The 1930 Austin Heavy Twelve Open Tourer Deluxe, an example of the successful English touring car, was first acquired by Spike Milligan in the 1950s, when he was part of the popular and influential Goon Show radio programme along with Sellers. The car was named ‘Old Min’ after one of the show’s characters, Minnie Bannister, an elderly spinster played by Milligan himself.
Peter Sellers attained international fame for his film roles, notably as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther film series during the 1960s, but was also known as a car connoisseur, owning various exotic motor cars including Ferraris, Aston Martins and Rolls-Royces. However, he always coveted ‘Old Min’ and became its custodian when Milligan lost his driving licence in 1968.
The Austin was looked after by Richard Williams, the world-renowned Aston Martin specialist who effectively became the actor’s fleet manager, along with his other more exotic motor cars. Sellers kept the car until his death in 1980, apart from a brief episode in 1979 when he gave it back to Milligan. However, almost immediately Sellers reclaimed the car as he felt his friend was not caring for it properly.
“It’s pretty strange that out of all these cars, ‘Old Min’ was his favourite,” Richard Williams recalled: “He called me one day to ask me to deliver the car 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 on top of the grille] with a coffee percolator’."