July 13, 2007

Nicholas Stoodley - Living in the Twilight Zone Chapter 10

Tune in every Saturday as Nicholas recalls the Disco Decade in Manila when Martial Law, Cuban heels, Donna Summer, Coco Banana and a lot of hair combined in a frenzy of uncertain excitement.

Chapter 10 - The Moon Leopard

The basic problem with having been born Nicholas Stoodley is that I don't seem to know any limitations; this combined with a very adventurous nature has allowed me to often stray where angels (for very good reason) fear to tread!

Jean Guy Jules was a French photographer who was in the Philippines in the early 80's looking for a flying saucer which had crashed just off the north east coast of the country....I guess this should have warned me. But it didn't of course! I had met him in a bar in Malate and discovered quite quickly that we had a common interest in drinking large quantities of red wine and it was thus, one drunken evening, that we decided that we should go into business together. We had somehow concluded that what the world needed was a four wheel drive, stainless steel. sports jeep and that we would build it in Manila. Knowing basically absolutely nothing at all about cars in general, let alone designing one, this was a pretty reckless thing to do! Mind you I had never played basketball in my life but that hadn't stopped me winning the PBA 2nd Conference! As I mentioned. No limitations.

It was amazing how quickly we had convinced ourselves as to the viability of our project but then again the wine was doing most of the speaking for us. I had come up with the name "Moon Leopard" and thus having achieved the most important part of the project, the name, we drank a bottle of Champagne to celebrate and saw in the dawn convinced that we'd make it to the Moon and back and then some! If faith alone could move mountains then we were on a roll!

Several days later I had actually designed the Moon Leopard's bodywork. It looked rather like an evil 1930's futuristic toaster on wheels! All we had to do then was manufacture a prototype! If life could be that simple! After several weeks of searching we came across "Nandings Jeeps" out near Bicutan somewhere. Manufactured in an atmosphere that lent itself to a feeling that one had somehow entered a time-warp and had been catapulted back to the times of Charles Dickens, the factory (I use the term liberally) was situated close enough to Muntinlupa Prison to cement the earnest belief that indeed THIS was where the Moon Leopard would be born. It was redolent with atmosphere and appealed to us as being such an improbable venue to manufacture what the world was waiting for that it just HAD to be the place. Bizarre how our minds worked in those days but then it was probably a direct consequence of too much wine in the blood!

A photograph taken at the cargo section of the airport where they are preparing the Moon Leopard for its trip to Frankfurt. It was a magnet for people wanting to pose in front of it (as you can see).

The floor of Nanding's factory was compacted earth cemented together with decades of congealed detritus from, well, one couldn't quite imagine. I had looked up through the gloom to the corroded galvanized iron roof and noticed gigantic spider webs, concealing, no doubt, gigantic spiders. Was this how Henry Ford started out? There was dust everywhere and the noise of banging and grinding and cursing and the radio at full blast combined in a miasma of horror as far as I was concerned but Jean Guy had a dedicated look upon his furrowed face as, with his heavily accented English, he tried to explain to Nanding what we wanted him to do for us. Nanding had looked initially amused, then, quickly, anxious. Lastly he had obviously decided we were quite insane and indeed we were! Finally Jean Guy had presented a roll of banknotes and Nading's face erupted in smiles. Of COURSE we were crazy but business was business. We had a manufacturer!

It all sounds totally crazy of course but actually we weren't insane at all, merely excessively adventurous! We had imported a Renegade Jeep from Renault in Paris and we were going to strip it down to the chassis, put on our body and then send it to Paris where Renault would put in a special engine that was used in the Renault Alpine and then, amazingly, it would be shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany! Actually it's quite incredible what can be achieved by setting out with a good idea and no limitations coupled with a firm belief in yourself! But then reality set in and reality nearly killed me.

Previously: Chapter 9 - Camelot Part 2

Start from the beginning! Read: Chapter 1 - An English Virgin

Nicholas Stoodley was born near London and has lived at one time or another in the South of France, Rome, Sydney, Tagaytay, England, Paris and Manila with plans to move to Ibiza shortly. A former assistant to Valentino in Rome, he arrived in Manila in 1976 and pioneered Ready to Wear in the Philippines with the NICHOLAS STOODLEY brand of casual clothing. During his stay in the Philippines Nicholas also won the PBA Invitational Basketball Conference in 1980 with his team from Los Angeles, designed and manufactured a Stainless Steel Sports Utility Jeep that was featured in the Frankfurt Motor Show and opened "Skatetown", a Roller Disco with Jorge Araneta in Cubao. And that was just the first course!

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Jonathan said...

Nicolas, I am a very old friend of Jean-Guy Jules, including travelling in Africa in many jeeps, canoes and lorries together, as well as many other adventures. I know about his trip to Pakistan in a reconditioned jeep. Do you have any idea how I can email or call him - I would love to speak with him again!

Thanks, Jonathan Krown

Nicholas Stoodley said...

Hello Jonathan,

I have lost contact however a friend of his that I know in Australia may well have an e-mail address. You may email me at: Nicholas.stoodley@gmail.com, and let's see if I can put you in touch. By the way, where in the world are you situated? Thought that if you were in Manila then we could get together!

Anonymous said...

My name is jacques bedfert i have bought the first moon léopard,this is the jean guy jules'car if you want his email send me a message jbedfert@aol.com thanks

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