After several editions, including German and Japanese translations, the Fiat book is still in print. It was the starting point of Malcolm’s long relationship with Veloce, and a portfolio now comprising some sixteen titles, a number of which have entered multiple editions with several released as eBooks. Malcolm’s diverse interests are evident in the subjects he has tackled, which include London taxicabs, austerity motoring, three-wheelers, and British lorries, as well as Essential Buyer’s Guides, and in-depth books on Karmann Ghia Volkswagens, VW Buses, Rover, Citroën, Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Numerous other works bring the total number of Malcolm Bobbit titles to over thirty.
My love of motor vehicles and motoring stems from my parents having never owned a car, regardless of my encouragement to do so. As a child, my constant pleading for them to buy a ‘sit-up-and-beg’ Ford Prefect fell on deaf ears, and it was that which determined me to acquire a car of my own as soon as I was able.
Looking back to around 1962, it seems ludicrous that I contemplated buying a car before I was old enough to learn to drive. It’s even more incredible that, along with a friend, I got as far as setting off to do a suspicious deal involving what must have been some wretched example of a prewar machine.
A study of the local paper’s ‘motors for sale’ section had revealed a plethora of Austin Sevens and Morris Eights on offer in exchange for a crisp fiver, no questions asked. Real luck would have been meeting the owner of an advertised car in a pub, and the dubious deal being done for no more than the price of a pint of Watneys, but the plan in this instance was to meet the vendor of an Austin Seven outside a hostelry a mile or so away from home, hand over £5 and push the vehicle home, as there were no hills along the route. Exactly what we would do with the wreck once it was in our possession hadn’t occurred to us, but all went well until our fathers suddenly arrived on the scene at an inappropriate moment and quashed all hope of the deal being done.
I bought my first car in March 1967. I handed over a hard-earned £350 for what appeared to be a clean four-year old Morris 1100, but actually, it transpired, had been denied sympathetic maintenance. It suffered from all sorts of the ailments for which the earliest examples of these models were notorious, and all the more scarily, it rode on re-tread tyres that, during the first long run I made in the car, began to fragment. The experience with the 1100 was a lesson in how to part with money, and it wasn’t long before the offending machine was part-exchanged for a 1966 Austin Cambridge.”
What I really longed for was a Citroën DS, as I remembered seeing these spaceship-like cars when they first made their appearance on Britain’s roads. Their unusual styling, along with the ability to seemingly waken and rise from a recumbent position before wafting along with all the ease of a magic carpet, had made a huge impression. I couldn’t afford one, let alone pay for its maintenance and running costs, so I settled for a brand new two-cylinder air-cooled Dyane 6, which was the slightly upmarket version of the 2CV.
It was the early 1970s, I had left home, and the frugal Citroën was an intrinsic part of my independence. The minimal motoring ethos blended in with my lifestyle, and it wasn’t long before I was embarking on long trips, such as completing the End-to-End run (then known as Le Jog) in under twenty-four hours and without using motorways. Leaving Lands End at six in the evening, I somehow managed to arrive at John o’ Groats twenty-two hours later. The grandest expedition was navigating a tortuous route through Europe to Norway’s North Cape, to arrive there on the longest day of the year. The three-week adventure, comprising some 3500 miles, was made without even a puncture.
The many Citroëns in my life have included two ‘Maigret’ Traction Avants, a brace of 2CV vans, a now rare split-screen H-van, a CX, a sporty GS, an XM and, currently, a C6. There have been other cars, such as an early ’50s Fiat 500C Topolino, an Austin Metro, a couple of Fords, a Rover, and a wonderfully reliable Renault 4 that gave many thousands of trouble-free miles until it fell apart after even the rust had disintegrated. There’s always one car that rules the heart and not the head, and in my case it was a 1951 Bentley Mark VI. I saw the car at a classic car show and did the deal on impulse. I still remember the look of horror on my wife’s face as I arrived home with it.
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