Count Louis Zborowski (20 February 1895 – 19 October 1924) was an English racing driver and automobile engineer.
His father, William Eliot Morris Zborowski (1858–1903) was also a racing driver, and died in a racing crash, in 1903 at La Turbie Hillclimb in Nice, France. His mother was a wealthy American heiress, born Margaret Laura Astor Carey (1853–1911), a granddaughter of William Backhouse Astor, Sr. and Margaret Rebecca Armstrong of the prominent Astor family. She had been Madame de Stuers before her divorce and marriage in 1882 to Eliot Zborowski.
After the death of his father in 1903, in 1910 his mother bought the Higham Park estate at Bridge near Canterbury in Kent. Paying £17,500 to the executors of the estate of London banker William Gay, the sale included a farm, 225 acres (91.1 ha) and twelve houses. Mrs. Zborowski immediately commissioned a £50,000 refurbishment of the house from the architect Joseph Sawyer.
On her death in 1911, 16-year old Louis instantly became the fourth richest under-21-year-old in the world, with cash of £11 million and real estate in the United States, including 7 acres (2.8 ha) of Manhattan and several blocks on Fifth Avenue, New York.
Early racing career
Zborowski's career as an amateur racing driver encompassed a wide experience of marques and events. He was an early patron of Aston Martin, and raced for them at Brooklands and in the 1923 French Grand Prix.
Zborowski designed and built four of his own racing cars in the stables at Higham Park, assisted by his engineer and co-driver Captain Clive Gallop, who was later racing engineer to the "Bentley Boys".
The first car was powered by a 23,093 cc six-cylinder Maybach aero engine and called "Chitty Bang Bang". A second "Chitty Bang Bang" was powered by 18,8828 cc Benz aero engine. A third car was based on a Mercedes 28/95, but fitted with a 14,778 cc 6-cylinder Mercedes aero engine and was referred to as the White Mercedes. These cars achieved some success at Brooklands.
Another car, also built at Higham Park with a huge 27-litre aero engine, was called the "Higham Special" and later "Babs" and was used in J.G. Parry-Thomas's fatal attempt for the land speed record at Pendine Sands in 1927.
In January 1922 Louis, his wife Vi, Clive Gallop and Pixi Marix together with a couple of mechanics took Chitty Bang Bang and the White Mercedes across the Mediterranean for a drive into the Sahara Desert, in the tracks of Citroën's Kégresse-track-equipped expedition.
Later career and death
In the 1923 Indianapolis 500 Zborowski drove a Bugatti. He drove in the 1923 Italian Grand Prix at Monza in a car designed by American engineer Harry Arminius Miller, the single-seat "American Miller 122".
Zborowski was a railway enthusiast and a 15 in (381 mm) gauge railway circuit, the Higham Railway, was built around his estate in Kent. This line was part of the inspiration behind the joint decision by Zborowski and his racing friend Captain J.E.P. Howey to construct a long-distance passenger-carrying railway line in the same gauge. Many locations were investigated, but this eventually led to the founding of the 14-mile (23 km) long Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway in Kent, which remains a popular tourist attraction and means of local transport. Zborowski ordered a steam locomotive from Bassett-Lowke, which ran on the Higham Railway in 1924. The locomotive was purchased by the Fairbourne Railway in Wales following the Count's death and named "Count Louis" in his honor. The locomotive remained at the Fairbourne until 1988. Zborowski also ordered the first locomotives for the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway from Davey Paxman & Co. of Essex. The order (and the project) was continued by Capt Howey alone, following the Count's death.
The children's book by Ian Fleming, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the subsequent musical film, were inspired by the romance of Zborowski's exploits. Fleming had watched Zborowski race at Brooklands as a school boy, and later visited Higham Park as a friend of its later owner, Walter Whigham the chairman of Robert Fleming & Co. merchant bank.
Indy 500 results