A Grand Prix car at the Track
OF ALL THE FIR,51SIGHIINGS oftop GP cars at Brooldands, Count Zborowski’s
1914 GP Mercedes was the most significant. A ghastly war against Germany had not long ended, but racing followers could not dismiss the 1,2,3 Mercedes victory at Lyon on the very eve of that war, and at the Surrey track in 1921 could they see Lautenschlager’s winning car in action. The millionaire Count,
a wild young old Etonian, was the right person to own it. His family were Mercedes-orientated, his wealthy father killed in his new 60 at the 1903 Nice hillclimb, his Astor mother having a big 90 Mere. He himself; after using this make as the basis of his three aero-engined giants, starting with the legendary Chitty-Bang-Bang I, was to be killed in 1924 on his first drive in the Mercedes works-team. The GP Merc was aimed at the more serious part of his racing ambitions. After the French GP walkover, the winning car was sent for display in Berlin, then shipped to Milnes-Daimler’s Shaftesbury Avenue showrooms in London, an odd move with war so close. It was seized on the day hostilities broke out and taken to Derby for RollsRoyce to examine. After the Armistice R-R returned it to M-D from whom Zbrowski purchased it. That was probably in 1920, but it was 1921 before Zborowski was ready to run his first Chitty and the GP Mercedes at Brooklands perhaps it took that long before the Admiralty, who had requisitioned it, would raease the latter? After that GP win
Mercedes agent Gordon Watney said he would buy it, but Mercedes refused to sell. But now Germany was prohibited from entering motor racing, and it was of no use to them. So those who went to the Surrey Track at Easter 1921 not only saw the GP Mere win its race, still in the white livery of Germany, but also saw Chitty win three times. The Count’s friend Jack Hartshorn Cooper also won
in the GP car, which then gave Zborowski another win and a second at Whitsun, after which he turned to his Ballot and other cars, before virtually purchasing Lionel Martin’s Aston-Martin company, to get into road racing.
Zborowski sold the smaller car to the Robinson brothers in 1922. It then went to C G Brocklebank who had lost his 1913 GP Peugeot when Captain Toop had been killed in it in 1924. He disposed of it to a Captain Fane who used it on the road, as a touring body and 4X-litre Berliet engine had been installed, although Fane reinstated the GP Mere engine.
Around 1960 I pointed Philip Mann in the Brocklebanks’ direction, and after much detective work he found it still at Fane’s place in Essex, bought it and did a marvellous restoration job. My reward was to have the first run in the car, now in GP trim again, resulting in a feature in MOTOR SPoRr for June 1970. It was later sold abroad. One mystery arises: Why was the historic Zborowski FN (Canterbury) Reg No not retained, instead of DD 982?