The Writings of Ingrid Pitt

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Ingrid's Obituary


If Only....

Ingrid laments getting rid of some tasty cars she has owned and laments that she never got some high profile autographs to put aside for her old age.
Rover 16 Convertible

The real 'if only'. The Rover was one of a kind and I have been told that it would be worth tens of thousands now. What a car! I still remember zooming around in it before it disintegrated.

I suppose it comes to everybody sooner or later. A time when you look back and say, “if only”. At one time my ‘if only’ usually concerned cars. When I first arrived in England way back in 1968 I was bowled over by the large number of really juicy cars still on the road. I rather slavered over a Silver Ghost Rolls Royce, still reasonably priced at the time. But not reasonable enough for my budget - so I bought a boat-back Austin Seven for £155. I had a great time with it until it turned nasty on me. I was going downhill at a modest pace. The modesty got a little out of hand so I put my foot on the brake in the hope of bringing a little old fashioned stability to the situation. There was a bowel wrenching sound, a cross between a guitar string snapping and a tendon bursting, and the only control I had left was between the steering wheel and the gear box. Both animals of a faint hearted nature. So I did what I always do in fraught conditions - shut my eyes and had a rapid fox-hole conversion. When I next looked we had hit bottom C and were running out of puff on the up slope. I never trusted her after that. But what a prize she would be now. My next ‘if only’ is a Rover 16 convertible. Wonderful looker. Headlamps to make Jayne Mansfield feel undernourished. It had a wind down hood, leather upholstery, aluminium on wood bodywork and a self lubricating system. It had stood on blocks in a garage since the owner had gone off to war in 1942. He was a paratrooper and never returned. It wasn’t until his mother died that the car saw the light of day again - and I happened to be standing in its shade. So I made an offer of £100 and was surprised when it was accepted. It was the most beautiful car I had ever seen. The bonnet was from here to eternity. But of course, like everything else, it had a dark side. If wood can be described as a ‘dark side’. Once I had polished it up and got it back on the road the body literally fell to pieces. The wood had dried out and lost all its resilience. The boot was the first to drop. I got a friendly garage mechanic to bolt it together but it couldn’t be opened after that. Then the doors became obstinate and the wings began to flutter up and down more ferociously than a Mallard duck on finals. Why didn’t I just stick it in a barn and leave it there for a time when I could plan its renaissance? Like these rich blokes do when they get cryogenically frozen. Instead I sold it to a hotshot who chopped off all the beautiful but decrepit bodywork and took it to motor cross meetings.

Ingrid and Juan Manual Fangio

Tea at Browns Hotel with Juan Manual Fangio

Next up was a Bentley R Type. I wasn’t too taken with its looks - but it was a Bentley. I remember the first time I took it out on my own. I’m not that short but behind the huge steering wheel I took on the stature of a pygmy. And corners! I don’t think there was a pavement corner in London that I didn’t get the two nearside wheels across at some time. I knew it had to go when I was working out at Elstree studios and I ran over the gate keeper’s foot. I never realised until that time how colourful colloquial English could be. ‘If only’ I’d persevered and tamed it to only savaging pavements it would be worth a fortune. And what about the Model T Ford Tonio bought me in Argentina as a birthday present. Most terrifying moment of my automotive life was when I took it out on the streets of Buenos Aires. Well, it wasn’t even the streets really. Palermo Park. Tonio insisted that until I got used to the intricacies of the controls I needed to keep it simple. We took Pablo Brea, and Argentine racing ace, along with us and he confessed when we finally stopped that it have been the most terrifying time of his life as well.. Wimp!

I had successfully shoved all those fantastic automobiles to the back of my mind and had curtailed ‘‘if only’s’ to a passing moment of idle retrospection until I was looking at the autographs on the Autographs Ink stand at the Memorabilia show and realised that if I had kept the cars and had the foresight to have an autograph book handy throughout my career I would be heading into the sunset with my future assured. For instance Elvis Presley. His moniker changes hands at a cool couple of grand and upwards. Why didn’t I whack a load of 10” X 8” in front of him and say “Sign”.? I was in a karate dojo with him in LA and even got to do a kata or two with him. And I had a morale advantage over him. He kicked me in the boobs on one occasion. He was terribly apologetic. That was the time when I should have moved in on him and demanded a couple of dozen signatures. And what about Clint Eastwood? The first time I met him was about half an hour after my arrival in Austria to begin work on WHERE EAGLES DARE. I was in the bar knocking back a fortifying brandy when he strolled in and said. “ Hi, Doll. I guess you must be Heidi”. I put my hands up to that. He ordered a beer, looked me over and said, “ Fancy running into Munich for the Bambi Ball tonight?”. I considered.

Juan Manual Fangio in Maserati

The Maestro Juan Manuel in his Maserati (I hope).

Clint and I had some history going back a while. To the birth of my daughter Steffi in fact. It was in his Rawhide days. Heavily pregnant I was staying in a log cabin in the hills of Colorado. Exactly why I can’t remember. I was watching my favourite TV show, Rawhide. Clint had just been collared by a bunch of bad guys and was being strung up to the branch of a tree when the first pain hit. I lost interest after that. I thought about Clint’s proposal. I wanted to go but I was on set at the crack of dawn and I had some work to do before that. I temporised. “What happened after they strung you up? ” I asked . I knew it was a dumb question as soon as it fed its way past my incisors. He looked at me blankly. “In Rawhide.” I dug the hole deeper. He shook his head and I could see he was wondering where I was coming from. “Dunno, doll” he grunted, put his empty tankard on the table, gave me a nervous twitch and left. I looked after him and guessed that he had withdrawn his offer of a rave-up at the Bambi Ball. In spite of the dodgy start we did become good friends. When we came back to England to top and tail the film he even invited me down to Brands Hatch. He had found out that you could test drive bikes there on Wednesday and he wanted to try out the new Norton he had acquired as part of his deal with MGM. I didn’t know that he had been expressly forbidden to ride the bike by the producer, Eliot Kastner. The insurance wouldn’t cover the picture if Clint had a purler and injured himself. So there was I sitting on the pillion seat being whirled around the Kent race track when Eliot, who’d had his ear blown in by a Quisling type, stormed up to the barriers and waved us in. He think he blamed me for leading the poor boy astray. I should have made Clint pay for letting me take the flak by demanding that he signed me a couple of score of his pictures. All I got was a 8” X 6”. And he didn’t even sign his whole name - just Clint.

Model T Ford

In Palermo Park, Buenos Aires with back seat drivers Tonio and Pablo.

But I do have one on two pieces I cherish. Juan Manuel Fangio the Argentinian five times motor racing champion, had a habit of ringing me in the middle of the night if he wanted me to send him something from London. “Ingreeeed corazon.....” was his opening line. I had a few photocalls with him when he came to London and he graciously signed a pic or two for me. And Dougie Bader. I was doing some publicity for WHO DARES WINS. Part of which was swanning around the country in a helicopter doing photo-calls with Lewis Collins. We visited the HMS Fearless - where I got a pair of lace knickers with FEARLESS across the crotch - and then we were scheduled to fly on to RAF Manston to meet the legless Battle of Britain ace, Douglas Bader. Lewis got himself into a boys thing with the crew of the Fearless and consequently we were late at Manston and the Group Captain had left. I was devastated.. But he did leave me a picture of the Spitfire signed by himself and the Commanding Officer of Manston, Buster Skinner. I’ve also got a letter from Prince Rainier of Monaco, half a dozen from motor racing champ Graham Hill, a signed serviette from Jimmy Clark, double world champion, a golf ball inscribed by Argentine golf champion, Vicente Fernandes and a couple of smoochy signed pix of Peter Cushing and me that I wouldn’t sell for the world. Unless I got the offer I couldn’t refuse, of course. But I still wonder about all those ‘’if only’s’.

Model Mart - July 2002

The Writings of Ingrid Pitt