You only Bond thrice

I grew up next door to James Bond.  This is true.  His parents had one of the best fish and chip shops in Preston.  Bond’s Chip Shop on St Gregory Road in Deepdale, barely two goal-kicks from the Preston North End football stadium, would boast queues doubling round the shop space and spilling outside onto the forecourt on matchdays and at other popular times.  Living next door to a takeaway had its drawbacks, but also benefits. It was highly convenient, and the fact that their cooking range adjoined our living room reduced our heating bills. We suffered from occasional litter and hungry punters squatting on our garden wall, but hey; live and let fry.

The shop was owned by Jenny and Alan Bond who named all their offspring with the same initial: J.  They called their eldest John, their daughter Julie and then along came twins who they named Jeffrey and . . . yes . . . James.   Some twenty years later James was stopped by traffic police for speeding on Blackpool Road.  One can only imagine the conversation.

The second Bond in my youthful life was the one still shared with millions – the spy who loved exotic locations, some of them geographic, and whose suave talent to avoid serious injury irrespective of endless life-threatening experiences, was an alluring inspiration for a backstreet boy whose dad delivered milk in a Morris Minor van.  The Bahamas, Istanbul, and Tokyo were as unattainable to me as 007’s Aston Martin, but we did have something in common.  I also had Bond car.  I frequently drove it on just three wheels.  In fact, I always drove it on three wheels.  It only had three wheels.

Part of a exhibition of Bond Car memorabilia at the Old Station cafe in Longridge, February 2019

Bond vehicles were designed and made in Preston.  They were manufactured by Sharp’s Commercials Ltd (renamed Bond Cars Limited in 1964), in Preston, Lancashire, between 1949 and 1966.  They were developed from a prototype built by Lawrence “Lawrie” Bond, an engineer from Preston who had worked as an aeronautical designer for the Blackburn Aircraft Company  before setting up a small engineering business in Blackpool. After the war he moved his company to Longridge where he built a series of small racing cars.  Bond vehicles were eventually manufactured on Ribbleton Lane in Preston.

His first touring cars were not unlike the well-known Reliant Robin (as seen in Only Fools and Horses on TV) and had a 125cc two-stroke engine but they eventually evolved into a much more sporty (but no more glamourous) machine fitted with an 875cc four-stroke Commer Imp van engine. They were no Aston Martin, but they could roll over like one, as I was to duly demonstrate.

A restored Bond Ranger Van. (Not mine, but the same model and year).

The Bond 875 had the same structural layout as used in the Hillman Imp car, with respect to the transmission, rear suspension and rear wheels: however, the Bond had a fibreglass body and aluminium doors, and weighed less than 400 kg (882 lb), and hence the performance was better than the Imp.  The racing driver John Surtees rocketed one round Brands Hatch at over a hundred miles per hour.  He took the bends, I bent the car.

I hasten to add that I was going much slower that Surtees, and was on a rural road, taking a tighter bend, and with much reduced driving experience, steering skill and common sense.

I had obtained my Bond 875 Ranger Van from my sister, who had driven it perfectly safely for some time.  I, however, was an immature senior teenager with two school friends on board.  I’d only had the car for a few days and was demonstrating the way its appearance belied its performance.  The problem was that it performed too well.  The fact that it only had one wheel at the front made it inherently unstable if any factor influenced its balance when cornering.

IMAG0828_1When cornering at speed three wheels are not as good as two; on a cycle or motorcycle leaning inwards counteracts the centrifugal reaction. The problem with a triangular wheelbase is that the centre of gravity is much closer to the boundaries of stability than it is for a vehicle with a rectangular footprint and a wheel in each corner.   Furthermore, there are only three points of contact with the tarmac: you only grip thrice.  This was autumn 1974 and wet leaves were on the ground.

I have no idea what triggered my accident other than youthful stupidity but suddenly I and my schoolfriends were upside down accompanied by the terrible scraping thunderball of fracturing fibreglass.  Then we were stationary and on one side. We climbed out through where the windscreen had been.

Like James Bond I escaped without a scratch, as did my two schoolmates, which was more than fortunate, something that I didn’t fully appreciate for some time.

We were given tea and biscuits by a local resident, and a benign and slightly amused police officer attended the scene but took no action.  I wanted him to ask me if I thought I was Bond, just so that I could say he lived next door, but he addressed that question to car, which answered truthfully.

Having walked away from the crash I knew I had another trauma to encounter – I had to tell my dad.  I walked home to find my father reading the newspaper. “This is going to need considerable forgiveness on your part,” I said.  He did not explode as I expected.  That happened three days later; but once he’d expressed his disappointment and anguish at how I might have brought about not only my own demise but that of my two passengers, he said no more about it.

I piloted the wreck as my father towed the car home, it’s fibreglass coachwork flapping in the slipstream that was funnelled through the gap where the windscreen had been. It then lived in the family garage for three months while best friend Bob, who was a fitter at the local British Aerospace plant, applied fibreglass patches, prized in a new windscreen and generally bashed and power-sanded it back into shape.  He named it The Flying Triangle.

IMAG1187_1Back on the road it manifested as a motorised slug with a skin disease, but I took great delight in showing that the slug could out-sprint a four-wheeled whippet; but I only ever risked significant speed in a straight line. Fortunately, its injuries where mostly cosmetic, though a wobble on the speedometer meant I had to guess my velocity by estimating an average of the vibratory deviations of the pointer, and the indicator lever tended to come off in my hand prior to triggering or cancelling the lights.

The Flying Triangle was the battered carriage in which I turned up to collect a date that I had been pursuing unsuccessfully for some time.  The fact that she came on board spoke volumes.  A good sign that she was the one for me, I thought.  I was right.  She still is. We went on many a date in the Triangle. On special occasions we would drive out in our glad rags for meals at country restaurants.  I would always search for the most dazzling car to park alongside.

The Flying Triangle

Unbelievably, the triangular Bond was stolen several times.  I used to drive it to college each day parking it in more or less the same place on Garden Street in the town centre.  One day I returned to find it gone.  I reported the theft to the police.  Later that day they phoned me back to say they had found it – in Garden Street.  I eventually discovered that it was being ‘borrowed’ on a regular basis by another schoolfriend who was gaining entry with a coat hanger, hotwiring the ignition and giving his associates lunchtime jaunts.  That friendship was terminated.

The car eventually conveyed me to Manchester University each Sunday and back to Preston each Friday so that I could see the girl who had deigned to be dated in the world’s most unglamorous Bond car.

Eventually the equilateral vehicle was sprayed and looked reasonably presentable.  With a heavy heart but strong desire to part, I put it into the local car auction, and stood nervously as the bidding crawled to fifty pounds where it stuck. “Sell it!” I whispered to the gold-fingered auctioneer.  “I can’t son,” he said. “I haven’t got a buyer.”

The following month I put it in the auction again.  This time it sold.  Fifty pounds, less commission. I bought a motorcycle, which worried my girlfriend’s parents, but I had learned my lesson: when bonding on corners: two wheels gripping, three wheels flipping.


easel Anson and rails with bridge

A masterpiece of mystery and espionage  

There is something for everyone in Untitled: lovers of spy thrillers will indulge in this chilling Cold War drama; fans of psychological thrillers will be blackmailed into every next chapter as they try to untangle the thickening web and hoarders of literary fiction will delight in its engaging prose. I was gripped from the very first to the last page.”

An extraordinary story that deserves to be better known. I was intrigued by the two main characters whose names were withheld, and the deepening mystery over the artist’s reason for choosing his muse. What starts as apparently a romantic encounter soon takes a sinister turn and there are plenty of twists to come.  It’s very well written and held my interest to the end. A compulsive read.”


Untitled paperback


Untitled eBook


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