Brendan Lynch’s piece on Charlie Martin took me back to the mid-50s, when I was employed at AFN, servicing the first 356 Porsches in this country.
One Monday morning there was an unfamiliar chap there — tall, good-looking, well-spoken, with long curly hair (in the ’50s!), wearing an ex-Naval off-white Guernsey, old blue trousers and slightly scuffed shoes. He was introduced to us as Charles Martin, the new salesman.
We formed the opinion that Charlie had fallen on slightly hard times, exemplified by his car, a prewar Chevrolet with a three-speed gearbox, which frequently engaged two gears at once. The top of the ‘box was instantly removable to allow access for the large screwdriver he used to lever the selectors back into some sort of order. He was forbidden to park the Chevrolet outside AFN and it was banished to the lay-by opposite. He’d come over to the pub opposite and regale us with his wartime exploits. I remember him saying he’d have preferred to be paid some money than given his medals (DSC and American Legion of Honour).
AFN also imported DKW cars and I was often dispatched with Charlie to collect them from the East India Docks. We’d set out on the trolleybus with a gallon of two-stroke mix and trade plates carefully wrapped in brown paper — it was forbidden to carry petrol or trade plates on public transport
We’d arrive at an Eel and Pie shop and although he was a bit of a toff, Charlie was at ease chatting with the dockers. The journey back was pretty hairy as I tried to keep up. He didn’t hang about and I’d better not go into the number of red lights I ran in his wake.
Unfortunately he didn’t last long in his new job, disappearing from AFN as suddenly as he’d arrived. He was a lovely unassuming man — there has to be a book there. John Dabbs, Ripley, Woking, Surrey