Count Louis Zborowski was a Polish nobleman and sportsman who lived in England during the first quarter of the twentieth century. His most lasting automotive legacy was four aero-engined high-performance hybrids, called "Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bangs." The cars were constructed with the help of Captain Clive Gallop, later to become one of the famed "Bentley Boys." Tragically, Zborowski was killed in a crash during the 1924 Italian GP while driving a Mercedes. Ironically, Louis died in the same way his father did, as Count Eliot Zborowski was killed behind the wheel of a Mercedes in the 1903 LaTurbie hillclimb.

Zborowski's first Chitty (which no longer exists, nor do Chitty III or IV) used a Maybach aviation engine. Chitty II, the car shown here, was built in 1921 and is powered by an 18.8-liter (that's 1,146 cubic inches, or two 8-liter Viper engines, an Alfa Montreal V8 and 18 cubic inches to spare) Benz aircraft engine of 230 bhp mounted on a stretched and strengthened chain-drive Mercedes chassis. In its debut at the famed Brooklands racing oval it was timed at over 108 mph. With its custom tourer body, this sports/racer was equally at home on road or track and made some forays into northern Africa and the European continent.

After the Count's death the car was sold to a private party. Subsequently it was bought by the legendary English motor trader "Bunty" Scott-Moncrief who sold it to a Dover resident. Eventually, the car made its way to the now-closed Ellenville Motor Museum in Ellenville, NY from where it was acquired by the Crawford Auto Collection of Cleveland.

SCM Analysis


This historic one-off motorcar represents a unique opportunity to own a legitimate early “supercar” which possesses wall-climbing power and is capable of a stirring performance in international rallies.

The car described here did not sell at a high bid of $1,100,000 at the New York Auto Salon & Auction held November 27 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan.

Reserve on the aircraft-engined monster was one and one-half million dollars and the Crawford Museum refused to budge from that figure. The car attracted international interest as it had not been available for many years. For instance, it was rumored that a prominent English museum wanted to bring it back home but could not find a financial angel to make this wish come true in time for the auction.

Make no mistake, these Chittys are far more serious bolides than Ian Fleming’s charming children’s story would have us believe. But, according to a source who drove the car on a major highway, Chitty II is surprisingly easy to handle. Not surprisingly, it just loves to run at speeds well above the posted limits and does so with ease and aplomb. It does not, however, look like the sort of machine that would be terribly agile on a twisty race track and might need articulation and a tillerman if used in this manner by a new owner.

So just what is this brawny one-off worth? Well, that’s the problem. It is a one-off. There are no close or recent comparisons. All that can be said for certain was that on the afternoon of November 27, 1999 it was worth $1.1 million plus 10% buyer’s premium to the high bidder. That would have netted the Crawford close to $1 million for the car after the commission was deducted. The reason this car and a number of other Crawford cars were being offered was to help finance a new facility for the museum. If the top bid on Chitty II could have made the difference between getting the job done or postponing it until more funds are in hand, maybe they should have given the auctioneer the nod and let their million-dollar hybrid go on down the road.-Dave Brownell

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