Cars In books, February 1988

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With the revival of James Bond on television, it was interesting to find out which cars were favoured by the author of the Bond books, the late Ian Fleming.

When he was at Sandhurst, he had a khaki-coloured Standard tourer, garaged in Windsor and used for illicit trips to London. For instance, Fleming drove it to the newly-opened Wembley Exhibition; as it was even then described as an old car, it must have dated from the early 1920s at least. It was written -off in the mid-1920s in an accident at a level-crossing on the light railway line from Munich to Kufstein.

In America in 1946 Fleming used a hired Austin, which seems an unusual car to have picked up in New York. After he started writing the Bond thrillers he relied on Aubrey Forshaw, the head of Pan Books (whom I remember well with his Sunbeam when we were running the STD Register) for technical information about the cars in Bond’s life.

The Riley RM Register will be interested to know that after his marriage in 1952 Fleming bought a 21/2-litre Riley, in which he would rush off to St Margaret’s Bay to entertain other famous authors, or tour the south of France, as far as the Pyrenees. He later owned a Bentley Continental, a Lugano Blue one with grey upholstery and much of the chrome painted black; the badges he removed, because he did not see why he should pay a large sum for the Bentley and then give Rolls-Royce a free advertisement as well!

Later Fleming had a 190hp Ford Thunderbird which used to be driven daily in London, and was parked under the windows of Kemsley House while Fleming was working there. It had the downdraught four-barrel carburettor, Fordomatic transmission, and cost £3050, but its brakes were not up to fast driving.

When he craved a cross between the Thunderbird and a Bentley for Bond, Fleming consulted Whitney Straight, who was then the Chairman of Rolls-Royce. Fleming is said to have known Count Zborowski when both were at Eton, hence the name Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang for the fictitious car in his children’s books and films (though in fact he did not go to Eton until 1921, long after the Count had left); and Amherst Villiers was also a friend , so of course is was a blown 41/2-litre Bentley which James Bond drove in the one of the books.

Fleming’s interest in cars and the prestige surrounding them was demonstrated by his disappointment, on a visit to New York, that his friends sent their Lincoln instead of their Rolls-Royce to meet him and his wife. But once there he enjoyed borrowing a Studillac, that mongrel Studebaker with a Cadillac engine which had touched 110 mph up the Tacoma Parkway. The last car he owned, indeed, was a supercharged Studebaker Avanti.

I have gleaned much of this information from that excellent book The Life Of Ian Fleming (Cape, 1966) by John Pearson, the author who gave us Bluebird and the Dead Lake, about Campbell’s attack on the Land Speed Record. WB

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