Cars In Books
I HAVE been saying recently how one comes upon references to cars in the most unexpected places. This is borne out by something I found in “Odious Child” by Taya Zinkin (Chatto & Windus, 1971), which I should probably not have read had a MOTOR SPORT reader not drawn my attention to this autobiography. Not only does the authoress refer to her young brother possessing one of those model electric GP Bugattis but there is a photograph of it in the road outside her father’s nursing home in Neuilly, Paris, in the 1920s, with its proud owner at the wheel.
This Russian family was wealthy, as indicated by the present of a 30-room villa .set in a park by a lake at Enghien-Les-13ainsmade by the grandfather to his eldest granddaughter in 1925 and a smaller one of 12 rooms on three floors, with two gardens which the authoress, as the youngest granddaughter, was given at the same time. But whether the model Bugatti was bought be cause they knew Ettore Bugatti or because they owned a full-Size -Bugatti, or simply because it was deemed a nice plaything for a four-year-old boy (Ettore intended them for children of six to eight years Of age), I do not at present know. The last-named reason seems the most likely, as it was a present from grandfather Diedouchka when the children went to the traditional Beaulieu Passover family reunion. It is described as “. . . an electric model which could run for two hour’s before the batteries had to he recharged and it could go as fast as 20 k.p.h.” [A very fair description, although I believe only one accumulator was used and that top speed was 10 to 12 m.p.h.—Ed. I It is noted as being bright red, instead of the traditional Bugatti blue, and there is an amusing reference to an aunt making snide remarks about the child showing off: “. . . she would not, for anything, let her children drive racing cars, even model size, and she forbade her daughters to go near it.” But the •authoress and her brother played games with the car, she pretending to be a policeman stopping bins for speeding, as he raced over the private roads at Beaulieu (the French Beaulieu, that is). Presumably after this the Bugatti was taken back to Paris and as the nursing home existed up to 1939 it may Well have been there then. I wonder if this is a new Bugatti reference, even to H. G. Conway?
Alas, the book credits the first attempted crossing of the Atlantic by air to Nungesser and Coli, who were lost, and then successfully to the American Lindberg, overlooking the fact that the first crossing was made in 1919 by Alcock and Brown in the Rolls-RPYce.engined Vickers Vimy biplane. There is mention of drives with a governess to whom posters advertising Texaco, Ferodo (rendered as Ferrodo), Panhard-Levassor and De Dion Routon Were pointed out to help the woman improve her French pronunciation. But 110 fortunately we are not informed as to the cars used by the family in those pre-war days.—W.I3.