James Bond would not have anything to drive in if it was not for Count Zborowski

2017-03-28 James Bond would not have anything to drive in if it was not for Count Zborowski

He was only 16, when he became one of the richest persons in the world. The fortune inherited after his parents Louis Zborowski spent with fantasy - he built a private railroad, he held parties where he blew up buildings in his possession, he constructed racing cars and participated in rallies. He also gave a large sum to the owner of Aston Martin, to save it from bankruptcy. If not for this eccentric aristocrat, the cult brand would have probably ceased to exist after only five years of activity.
When in 1903, father of Luis William Eliot Zborowski died in a race La Turbie, the young count was only 8. His mother, wanting to secure the future of her son, bought him Higham Park in the Kent county. Soon, she got cancer. When she passed away, Louis inherited not only the property that amounted to 93 hectares with an impressive residence and a dozen houses, but also 11 million pounds in cash and a few estates in New York. He became an orphan, and at the same time one of the richest people on earth.

“He did not care for money and spent it as he wished,” wrote David Paine, author of “The Zborowski Inheritance”. In his opinion, the count had one goal in life - to have fun. And it’s hard not to agree with him, the young aristocrat had a light hand in spending big amounts of money to make his dreams come true. Since childhood, he was fascinated with the railway, so when he had the money from his parents, he built a narrow-gauge railway station around his property, which served mainly to film scenes of kidnapping, car chases and railway raids - spotted in Hollywood productions. The eccentric descendant of the Polish nobility also had one more entertainment. He loved to entertain his guests organizing pyrotechnics shows in Higham Park. They were not fireworks - those were too trivial to him. The young count blew up... Sculptures and buildings, put up only to tear them into dust during parties.

But it’s not the eccentric amusement that made Louis Zborowski a legend among motoring fans. The count has gone down in history thanks to his love for fast cars, racing and breaking speed records. This love pushed him to build his own racing cars, but he also encouraged Aston Martin to financially support him. The extravagant aristocrat became involved with this fledgling brand in 1920, when its founder Lionel Martin came to him. No one wanted to buy cars that he produced, in addition, his partner had withdrawn from business, leaving him with considerable debts and the prospect of imminent bankruptcy. Zborowski, who was already working on building his own vehicle at that time, did not need long to say yes. He gave Martin 10,000 pounds that he needed to save the company and offered to support him in the years to come. Anyone else who would have found himself in his place would make sure to get his hands on some shares, but Louis did not care for that. He only expected one thing from Martin - he would build cars for races especially for him. He also paid for these, as he became sponsor of the Aston Martin rally team.
The first fruit of Zborowski’s cooperation with Lionel was Aston Martin 1486 cc, a four-cylinder racer, which in 1921 took part in the Booklands race and immediately set the track’s speed record (106 km/h). Encouraged by this success, the aristocrat commissioned development of a car for the French Grand Prix in 1922. The production of two pieces of the new model was supervised by his friend, engineer Clive Gallop. A new machine, affectionately named “Bunny”, was first tested by Louis in the mountain race at Shelsley Walsh and at the Booklands track. The car performed well; it accelerating to a speed of 120 km/h, thanks to which Zborowski set several world records in subsequent passes. On July 16, 1922, the count and his friend stood at the start of the French Grand Prix in Strasbourg. None of them, however, reached the finishing line - both their Aston Martins had a fuel system failure. This year, Zborowski participated in the International 1500 Trophy, the Junior Car Club 200 race and the Grand Prix Penya Rhin on the track in Vilafranca in the colors of the rally team Aston Martin. But the greatest "child" created for Zborowski was the legendary Aston Martin Razor Blade. The car, built in 1923, was an improved version of the 1486 cc model and developed a speed of 163 km/h. Already in its first year, Razor beat two records at the Booklands track, and in various races participated with successes until 1935. It was such a successful car that the next owners drove him until the 1950s, when it was sent to a museum. Better and better cars delivered by Martin’s factory allowed Louis for even greater achievements. In 1923, he took second place in Grand Prix Penya Rhin, he also stood at third place of Grand Prix in Spain on the track in Voiturettes.

But driving factory cars was not enough for Louis. In 1921, with the help of engineer Clive Gallop, he constructed his first car. Here is where the fantasy came in. Louis and Gallop used an old, five-ton Mercedes to build their driving monster; they used a six-cylinder air engine of Maybach with a capacity of 27 liters. The car, called Chitty Bang Bang (Louis borrowed this name from a popular song about soldiers, who, using a pass, visit brothels) did not resemble a racing car with its look, but when it headed to compete on the Brooklands race, it did not have any rivals.

A year later, the count constructed Chitty Bang Bang II, driven with a six-cylinder air engine of Benz with a capacity of 18.8 liters. Another Chitty Bang Bang III from 1923 was used to set a record of the Brooklands track, driving a lap at 181 km/h. Zborowski also dove this car to Stuttgart to meet representatives of Mercedes when he negotiated the conditions of this brand’s racing team. But before he sat behind the wheel of the German racer, he constructed Chitty Bang Bang IV, also called Higham Special. The hood of this invention was enriched by a twelve-cylinder Liberty engine, which allowed the car to speed up to over 270 km/h. The mad aristocrat wanted to be sure that the machine would not disappoint him on track and he decided to improve it.

Works on Higham Special had to be postponed, because in 1924 it made a deal with Mercedes and joined their rally team. The first rally in the new colors was the Italian Grand Prix at the Monza track. There, Louis sat behind the wheel of a Mercedes M72/94. The rally ended tragically, on the 45th lap, the count fell out of the route and died on the spot. He was 29 years old. Many motorization historians believe that Louis Zborowski was one of the most important figures in the history of Aston Martin. And not only because he saved it from bankruptcy. The eccentric count also set the direction of the brand’s development because he prompted its owner to create increasingly faster cars that would successfully compete in races with vehicles from other brands. And although Aston’s bosses have changed over the years, they have always tried to create cars that would allow the driver to enjoy great performance and enable them to successfully race in rallies. A perfect example is the DB2 model, which even before the official premiere, during the Motor Show in New York in 1950, was exposed to the famous twenty-four-hour Le Mans race.
In 1951, a year after the start of mass production, Aston Martin DB2 raced in Le Mans again. And it did not give any chance to its competitors - drivers behind the wheel of DB 2 won the first three places in their class. The car also did great at the prestigious Mille Miglia. In 1952, Tony Wisdom who drove the DB2 took 12th place in the general classification of this race, followed by another fan of this model, Reg Parnell. Two years later, the famous British rally driver George Abecassis raced in Mille Miglia. The qualities of this car were also appreciated by the Perlage Team, which made its debut at Mille Milla Storica, a cult rally gathering enthusiasts of the old automotive industry, last year. This year, our team will once again compete on the route Brescia - Rome - Brescia, and again drive an Aston Martin. This time it will be Aston Martin DB 2/4 from 1955 in the legendary Racing Green color, the originator of which was Eliot Zborowski, Louis’ father, and its propagator - Louis himself. The Perlage logo will be visible not only on the hood of this beautiful car. Cisowianka Perlage, just like last year, will act as the main sponsor of Mille Miglia 2017, and sparkling Perlage will be the official drink of this event.