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The $25 Pony Cart—in which little boys in sailor suits and little girls in straw hats with ball fringe on the brim used to ride down country lanes—is a thing of the past. Sailor suits and fringe-trimmed hats are hard to find nowadays, and country lanes themselves are getting scarcer; and the $25 pony that used to draw the cart cannot be found at all. What you can find, though it sounds improbable, is a single Shetland pony which sold, not long ago, for $56,000. It was the highest price ever paid in the history of the breed.
The pony's name is C-Jo's Topper. He is a 5-year-old sorrel stallion, with a white mane and tail, and he stands 41 inches high. He is not, of course, the stocky, stiff-haired kind of Shetland pony that makes a fine children's pet. He is a show pony, as delicately made as any Thoroughbred or Arabian horse, and he steps high in fancy harness, drawing a little buggy around a show ring. That is, he did, from the time he was six months old until quite recently, and over the years he acquired a vast collection of honors: 83 top awards, including five grand championships at various shows, the national grand championship of 1956 and 28 blue ribbons for solo performances. Because of his show record and his topflight pedigree, Topper's stud fee is $1,000, and his stud book is full through July 1958.
The sale at which Topper brought his record price took place at an auction in Perry, Okla. on a day when the temperature reached 107�. A five-man syndicate (four Louisianans, one Georgian) did the buying and were glad to get Topper at the price; they were prepared to pay more. Four of the members paid their shares over to the fifth, who then made out a single check for $56,000. Topper's former owners, Mr. and Mrs. Clifton C. Teague of Sherman, Texas, wanted it that way. They felt, reasonably enough, that a photostatic copy of the check would make a nice memento.
But what about the stocky, amiable children's pony, Topper's more muscular and less elegant cousin? Well, there are more of those around than ever before, and the demand for them is steady. (Pony prices used to drop off in the winter, when pony-ride concessions shut down and sold off their animals, but they don't any more.) The suburban market is booming. So is the giveaway market: ponies make good prizes for children's contests and television shows. They don't cost much, yet parents accept them happily as prestige items and children ecstatically as dreams-come-true. Prices range from $250 to $300, and nice carts with wicker bodies are available at $275. This is, admittedly, a considerable advance beyond the prices of 1902. But one thing hasn't changed at all over the years: maintenance. A handful of oats still goes a long way with a pony. Give him plenty of hay and water, and he lives happily on next to nothing, just as he did in the time of Queen Victoria.
Stirling Moss, England's leading sports-car driver, is a cool sort of fellow and a very competent man at the wheel of a howling-fast automobile—a fortnight ago, in fact, he beat the all-but-unbeatable Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina in Italy's Grand Prix of Pescara. He is 27 years old but seems older, partly because he is bald and partly because he has an air of reserve; when one meets him it is impossible to be surprised by the fact that he drifted into racing only after failing to satisfy earlier ambitions to become 1) a dentist and 2) a hotel manager. Also, Moss is a small man—he stands only 5 feet 7. This combination of size and temperament brought him from Europe to do a job of work last week at Utah's white, smooth Bonneville Salt Flats.
A curious, hopped-up version of the English MG sports car—a machine especially tailored to fit his body-awaited him. The car was shaped like a tear and painted light blue; it stood only three feet off the ground, its power plant was placed amidships and in front of it, beneath a Plexiglas bubble, was just space enough to allow Moss to recline almost supine, like a man on a chaise longue, and drive. The car had only one brake, a single disc mounted inboard to apply pressure on the rear wheels; a body flap was built to open and supply it with cooling air when applied. The supercharged and "modified" engine built around a little four-cylinder MG block (and cooled by two radiators) was formidable indeed; the tiny car's gear-shifting speeds: 59 miles an hour for first to second, 103 for second to third, 159 from third to top.
The MG factory had built the "Experimental 181" to break the world Class F record for the flying mile, 203.9 miles an hour, set by an earlier MG. Moss set out for Utah, only minutes after his dramatic victory over Fangio, as phlegmatically as a plumber leaving to install a new type of dishwasher in a model kitchen. He made a four-hour drive to Rome, got a plane for London at 4 o'clock in the morning, duly arrived, went to his office, spent the day involved in paper work, caught a transatlantic plane, went soundly to sleep and—after various plane changes—arrived in Utah at 10 the next night. He went to bed and to sleep again, hopped out at 5 and reported briskly for work.
Delays ensued—the gleaming salt was moist from rain, and three days finally elapsed before the test was made. Moss was unperturbed. He has, he says, never been nervous before a race. "I would worry only if a vulture plopped down on the bumper before the race. You see, I'm very superstitious." He seemed absolutely uninterested in the condition of the hot little car. "My job is to drive. I really know very little about what the others are doing."
He drove up and down the 10-mile course a few times to get the feel of the car and then, at 6:30 in the evening, went yowling off toward the measured mile in earnest. The car refused to stay in third gear; he matter-of-factly shifted from second to high and pressed on. In a half hour he was back with five new records: 245.64 mph for one kilometer, 245.11 for the flying mile, 243.08 for five kilometers, 235.69 for five miles, 224.70 for 10 kilometers.