No surprise, then, that he could afford a good car. He bought a 3.4-litre Jaguar MKI from Woodhead’s Garage in Blackpool in 1959, and transferred his personalised plate, GF2, onto it.
Unfortunately, his enjoyment of the car was short-lived. On the August Bank holiday of 1959 – not long after he had bought it – Formby and his wife Beryl were driving along the A47 just past King’s Lynn, heading for Great Yarmouth where he was appearing at the Windmill Theatre.
At East Winch, an Austin A30 turned right while the Jaguar was overtaking and the two cars collided. The Formbys were taken to hospital in King’s Lynn suffering from shock.
At the subsequent court case, the A30 driver was found guilty of careless driving, with George paying tribute to the Jaguar’s stopping abilities, thanks to it having disc brakes on all four wheels.
“I hadn’t an earthly chance of avoiding him… it’s lucky I have a car with terrific braking power”, he said while giving evidence. Formby traded in the damaged car for a new Sherwood Green Jaguar MkIX from Mann Egerton in Norwich. The old Jaguar was repaired and sold on but was taken off the road in 1968. However, after a few decades, it was rescued and reunited with its GF2 numberplate in 2002.
Its restoration ran to 2500 hours. The car came to auction on January 30 with 71,506 miles on the clock and several items of Formby memorabilia.
Estimated at £30,000-50,000, it sold for £81,000 at Anglia Car Auctions (9.6% buyer’s premium inc VAT) of Norfolk.