Bertie Wooster’s Aston Martin
|Wodehouse in his Morris Oxford, outside his house in 1928|
In the event, though, the Jeeves & Wooster series went for an Aston Martin instead. A 1928 Aston Martin 1½-litre International, to be precise. An inspired choice, since it suits his youthful and excitable character perfectly.
Indeed Bertie remains blissfully ignorant of the inner workings of the motor car, knowing only that it runs on something called petrol but not that it has something called an "engine". These things are best left to Jeeves or the local mechanic, naturally!
|Aston Martin 1½-litre MkII|
You can just imagine Bertie hearing about this wonderful sporting car company from his chums at The Drones Club and then heading off to the dealer to place his order. Today you'd still have to be a Bertie Wooster to be able to afford an Aston Martin old or new; 1½-litre cars from the Thirties regularly fetch in the region of £150,000 now - as much or more than most modern Astons! Certainly Bertie wouldn't be seen dead in the modern equivalent suggested by the Telegraph - a Mini Roadster indeed! Choh!
This 1934 1½-litre Sports model sold last year for £155,500 at a Bonhams auction.
Captain Hastings' Lagonda
Here's the car we all know and love - the incidental yet important player in many a Poirot mystery, whisking our heroes to and from the crime scene. How many times have we seen it bring some light relief to the proceedings as our favourite chap Captain Hastings talks about it, works on it or just drives it?
As with P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie never mentions the type of car Hastings drives in the books - mainly because he only appeared in eight of the stories and Christie was no doubt more concerned with getting the plot and motive down properly. It's thanks, as ever, to the expansion of the character in the TV series that we can really enjoy Hastings' hobbies and adventures, especially with his car. Thus it was that the show's producers gave him one of the ultimate gentleman's cars of the 1930s - a 1931 Lagonda 2-litre Low Chassis Tourer.
Lagonda was founded in 1906 at a time when many companies were setting up to produce the new-fangled motor car, including the likes of Rolls-Royce. As with so many of its peers it became favoured by the Edwardian aristocracy and increased its reputation through motorsport success, in particular in the 1910 Moscow-St. Petersburg race. After the First World War it continued to do well; Captain Hastings' beloved 2-litre Speed selling for eight years from 1925 to 1933. The company faltered in 1935, however and was nearly bought out by Rolls-Royce until another buyer - Alan Good - intervened. By this time Rolls-Royce had also taken over Bentley and Good was able to poach the man himself - W.O - to work for Lagonda, who designed a new 2.6-litre straight-6-cylinder engine that would remain the backbone of the business well into the 1950s and end up having great ramifications for the future of the company.
I've often wondered where Captain Hastings gets his income from to afford such a car as a Lagonda. He was The Honourable Arthur Hastings, if I recall aright, so there's probably money and a family estate somewhere. You'd need to be the son of a viscount or earl to afford one of Captain Hastings' Lagondas today, with good examples going for over £90,000.
Aston Martin plans to build Lagonda saloon, reports say
It may not be long before you can buy a brand new Lagonda again, though, if the latest rumours are anything to go by. Aston Martin - who bought Lagonda in 1947 purely to get hold of the Bentley engine - have been toying with the idea of reviving the Lagonda brand for several years (its last appearance being on the futuristic Aston Martin Lagonda saloon in 1976). Thankfully the initial idea to use it on a breezeblock of a 4x4 has been rejected and photos of the new saloon look very promising. Definitely something I could see Captain Hastings driving around in!
Two top chaps, then, linked by their motors (although one can imagine them hitting it off quite well, too!). While we may never be able to return to the heyday of pre-war British motoring, Bertie Wooster and Captain Hastings will forever be shining of examples of the Thirties gentleman driver.
**If you enjoyed this post keep your eyes peeled for more of the same in the next issue of In Retrospect, due for æthereal publication on the 1st July!**