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QUICK: NAME a British adventurer who drove really neat cars.
Oh, that one? The spy. Yeah, him too. And then there’s Bulldog Drummond, who, I believe, drove an early Aston Martin.
No, I’m thinking of Simon Templar, aka The Saint. The car was his Hirondel.
Author Leslie Charteris describes Templar as “a buccaneer in the suits of Saville Row, amused, cool, debonair, with hell-for-leather blue eyes and a saintly smile….” Just the sort of Englishman who would have exquisite taste in a motor car.
The Saint (his nickname never explained) began fighting crime with a Robin Hood spirit in 1928, as described in Meet the Tiger. He made his movie debut in 1938 as The Saint in New York. Scads of other films followed, including a decidedly non-canonical The Saint in 1997. There have also been Simon Templar comic strips, stage productions, and series on radio and TV. I particularly enjoy Vincent Price as “The Saint” on SiriusXM Radio Classics.
Actor Sir Roger Moore portrayed Templar in a TV series from 1962 into 1969. Since then, he has been involved in several attempts to revive The Saint’s TV presence. Moore, Ian Ogilvy and Simon Dutton, three alumni of Templar TV and movie roles, have been appointed vice presidents of The Saint Club, an organization founded by Leslie Charteris in 1936. See www.saint.org.
Moore’s choice of wheels was a white 1962 Volvo P1800, a car that has its own story. After rotting away in a North Wales barn for 22 years, this P1800 was rescued by car enthusiast Kevin Price in 1997. He accumulated parts for ten years and spent another six on the restoration. The car is now a beauty; see http://goo.gl/jdXzXw.
In describing the Hirondel, Charteris wisely left a lot to our imagination. Templar inherited the car from a friend in The Last Hero, 1930. This adventure contained The Saint’s dramatic drive to rescue his lady friend, Patricia Holm, held captive in a country house several hours drive out of London.
So memorable was the drive that Automobile Quarterly commissioned illustrations by five automotive artists, each with his special insight into the Hirondel’s character based on the words of Leslie Charteris.
Other artists chose to offer technical details, a Roots supercharger or a badge bar with the Hirondel emblem and dual horns, proper bonnet straps and traditional friction shock absorbers.
Artist Walter Gotschke chose a combination of technical accuracy and fury of the drive.
Words and images made clear that Simon Templar was successful that night in rescuing his lady friend. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014