The suave inventor of James Bond had already suffered a heart attack at the age of 52 when he began writing about a magic motor car with rather a long name. His son Caspar was 8, and dearly loved tales about myth, pretence and mechanical objects. Fleming went to a seaside hotel to recover and write for his son. He remembered a certain Count Sborowski who used to race an auto with an impossibly long bonnet called ‘Chitty’ at Brooklands.
Louis Sborowski raced around Europe with his enormous car from 1920 to 24. We do not know if he was really a count, but his enormous fortune was real enough. He inherited the loot from his parents, Elliott and Margaret, plus a huge 18th century house and park just outside Canterbury. He had just turned sixteen when this happened.
The probably bogus young Count spent a lot of money at Higham Park, building three Chittys, and putting a lot of money into the budding Aston Martin company. The Chittys were built by hand by Bligh Brothers of Canterbury.
Chitty One was grey, weighed five tons, had a chain-drive and a Mercedes 300 horsepower Maybach aeroplane engine; the engine could rarely be started without a team of eleven men to help. Once started however, it could go at 130 mph with virtually no brakes. It could not fly or go swimming.
Count Louis was killed driving for Mercedes in 1924. There is a statue erected to his memory at Le Mans in Normandy. Now we come to the Fleming connection. As a boy Ian used to accompany his banker grandfather to long weekends at Higham Park, where he of course saw the Chittys and learned about their legendary owner/driver.
Ian Fleming never recovered completely from his heart attack. He lived to finish the children’s book, which became a best-seller apart from a vastly popular film written by Roald Dahl. He saw the first two Bond films Dr No and From Russia with love. James Bond’s creator died on 12 August, 1964. His son Caspar was twelve.