The guy who really inspired it all was Louis Zborowski.
Born in 1895, Count Louis Vorow Zborowski was an English automobile engineer and race car driver. He was also the man whose inspired Ian Fleming to write Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the first place. The count would take to the idea of building his own racing cars, coming up with designs for four of them in his short life (he died at the age of 29 when he crashed into a tree during a race). These cars, which he called "Chitty Bang Bang," were equipped with aero engines to provide them with greater speed.