Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Saintmobile and the Bondmobile

Two of my major influences have been messieurs Templar and Bond (both pictured here by the same actor, Roger Moore.)

Simon Templar, the ubiquitous 'Saint', is quite simply the greatest adventure hero of all time. Suave, charming, debonair and brave, he personifies everything I idolize - even though about the only characteristic I share with the 'Robin Hood of Modern Crime' is a pathologically cheery outlook on life and a bent for flippancy.

James Bond, the 'blunt instrument' of Her Majesty's Secret Service, represents a dying breed of self-confident masculinity. Bond was an idealized version of his creator, Ian Fleming, who could eat, drink and womanize without restraint (which explains why Bond's still going, while Fleming croaked aged just 56.)

Both of them adored cars, and often appeared behind the wheels of vehicles lavishly described by the author. Although both Bond and Templar went through quite a number of vehicles over the years, they each have a trademark 'mobile which shares many of the characteristics I strive for in my own 'Gingermobile.'

The Saint's Car

When we first met Simon Templar, he drove a 'Furillac' - a fictional sports car with an American-sounding name (I often envisaged it as a Cord convertible, much like this one from A Kilted Travel Agent's blog.)

Templar later borrowed his friend Norman Kent's car - and after Norman died heroically at the end of The Last Hero, Templar adopted the 'Hirondel' and drove it throughout almost all of his European-based adventures.

Like the Furillac, the cars of the Hirondel Motor Corporation were fictional - however, we do know what they looked like. Author Leslie Charteris based Templar's cream and red Hirondel on his own twelve-cylinder Lagonda Rapide, meaning the car The Saint drove resembled something like this:

We know it was very fast, low-slung and practical enough to contain four people (who could be slung in and out of the vehicle with relative impunity, thanks to the convertible top.)

We also know the car did about 5mpg and the Hirondel Motor Corporation was based in Britain (and appeared to produce a limited number of these cars, practically assembling them by hand.)

Bond's Car

To most us us, the name James Bond is synonymous with 'Aston Martin.'

But while the movie incarnations of 007 have always been behind the wheel of that stylish brand of luxury touring car, the original James Bond was very particular about his choice of transportation. He drove a Bentley, plain and simple.

In Casino Royale, we were introduced to Bond's 1930 Bentley Blower, a super-charged 4½ litre Le Mans car in matt, battleship grey. As tended to become a habit with Bond, he crashed it at the climax of the story (car chases and martinis clearly don't mix, even in the 1950's.)

In later books, author Ian Fleming promoted Bond's chariot to the 'Bentley Continental Mark IV' - a car equally as fictional as Simon Templar's Hirondel. Although Bentley never produced a real Bentley Mark IV, it's fair to imagine it might have looked something like a contemporary Bentley Continental, like this one I've stolen from A Kilted Travel Agent's blog.

Bond suitably modified his car with an Arnott supercharger (leaving Rolls Royce no choice but to wipe their hands of this 'bastardized child') which allowed the Bentley to cruise at 100mph 'with 30 in reserve.'

Just like Simon Templar's Hirondel, Bond's Bentley fulfilled three major criteria:
  1. It was fast.
  2. It was big.
  3. It was luxurious.
Operation Gingermobile

Now I'm on the path to my future Gingermobile, I think it's important to look at what I've learned from James Bond and Simon Templar and put that information to work choosing my own Gingermobile.

If I had an unlimited budget, I think my choices would be expanded somewhat. At ideal candidate might be a Jensen Interceptor (which a television incarnation of Simon Templar actually drove in the 1980's.)

It combines speed, size and luxury with the good looks and polish of a fastback grand tourer.

Unfortunately, I don't have $20,000 to blow on a Jensen - but it has at least given me a bit of direction towards what car I'll ultimately select as my own Gingermobile.

Watch this space!


Hoppy Uniatz said...

Perhaps you should make like the new Saint and get a Maserati...maybe not though, after all I'm not sure where you'd fit mini-Militant...

mre30seattle said...

Perhaps one of the coolest, if little known Bond cars, was the Triumph Stag that Bond used in the begining of Diamonds Are Forever.

Very few of these gems around. Weighty for it's size (at 2800 lbs) but sporting a 2997 cc V8.

In red would make a unique Ginger-Mobile and room enough for Mini-Militant.

Thanks for notice on the Cord and the Bentley.

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