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Author`s 40-year search for story behind `Chitty Chitty Bang Bang`

18-Aug-2008 • Literary

Almost everyone will have seen the film Chitty Bang Bang and can even hum the theme tune, but few know the story behind the story - reports Hunts Post.

After nearly 40 years of research, Upwood author David Paine, has published just that - a book which traces the family behind the cars and their extraordinary lifestyle.

The Zborowski Inheritance tells the story of the Sabriskie/Zborowski family - who went on to build the famous racing cars featured in Ian Fleming's book.

It starts in 1638 when Albert Sabriskie fled Poland to live in America and follows the family into their lives as millionaires.

Mr Paine, who is also chairman of Upwood Parish Council, said he has taken four decades to finish the book because at one point the trail went completely cold.

He told The Hunts Post: "I started by interviewing the people who knew the family who were then in their 60s and 70s, but once I had done that, I realised I didn't know where else to go.

"Then with the coming of the internet, I realised I could type in 'Zborowski' and find they were in New Hampshire and New York. Suddenly in 2001, there was an explosion of information."

Mr Paine, 72, a retired manager and accountant has always written as a hobby and is a member of a creative writing group in Ramsey.

He discovered that although Albert Sabriskie arrived in America penniless, he started farming in New Jersey and was soon earning enough to get married and start a family.

His sons followed in his footsteps, becoming wealthier through each generation. When Martin Sabriskie died in 1875 he left around £44m to his son, Elliott, and daughter Anna and decreed that Elliott adopt the title Count and change his name to Zborowski.

Elliott was a playboy, keen on hunting, polo and travel until in 1899 he found an interest in cars and bought a De Dion. His enthusiasm for motor sport was born and in 1902 he came second in the Paris to Vienna Road Race, driving a 40 horse power Mercedes.

In April 1903 he entered the infamous hill climb up the Corniche Road from Nice to La Turbie, driving a 60 horse power Mercedes. On the first bend he lost control and was killed.

He left a widow, the Countess Margaret and an eight-year old-son Louis.

Louis grew up wanting to drive a Mercedes factory team car - and after the Great War, in 1919, started building Chitty Bang Bang, using a 10-year-old chassis and an aeroplane engine.

He raced this monster at Brooklands, along with some of his collection of other cars, but that did not satisfy him, so he built another car, called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

But his ambition was to drive for Mercedes and in 1924 he got the opportunity to enter the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. On the 44th lap he lost control and was killed.

The car, left derelict for years in a garage in Kent, was restored after a chance discovery by an enthusiast, Peter Harris Mayes. He was driving it near Sandwich in Kent one day when he stopped at a railway crossing and James Bond author Ian Fleming was behind him in the queue.

The two started talking about the car and from that Fleming wrote his children's book.

Mr Paine started his long affair with the family and the car in 1966 when he was asked to pick a motoring pioneer and write 1,500 words on him for a publisher he worked for.

"The publisher's original project never took off but the family has always held a fascination for me."

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