Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


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.

The sign of The Saint.

The sign of The Saint.

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


TV’s Simon Templar, portrayed by Roger Moore, and his 1962 Volvo P1800. Image from The Daily Mail, September 22, 2013.

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


The (fictional) Hirondel Motor Company, Coventry, was the cover subject of Automobile Quarterly First Quarter 1972 Volume X Number 1Images of the Hirondel are from this issue.

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.


Above, illustration by John Hanna, “…the Hirondel, as though recognizing the hand of a master at its wheel, became almost a living thing.” Below, illustration by Dale Weaver Totten, the Hirondel was “a snarling silver fiend that roared through London on the wings of an unearthly wind.”


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.


Above, illustration by Robert F. Andrews, “The car swung round the corner, on its haunches… gathering itself and found its stride again.” Below, illustration by Ted Lodigensky, “The song of the car bayed over wide spaces of country, was bruised and battered between the walls of startled village streets, was flung back in echoes from the walls of hills.”


Artist Walter Gotschke chose a combination of technical accuracy and fury of the drive.


“And again and again, in the dark, the Hirondel swooped up behind ridiculous, creeping glowworms, sniffed at their red tails, snorted derisively, swept past with a deep-throated blare. No car in England could have held the lead of the Hirondel that night.” Illustration by Walter Gotschke.

Words and images made clear that Simon Templar was successful that night in rescuing his lady friend. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014


  1. carmacarcounselor
    November 1, 2014

    What great descriptive prose. Anyone who sketched cars in study hall can cojure up a combination of 540K and Speed Six in his mind. The villain’s car in Captain America is a good approximation.
    Another literary automotive description of equal hyperbole, evoking a look rather than speed and sound, is quoted to describe the Duesenberg SJ in Leon Mandel’s book “American Cars,” from “The Great Gatsby” – “bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns.”

  2. david miller
    November 3, 2014

    I read somewhere that the TV producers wanted an E-Type but Jaguar refused and Volvo pounced.
    The Hirondel always struck me as the other end of the spectrum from Dick O’Kane’s Trashwell-Snailby.
    Watching The Saint and The Avengers on TV as a kid had a lot to do with my car obsession.

    • Miodzio
      March 12, 2019

      To prawda. Mówił o tym sam Roger Moore w swojej autobiografii. Jaguar miał zapisy na wiele miesięcy i nie widział potrzeby sprzedaży poza kolejnością. Volvo dało 2 modele i odnieśli ogromny sukces sprzedażowy.

  3. carmacarcounselor
    November 3, 2014

    Another anti-Hirondel: Columbo’s Peugeot 403 convertible. Asked on the show whether that was his only car, he said no, his wife had a car, but *hers* was nothing special.

  4. Chris
    November 21, 2014

    In one of the books (Vendetta for the Saint?) Simon Templar also commandeered a Bugatti Royale, which may have been an inspiration for the Hirondel

  5. John DeMars
    January 31, 2015

    I have a 40 year complete collection of the “Automobile Quarterly” books by Hirondel Motor Company Coventry with an index in mint condition. Anyone know how to find a buyer for the complete set?

  6. Tabitha Totten
    April 9, 2016

    Many Thanks for your site. My father was Dale Weaver Totten. I’ve enjoyed this trip back in time. Thank you to the late Scott Bailey and to Sir Roger Moore. Miss Tabitha Totten

    • simanaitissays
      April 10, 2016

      Your father had a rare talent to evoke images.
      Thank you–and savor memories of him.

      • Tabitha Totten
        September 8, 2017

        Thank You kindly. He truly was a lovely person. Happy you have this site. I thoroughly enjoy it. Miss Tabitha Totten

  7. Paul Middleton
    January 29, 2019

    Simon Templar’s nickname ‘the Saint’ is explained at the beginning of Meet the Tiger. It simply comes from his initials – ST.

  8. Peter
    March 26, 2020

    His nickname was explained as from his initials- S.T.

  9. Phillip
    April 11, 2023

    The saint got his name from his initials St. Simon templar.

Leave a Reply to Miodzio Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: