Ever since its founding in 1903, the Chuffley-Waite Motorcar Company, Ltd. of Bumpford-on-Thames, England had been known for the very powerful motorcars which it produced. The sheer might of these cars was symbolised in the radiator ornament used - a nickel-plated locomotive. For many decades, these automobiles were purchased by men of power who could be seen roaring up and down the motorways forcing lesser cars off to the roadside, much like medieval times, when indentured serfs would throw themselves off the footpath, anxiously tugging their forelocks as royalty approached and passed.
The Chuffley-Waite was so famous that it was celebrated in many plays and songs, including the British version of Chuck Berry's 'Maybelline':
Now, as you all know from your history books, the Queen's Horsepower and Torque Act of 1957 placed prohibitive taxation on large, powerful road machines and it was precisely this Act which caused sales of C-W to plummet from 7,958 units in 1956 to less than 200 units in 1957. The company suffered great financial reverses, greater even than those during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Fearing the wrath of shareholders, Geoffrey St. James, the managing director, took bold steps to stem the tide of financial distress. Noticing that the sales of powerful American imports seemed unaffected by the Act, St. James decided to Americanise the Chuffley-Waite for 1958.
Summoning his chief designer, Nigel Humphreys, to his office, St. James ordered Humphreys to fit the car with four headlamps, large protruding tailfins and fat 9.00 x 15 US-made tyres mounted on chromium wheels with large protruding spinners. St. James then formed an alliance with the Lincoln-Mercury Division of the American branch of the Ford Motor Company and fitted the Chuffley-Waite with a 7-litre (430 cubic-inch displacement) V-8 engine and automatic transmission from the 1958 Lincoln.
The 1958 Chuffley-Waite was offered in American paint colours including salmon, turquoise, pink and plaid. When the new motorcar was introduced at the Fall show at Earl's Court in London, the British public was horrified. The very symbol of power of the British Empire had been desecrated and they stayed away in droves.
Sales were abysmal - virtually nonexistent. In fact, only four cars were produced in 1958 - a plaid supercharged close-coupled coupe for an anonymous Middle Eastern sheik, a dark blue parade phaeton for the Spanish dictator, Generalissimo Francisco Franco, a conservative dove-grey-over-charcoal saloon for St. James' wife, Phoebe, and a two-tone pink and fuchsia convertible drophead coupe for Marcel "Fifi" LaVache, the notorious Parisian transvestite.
Realizing that the company was in dire straits, the 83 year-old founder of the company, Sir Manfred Tidborne-Waite, OBE, emerged from his retirement, promptly sacked St. James and took over the reins of Chuffley-Waite. Alas, it was too late and, in April of 1959, the once-great Chuffley-Waite Motorcar Company Limited was liquidated for the benefit of its creditors.
Geoffrey St. James, however, had the last word - "April Fool!" (posted 4/1/07)