxhall Cavalier. Weighs in at 52-and-a-half kilos, and runs at a steady 4mph."
— Jonathan Pearce introduces Detonator in Series 1

Detonator in Series 1

Detonator was a green dome-shaped robot armed with several steel side spikes and a long sawn-off pipe which was intended to be used as a battering ram (the robot's name was likely inspired from its shape and weapon which bore the resemblance of a standard bomb). It was one of the few robots in Series 1 to be petrol-powered, using a lawnmower engine for forward drive and a Vauxhall Cavalier starter motor for reverse drive, and had a decorative light sensor which the team described would 'confuse' opponents. With a top speed of 4mph and wheels sourced from wheelchairs and wheelbarrows, Detonator suffered from numerous manoeuvrability, control and reliability problems that hampered its progress in the Gauntlet and ultimately saw it fail to move at all during its Trial.

Detonator in Series 4

"Detonator was the only robot to use petrol as a power source (lawnmower engine) and that was the beginning of the end, as by the time they had filled it up and got to their control positions the petrol had mostly run out and it could only go forwards, with backwards coming from an electric motor. At first the front wheel was turned by a normal servo but this was replaced by a nice big one by the BBC, and all the wheels being the ones sold by B&Q (the ones I rejected for not enough grip)"
— Oliver Steeples of the University of Reading[1]

For the Series 4 War of Independence, Detonator remained largely unchanged, although it received upgrades which made it 20kg heavier than in Series 1, as well as yellow and black hazard tape along its base.

The Team[]

The team with Detonator

Main article: Dartford Girls Grammar

Detonator was the first robot to be built by technology teacher David Crosby and his students at Dartford Girls Grammar School. Crosby captained the team, while Clare Greenaway was the lead speaker in most of the team's interviews in Series 1, and drove the robot in battle. Victoria Allgood was also present for Detonator's Series 1 campaign, while in Series 4, David Crosby's daughter Tegan filled the third position.

Robot History[]

Series 1[]

"Poor old David looks about seventy-four, seventy-five, seventy-six..."
Jonathan Pearce as Detonator stands motionless on the edge of the turntable during its Gauntlet run

Detonator gets stuck on the turntable

Detonator competed in Heat B, and was the fourth competitor in that heat to attempt the Gauntlet. It immediately attempted to drive off the turntable, but got stuck on the end as one of its side spikes caught a turntable wall and spun it sideways. After spending a considerable amount of time stuck on the turntable, Detonator was freed by Shunt before being pushed and axed across the arena, much to David Crosby's exasperation.

"I'll tell you what, David, nuclear driven, petrol driven, electric driven, doesn't matter. You're not gonna get very far, not now!"
— Jonathan Pearce before Detonator's sudden burst of mobility

Detonator stood motionless as Shunt continued pushing it, before suddenly driving forwards into the start of the maze as time ran out. This last-minute surge was enough for Detonator to reach a distance of 7.00m, putting it fifth in the results table and allowing it to qualify for the Trial stage.

Before the British Bulldog trial, the Dartford Girls Grammar team discovered that Detonator was having steering problems, which prevented it from being able to turn left. This matter had been evident during the Gauntlet when Detonator's front castor wheel was permanently stuck in a right-hand turn position. The robot was late entering the arena as the team attempted to resolve the problem, with Crosby suggesting that the axle blades should be cleaned in order to make the front wheel turn more freely.

"Let's see if the Detonator repairs have worked. Well, it's slowly away – in fact it's not even away..."
— Jonathan Pearce realises Detonator's immobility as the British Bulldog trial gets underway

Detonator (top left) fails to move at all during British Bulldog

More problems ensued once the Trial began, with Detonator failing to move at all after 'activate' was called. After a short while, Detonator appeared to crawl slowly across the arena, but not towards the end zone, before Sergeant Bash proceeded to ram it against the railings. Watching from the pits with the other roboteers, Crosby eventually left in frustration over Detonator's lack of mobility.

"And still, Detonator, right back at the start – David Crosby, has had enough! He's gone!"
— Jonathan Pearce as David Crosby leaves the pits

Detonator immobile at the start line

As a result, Detonator was eliminated from The First Wars, with Crosby later explaining that the robot's batteries had run flat before the start of the trial. Occupied with the repairs to its steering, the team had forgotten to charge them beforehand, resulting in Detonator failing to move at all.

Series 4[]

frenZy hammers Detonator

frenZy smashes the shell of Detonator as it pushes Detonator against the sidewall

Detonator made a one-off return for the War of Independence special, as one of four robots representing the United Kingdom. Its first-round battle saw it face US representative frenZy, and in the opening moments it drove sluggishly in an attempt to avoid frenZy's meat tenderiser. However, frenZy immediately smashed Detonator's top armour with its first few blows, leaving it crumpled as Detonator attempted to drive away. Another series of attacks from frenZy left Detonator's shell almost completely flattened, and it lay immobilised as frenZy accidentally got its hammer stuck through the arena floor.

"Bashing and crashing and smashing, and Detonator... looks like a pummelled prune out there!"
— Jonathan Pearce as frenZy repeatedly pounds Detonator's shell out of shape

frenZy briefly removes the top lid of Detonator as it burns on a flame jet

Detonator sustained more damage from frenZy before being dragged around the arena and smacked by its hammer. It was eventually smacked and pushed onto a flame jet as frenZy continued damaging its shell, before catching fire and having its top panel dislodged. frenZy axed Detonator's now-exposed internals repeatedly until Shunt and Dead Metal attacked Detonator, with the former pushing it onto the Floor Flipper. Detonator was thrown across the arena before being pitted by Sergeant Bash, and was eliminated from the War of Independence.


Series 1
The First Wars - UK Championship
Heat Trial
Heat B, Gauntlet 7.00m (5th) Qualified
Heat B, Trial (British Bulldog) Never moved (5th) Eliminated
Series 4
War of Independence
Representing UK, Round 1
Round 1 vs. frenZy (USA) Lost


  • Wins: 0
  • Losses: 1

NOTE: Detonator's Gauntlet and Trial runs are not included

Series Record[]

Main Series Detonator Series Record
The First Wars Heat, Trial
The Second Wars Entered with Napalm
The Third Wars Entered with Napalm
The Fourth Wars War of Independence, Round 1
Entered with Shadow of Napalm
The Fifth Wars Entered with Napalm 2
The Sixth Wars Did not enter
The Seventh Wars Did not enter
Series 8 Did not enter
Series 9 Did not enter
Series 10 Did not enter
Robot Wars Extreme Appearances
Series 1 Entered with Napalm and Napalm 2
Series 2 Did not enter

Outside Robot Wars[]

Dartford Girls Grammar School had entrusted the naming and likeness rights of both Detonator and its sister robot Napalm to Reira Granger of Trans-Cendant Robotics, after the DGS captain David Crosby had long retired from working at the school.

She has completed a sportsman Featherweight replica of Napalm N2 named Smell of Napalm, which has competed at both Robonerd 2021 and Robots Live! Crawley 2021, and has plans to make a Detonator replica very soon under the working name Tripwire.


""The night before the show, we were testing it in the playground when it went out of control, ran over a fence and blew up," said Mr Crosby. "The show's producers told us to bring it anyway and we managed to put it back together in time for the filming in London Docklands. We were literally putting the finishing touches to it as we went into the arena and we won through the first round.""
— David Crosby, interviewed in 2002[2]
  • The night before filming of Series 1 began, Detonator exploded during testing, which resulted in the team having to make frantic repairs before it was due to appear, as seen in the quote above.
  • Both of Detonator's appearances were in the same episodes that Mortis also competed in.
    • Coincidentally, the War of Independence marked the final appearances of both Detonator and Mortis.
  • Detonator was the first UK heavyweight robot to lose to an American competitor.

External Links[]