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Motor racing expert and Lotus sports car specialist, 73, is killed at his Grade II-listed home when shotgun goes off in his face as he cleans it

  • Bobby Bell, 73, died at the farmhouse he shared with his wife Aline on Monday
  • The 72-year-old was cleaning a shotgun when it accidentally went off in his face
  • Medics rushed to scene in Shamley Green, Surrey but he was pronounced dead
  • It is understood that his wife was at home when accidental shooting took place

A retired motor racing expert has been killed the shotgun he was cleaning went off in his face.

Robert 'Bobby' Bell, 72, died at the farmhouse he shared with his wife Aline on Monday when the gun accidentally fired, leaving him with catastrophic head injuries.

Police and paramedics were called to Madgehole Farm in Shamley Green, Surrey just after 2.30pm, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. 

It is understood that his wife was also at home when the accidental shooting took place on a quiet road where the average home costs £2.1million.

Robert 'Bobby' Bell, 72, died at the farmhouse he shared with his wife Aline on Monday afternoon when the gun accidentally went off

Robert 'Bobby' Bell, 72, died at the farmhouse he shared with his wife Aline on Monday afternoon when the gun accidentally went off

Mr Bell's body was taken to the mortuary at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, where a post-mortem examination will be carried out.

An inquest was expected to be opened and adjourned to a later date. The death was not being treated as suspicious.

The 72-year-old launched his firm Bell and Colvill as a Lotus dealer in 1970 with business partner Martin Colvill, having sold the British-made sports cars since 1965. 

In an autobiographical section on his former company's website, Mr Bell revealed his love of cars and motor racing which led him to a career in selling Lotus sports vehicles.

'School for me rather got in the way of my passions,' he said.

'First it was model aeroplanes and then pretty soon after it was cars. Whatever it is I'm into, I'm really into, so as soon as I could I got my first car – an MG J2.

'I stripped it to bare metal and rebuilt it and the day I passed my test I took it out for the first time – and drove it straight into a milk float. It didn't put me off.

'I sold the bits and got an M-type. Then a Magnette, and then a Lotus Seven.. At last I could do the one thing I wanted more than anything else – to go motor racing.

Mr Bell's body was taken to the mortuary at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, where a post-mortem examination will be carried out

Mr Bell's body was taken to the mortuary at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, where a post-mortem examination will be carried out

'I turned my back on a career in architecture (the course was much too long) and got a job as a salesman with Coombs the Jaguar dealers in Guildford, Surrey – with their racing 3.8s and Lightweight E-types it was a way of getting close to the action.

'I drove my Lotus Seven to work during the week and raced it at weekends, and in 1962 I had my first sports car race.

'A front-engined Lola followed the Seven and then a mid-engined Piper – and suddenly I was racing the likes of [two-time Formula One world champion] Jim Clark in support races at the British Grand Prix, and getting paid to do it. That was how things were in the 1960s.'

He explained that he first met his business partner at a Lotus dealership in Purley, Surrey, in the mid 1960s when Mr Colvill was a customer before eventually opening for business as Bell and Colvill Ltd, Lotus dealers.

'There was so much pent-up energy and enthusiasm that for the first nine years we couldn't do a thing wrong, despite the awful recession and three-day week,' he added.

Police and paramedics were called to Madgehole Lane (pictured) in Shamley Green, Surrey just after 2.30pm, but he was pronounced dead at the scene

Police and paramedics were called to Madgehole Lane (pictured) in Shamley Green, Surrey just after 2.30pm, but he was pronounced dead at the scene

'Our secret? Hard graft. In our enthusiasm we worked seven days a week. Failure was never an option.'

He continued: 'As enthusiasts ourselves we have only ever wanted to sell real driver's cars even though these marques haven't always been the easiest to deal with. That's kept us on our toes.

'It might have been easier but I would never have wanted just to sell just another boring car. We have always gone for the enthusiast marques, not just sports cars but also Saab and Subaru. I think we are the free spirits of the car world.

'Of course we haven't just sold cars. We have modified them too – we did a turbocharged Esprit well before Lotus ever did – and tuned them and come up with accessories.

'The way buyers could personalise the first [Lotus] Elise with Bell and Colvill accessories was groundbreaking. Because we drive, and have raced, these cars ourselves we know what it is they need.'

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Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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