The spy and the Count

Having asked the nearest library to dig out for me the life of Ian Fleming by John Pearson (Jonathan Cape, 1968), I realised I should have read it years ago when I made ‘Cars in Books’ a regular MotorSport feature.

In this well-written and informative account of the creator ofJames Bond, John Pearson divulges that Fleming’s father’s will left to his wife, among other things, his “motors” after he was killed during the 191418 war. Pearson’s biography is not only exceedingly readable but to my delight includes the cars driven by Fleming. At school at Eton he owned a khaki-coloured Standard tourer, hidden in Windsor and used for illicit trips, such as to the Wembley Exhibition in 1924.

When in 1933 Fleming worked for Reuters as a reporter he covered the Metro-Vickers trial, being met at Byelo Russky station in Moscow by a black seven-seater Lincoln to take him to the National Hotel.

At the height of his fame Fleming had a Ford Thunderbird which cost £3000; it delighted him with its four-barrel downdraught carburettor, Ford-o-matic transmission and 190bhp, although he thought its brakes not good enough for ‘dangerous’ driving. But Fleming is described as enjoying the thump in the back as the two extra carburettor barrels cut in at 3000rpm. At this time Fleming’s wife Anne had a grey Sunbeam Talbot, and thought the Thunderbird hideous.

Asked in 1952 by a friend who was contemplating buying a Bentley Continental what Fleming thought of them, his opinion should be read by all Bentley people(!). They will also find references to Amherst Villiers (who later painted Fleming’s portrait) and to 4½ blower Bentleys. There is also mention of the 2½-litre Riley which the Flemings used for a continental tour.

The book closes with Fleming writing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Did he know Count Zborowski and the racing cars of that name? Fleming had a house in Kent — Old Palace, at Berkesbourne — near Zborowski’s Higham house at Bridge, but I think long after the Count had been killed in the 1924 Italian GP. Can anyone help with this?