Leon’s first experience behind the wheel was in his father’s 1936 Ford V8, back when it was a nearly-new car. He sat between his father’s legs and controlled the steering wheel while his father operated the pedals. They drove like that from the family farm to Governors Bay, about ten kilometres of twisting and hilly gravel road not much more than one lane wide. They met one car, and passed safely.

Mike Hawthorn acknowledging good wishes in the pits before the 1955 Le Mans race (Photo Leon Witte).

Years later, Leon and his brother pooled their resources to buy a Singer Le Mans. It had had “more owners than years” and was a bit worn and shabby, but it went well. Being busy on the farm with little time for sports, Leon took up motor sport, as he could take part when it suited, and he started doing trials with the Canterbury Car Club. When the Singer’s differential started making ominous noises the car was exchanged for a fully rebuilt Ford Model A that should have been a good car, and yet Leon recalls it as being probably the worst car he’s ever driven.


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