Colonel Hoare was an ex-Army motor trader of the old school, regarded very much at the time – by his social equals – as “a proper chap”, and by his employees with a mixture of respect and something bordering upon fear. His motor trading style was exemplary compared to today’s Ferrari-dealing Jack-the-lads. He recognised that his very select clientele was moneyed, discerning and particular. If one telephoned him to express interest in purchasing a new Ferrari “in red”, he was quite capable of sucking his teeth before declaring regretfully, “Ooh dear, red… yes, well I’m afraid we haven’t got one available right now, and our allocation from the factory this year doesn’t include another one… But leave it with me and let me see if something can be arranged for you…”.
All this against a probable background of several unsold 250GTs – each one red –residing in store, out back. After a suitable few days’ pause one of the Colonel’s men would then contact the interested client, bearing great news: “Colonel Hoare has asked me specifically to call you – because he has been able to find a car for you, in red, as you specified sir, of course a very rare example at the moment… I have to say that is reflected somewhat in the price…”. I’m assured it worked almost every time.
Patrician motor sporting characters are few and far between these days, and the veterans who would qualify are growing fewer. BRDC member Arthur Gill died recently, famous for his 500cc Formula 3 racing, always attended by ‘his man’ Courtney. The story goes that at one Silverstone meeting Courtney announced his presence to Arthur Gill by coughing respectfully to attract attention as Gill was entertaining some similarly well-heeled chums to a paddock picnic.
“Ahem,” coughed the gentleman’s gentleman, “Since you are entertaining, sir, and time is pressing before your race, would you prefer me to change the sprockets on the 500 before I serve the gentlemen their wine?”.
To which Arthur Gill responded tartly: “Courtney! Don’t be a bloody fool. Serve the wine!”. Now there’s a proper sense of sporting perspective.