Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sarkozy Supports Drive to Honour a Pioneer; Unsung Hero's Forgotten Years May Be Ending

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sarkozy Supports Drive to Honour a Pioneer; Unsung Hero's Forgotten Years May Be Ending

Article excerpt

Byline: Neil McKay

MOTORING enthusiast Jim Merrington has won the backing of the French president in his bid to honour an unsung hero who built his vintage car.

The retired brewery director has spent the last eight years writing a book about the life of Louis Janoir, a Parisian inventor and aviator who used an aluminium frame, cloaked in metal, to build a special car body in the style of his favourite aeroplane.

This created a forerunner of the modern car body shell more than 85 years ago. Jim, 70, said: "What started out as a 'who made my car?' project ended up revealing the life story of an unsung French hero.

"All his contemporaries were given the Legion of Honour or other awards but he was overlooked, so I sent the French president a copy of my book and asked him to lend support to a campaign to have Janoir honoured."

In a response from the Elysee Palace, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Chief of Staff - the Chef de Cabinet, Guillaume Lambert - said the president had asked him to give an assurance that he had given his attention to the book about their compatriot Louis Janoir and that he acknowledged the "expectations" of an award.

A delighted Jim, from Brancepeth near Durham City, said: "This is an excellent response. I think we can safely assume that we have the president on board.

"At least the name of Janoir has flashed across the president's desk and my book may even be on his coffee table."

With only a small Janoir signature badge on his 1926 Delage car as a clue, Jim started a search for information which took him and his wife Jean thousands of miles around Europe picking up snippets of information from vintage car enthusiasts.

Only three of Janoir's "Transformable Metallique" cars remain, one in the south of France, one in Holland and one in Brancepeth.

Jim explained: "Eventually I discovered Janoir's granddaughter in Paris and was able to fill in the gaps in my research. Janoir was an early aviator who flew with Bleriot and Pegoud and the other greats. …

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