Sat Dec 14 2013 15:52:48 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)
Cars played a major role in the life of Peter Sellers. Classic Driver takes a look into his garage – with the help of the man who managed his collection while the limelight shone brightest…
That man is Richard Williams, who subsequently set up Classic Driver dealer R.S. Williams. “I got to know Peter when I was doing my Aston apprenticeship at Feltham; I then finished my apprenticeship at Newport Pagnell and was offered a job looking after his cars,” says Richard.
Being a celebrity in the 60s, it’s little surprise that Sellers had a thing for Ferraris. Among his collection was a 500 Superfast, a 275 GTB and a 250 GT/E, the latter making a cameo appearance in ‘The Wrong Arm of the Law’ – a film which saw another of Sellers’ cars, an Aston Martin DB4 GT, put to work as a getaway vehicle.
Sellers also had a taste for Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, owning a Park Ward S1 Continental, a ‘Chinese Eye’ S3 and several Silver Clouds. But his love for traditional British machinery didn’t end there: “Peter was a huge Bristol fan, and also had several Radford Minis,” says Williams. In fact, some credit Sellers with creating the market for customised Minis, having commissioned Hooper to build him a bespoke version in 1963 – the final cost amounting to almost four times that of the standard car.
“It’s pretty strange that out of all these cars, a 1930 Austin nicknamed ‘Old Min’ was his favourite,” says Richard. “He called me one day to ask me to deliver Old Min to Spike Milligan’s house as a present – the two were great friends. About a week later, he called me again: ‘I want you to collect Old Min from Spike’s house, I’m having it back. He’s left it out in the rain, and replaced the temperature gauge [mounted where a Spirit of Ecstasy would usually sit] with a coffee percolator’.
Williams has less fond memories of Peter’s Riva Junior boat: “I was flung off it in the bay of St Tropez,” he remembers. “It had just been put on the water, and his chauffeur was moving it clear of the mooring. Seeing me standing up, Peter took the controls and opened the throttle.” Peter was known for his pranks, having previously asked Spike Milligan to climb into the boot of his 500 Superfast with a torch to look for a non-existent squeak – perhaps as payback for the mistreatment of ‘Old Min’.