Simon reveals his softer side.
I’ve asked myself if I can think of a large car that is ‘cute’ and, at present, can only think of one, but perhaps that is because this particular vehicle will always have a dominant place in my memories. In the late Seventies, I filled in for the European Motoring Correspondent on Soldier Of Fortune magazine when he was unavoidably detained for several months by the German security services. Apart from it being the introduction to my beloved Alvis Stalwart, when I tested one for the ‘Used and Bruised’ feature, that time also has more tender memories for me.
Today I am seen, correctly, as a ‘confirmed bachelor’ but it was not always so. At the time I shared a small office in Sheffield with other European contributors to SoF and one of those was the Concealed Small Arms contributor Lt. Col. ‘Kipper’ Haring. This was a nom-de-plume for a far better known individual, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward. Our romance was short, but unforgettable, and included memorable drives and picnics in the back of FAB 1 with the ever-discreet Parker at the wheel.
In my time at Duple Coach Magazine, I drove several VAL chassis 6 wheelers, but none has left the delightful impression that Penelope’s car did. Parker never let me behind the wheel, but the ride was soft and feathery and the ambience, within that bubble canopy, was a perfumed oasis, free from outside cares. We were both going through ‘difficult periods’. Since environmentalists had closed down Tracy Island, Penelope had found it difficult to find work since, not unreasonably, potential employers took the view that, as a ‘secret agent’, she was rather conspicuous. In the short time we were together, I believe we both gave each other something and, to this day, part of this crusty old bachelor’s heart still belongs to her
For this reason I was outraged when I heard of J Mays plans to ‘re-boot’ FAB 1. I believe he first hatched his scheme when he heard of Patrick Le Quement’s decision to redefine the French prestige car with the Vel Satis and, ever the showman, sought to top the ex-Ford man’s efforts. Apparently there was a lot of behind-the-scenes planning. When attempts to find a focus group of aristocratic female secret agents failed, they then decided to pitch the car to female CEOs and the like. When the word came back of responses such as ‘crass gender stereotyping’ and ‘my designated parking space is only 25 feet long’ the intended market shifted again, this time to members of the popular music industry. It was probably a mistake of them to approach Sinead O’Connor as the official face of the new FAB 1 and the ensuing public altercation resulted, thankfully, in Ford pulling the plug on the proposed production run.
I don’t think Mr Mays career really recovered. Apparently he now works as Chris Bird’s butler.
NOTE : I do not normally reveal much about my personal life, but I feel I am among friends here. However, if any of you chooses to ask the tiresome question ‘didn’t the strings get in the way?’ consider yourselves excluded from this site.