Bonhams MPH Says 'Hello Min' to ex-Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan Austin


A pre-war Austin owned for many years by comedy greats Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, named 'Old Min' after one of their famous 'Goon Show' characters, is to be offered at the Bonhams MPH Sale on 22 May at Bicester Heritage, with an estimate of £25,000 – 35,000 at no reserve.

The 1930 Austin Heavy Twelve Open Road 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'."

Williams was reunited with 'Old Min' some years later when he became acquainted with a subsequent owner. He purchased the Austin in 2010 before embarking on a painstaking 'RS Williams quality' three-year restoration worthy of Sellers' famously exacting standards, at a cost of £45,000. The 1,861cc engine, good for a top cruising speed of 45mph was rebuilt by Vintage-era Austin specialist, Bob James.

Used sparingly since, the Austin is offered in fully operational condition with an extensive history file including old photographs with its famous owners and an original handbook inscribed 'Property of Spike Milligan – please return'.

Rob Hubbard, Head of Bonhams MPH, said: "Rarely do pre-war Austins get lavished with the attentions of firstly an international film star and more recently of a world-class luxury car specialist restorer. It must surely be the most desirable Heavy Twelve extant and we are looking forward to it taking centre stage when it crosses the block at Bicester."

The Austin will line up with an array of modern, popular and historic collectors' cars and vehicles offered in the Bonhams MPH May sale on Saturday 22 May which will be staged as a Live and Online drive-through auction, held in The Hangar at Bicester Heritage. Online, telephone and absentee bids will be accepted, as well as bids from clients in the saleroom if local Covid-related guidelines allow.

All lots including 'Old Min' will be available to view onsite on Friday 21 May. In addition, live and interactive video condition reports and enhanced online 'walk around video' preview content will be made available to bidders.

Contact [email protected] to register or to discuss consigning your modern classic or historic collectors' vehicle to the sale.

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