Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories
When the Museum acquired a group of press photos showing two left-hand-drive Interceptors, we wanted to find out more. Amongst various people photographed around the cars, one was none other than the former Jensen Motors Sales Manager, Tony Marshall.
A telephone call later, brought the story behind the photographs to life. Marshall’s ‘razor-sharp’ memories of the event make it feel as though it happened last week , not in excess of five decades ago.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Background
At the beginning of 2021, the Museum acquired an archive of material which had been removed from the Jensen factory in 1976, by Head of Maintenance, George Parker.
Amongst items in the archive, was a group of press photographs, obviously found within the Sales Department of the factory. The various photographs showed two left-hand-drive Interceptors.
The reverse of the photographs simply had the penciled note, ‘Austria 1969’. Amongst various people in the photographs, one was former Export Sales Manager (later Sales Manager), Tony Marshall.
A telephone call to Marshall, confirmed that Jensen Motors did a Press Launch in Austria in 1969. Having scanned and sent some of the images across to Marshall, his memory started to open up, and the story of the only Austrian Press Launch unfolded.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Focus On Europe
When I was appointed Export Sales Manager in 1968, there were only three overseas Jensen Agents/Importers. The oldest, Jensen Motors in Auckland, had been representing Jensen in New Zealand since 1955 (proprietor Ross Jensen having been attracted by the name and, of course, the 541 car).
However, since import restrictions for fully built cars were severe, very few 541s found their way there.
As a result of the West Bromwich factory’s involvement with Vignale, an agreement with an Italian company, Sincar, had given them sales rights for sales of Jensen cars in Europe.
An Interceptor had been shown at the Motor Show in Geneva in 1967, and three distributors for Jensen cars sold by Sincar were in operation. These were in Germany, France and Belgium, the latter two were also both US Chrysler agencies.
The Belgian and French importers had been, and were selling Interceptors. I have no record of the German company at all, and they were considered redundant. With Sincar now out of the equation, it was down to Jensen Motors to move forward in the European market – and this is where I came in.
My first priority as Export Sales Manager, was to expand Jensen coverage in Europe. Although sales forecasts for Europe were very low (for example Rolls Royce only sold about ten cars a year to Germany and France), I wanted to make sure of service coverage for local and visiting owners in as many European countries as possible.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | New Austrian Distributor
By 1968, the famous turnaround man, Carl Duerr, was the new Managing Director at Jensen Motors.
He had been part of the team implementing the post-war American Marshall Plan based in Austria, and he used his past connections to forge a link with the Chrysler importers F M Tarbuk in Vienna.
The Company had been formed in 1920 by Fritz Tarbuk. He quickly managed to take on various car dealerships.
By the 1930s, Tarbuk had expanded his car dealerships with workshops in western Austria and also Slovakia.
During the Second World War, Tarbuk’s large workshops in Vienna and Bratislava were contracted for military work for the German Army.
After the war, the Company quickly re-formed , taking on many outside dealerships again. It would have been during this immediate post-war period, that Duerr would have had initial contact with Fritz Tarbuk.
Carl and I visited Tarbuk’s Vienna-based dealership during 1968, and they were duly appointed as Jensen agents. The next step was for me and Mike Chambers, Technical Service Representative, to make a visit to Tarbuks.
This visit would be to advise Tarbuk on the service training and spare parts stocks required as basic Jensen agents.
Outside of that, it was important for me to get to know their Sales Manager, Franz Marsch. And later on, I would certainly get to know him well.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | German Rally
It so happened that in 1969 a leading German ladies magazine called Constanze (in an attempt to boost falling sales), decided to organise a car rally for prominent German political, industrial and showbiz ladies.
The rally would take place in September 1969, and start from Bad Harzberg, about 50km south of Braunschweig in Lower Saxony. The rally would finish at Travemuende on the Baltic to the north east of Lubeck – a total of about 250 km.
Carl Duerr’s wife, prominent TV, Film, voice over actress, Marianne Wischmann (she kept her maiden name, but would sometimes double-barrel her surname as Wischmann-Duerr), entered as co-driver to the well known physician, Dr Mildred Scheel ( she married the politician, Walter Scheel in July 1969. He later became the President of the Federal Republic). Mike Chambers, our Technical Service Manager, and I, were asked by Carl to drive the support vehicle, after which we would travel down to Austria.
So, at the beginning of September (I think it was the 3rd), we jumped in one of the Company’s demonstrator Interceptors (115/3150 with registration ROE 442G) and drove over to Bad Harzberg in Germany. Here we would meet up with the Duerrs for the start of the Rally.
We stopped in Braunschweig overnight, where I had been stationed for a couple of years in the late fifties. It was very strange to drive past the barracks and to see German guards at the gates and not the familiar British uniforms.
At that time the city centre was being redeveloped, keeping the old facades and rebuilding the rear of the properties so as to maintain its classic appearance.
While there, we took the opportunity of visiting the local newspaper, the Braunschweiger Zeitung, and got the motoring correspondent to take some pics of our car in the city square.
The rally went off very successfully. It was amazing how competitive it became, and in particular how competitive Marianne and Mildred were. I just can’t remember for sure who won, but I think it may have been the Scheel/Wischmann team.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Down to Vienna
Directly after the rally, Mike and myself started our dash down to Vienna. We spent a very pleasant overnight stay in Travemunde and then set off after a leisurely breakfast to motor down to Vienna. However, my over casual checking of the map, and deciding it was only a few inches to Vienna, was a mistake.
Aiming for a late afternoon arrival, and leaving at around 9.30am, it was only after a few miles that we realised that this was a 1,000 km drive! Now, faced with a 1000 km journey, at least we were in the perfect vehicle to do it.
We hit the 200k mark most of the way down, slowing for road-works where necessary, and stopping for fuel (frequently) along with food to keep us going.
After many hours of driving, we eventually arrived at the outskirts of Vienna late in the evening. Now we had to find the hotel we would be staying in. The Tarbuks had made a reservation for us at a place rather grandly called, Schloss Laudon.
Remember that this was in pre-satnav days, and we only had very sketchy directions to the Schloss. Prowling round the area where we thought it was, we came across a guy in a BMW 2002. He seemed quite excited to be hailed down by a Jensen Interceptor, and was pleased to offer guidance.
We were closer than we thought, and after a few minutes we arrived at the entrance to the Schloss, over the moat into a dark and deserted looking courtyard. Just one dim light overlooked a door in one corner. Even although we arrived in the dark, the Schloss looked quite magnificent, and truly lived up to its name.
There was absolute silence when we switched off the engine, save the sound of the fans, dramatically trying to cool the engine down. The door under the light slowly opened and a figure dressed in white ‘blouse’, black trousers and green apron appeared (as spooky as any Dracular movie).
We were made welcome, and politely given directions to an annexe, where our rooms would be found on the first floor. The annexe was back over the moat and a hundred meters or so on the right, the figure ended his heavily Austrian accented directions with “you can’t miss it”.
Sure enough, no problem until we found that the ‘rooms’ were in fact one room, with one enormous four-poster bed. Too tired to worry about the niceties, we deployed the customary European bolster down the centre of the bed, and were soon out for the count.
The following morning I woke up quite early to be met with the most appalling smell. Getting out of bed to open the window, I woke Mike and complained bitterly at him as being, as I thought, the source of the smell.
With Mike vehemently denying being the source of the smell, we began to argue. Then hearing the sound of stamping hooves below us, and the occasional neigh, I realised I was mistaken.
We were above the stables, where lived a number of extremely healthy horses. With my profuse apologies made, and gracefully accepted by Mike, we made our way down for breakfast.
After breakfast we met up with Tarbuk’s Sales Manager, Franz Marsch, and spent the morning with the workshop and spare parts personnel.
The Tarbuk company had already agreed to purchase two initial Interceptors, so later on we discussed the subject of a promotional launch when their first cars arrived. We all agreed that Schloss Laudon was the perfect place to hold the reception for the press and potential customers.
With this agreed, we finalised everything by setting a date for a promotional launch in November. This was timed to fit in with the introduction of the new MK.II Interceptor at Earl’s Court in October. It also meant, that Tarbuk would receive two of the latest MK.II Interceptor models for the launch.
Both Mike and myself concluded this had been a very successful trip. After saying our good byes, we jumped back in the Interceptor, ready for the long journey back to England, and our West Bromwich-based factory.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Earl’s Court Motor Show 1969
By September 1969, the two left-hand-drive Interceptors, ordered by the Tarbuk company, were nearing completion. Outside of the prototype, these would be the first two left-hand-drive cars off the line.
There was a beluga painted car with red leather trim, chassis 125/5001, and a white painted car with black leather trim, chassis 125/5002. Typically there was the last minute rush.
This was to get the cars finished off, and get them through inspection – in time for us to get them to Austria for the Press Launch. However, the white Interceptor would be put to promotional use before it went off to Austria.
I had previously discussed with Dick Graves about having a left-hand-drive Interceptor on the Earl’s Court Motor Show stand. He agreed with the concept, as did Carl Duerr.
My reasoning for having a left-hand-drive car on display at Earl’s Court was simple. Many Europeans came over to the Earl’s Court Motor Show, and we had noted that on previous years. To be in a position to show potential European customers around a left-hand-drive car, would give us an advantageous edge over other competitors.
I think we were the first car make to display a left-hand-drive car at the Earl’s Court Motor Show, and it certainly created interest. Even if it didn’t necessary bring us immediate sales, it definitely showed us as being a very forward thinking company.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Vienna Press Launch 1969
With the Earl’s Court Motor Show over, and the cars back at the factory, preparations were afoot to get things ready for the Austrian Press Launch. I had used several routes into Europe, traditional car ferry, the Princess Margaret hovercraft and British Air Ferries from Southend. Of these the BAF Southend-Ostend route was by far the best.
So, in planning the delivery of the two Interceptors to Vienna, Mike and I decide to drive one car out, and send the other by train, all very sensible, or so we thought.
Unfortunately, there were no BAF bookings available from Southend, but we could go from Lydd. No problem ! I had been stationed at Hythe (a few miles from Lydd) for a few months in 1956, and I looked forward to revisiting the area, which would fit in with the overnight stay needed before catching the early morning flight.
The weather down to Lydd was not good, but the forecast for the morning was OK and so we arrived in good time at Lydd airport. Beherman-Demoen, the Belgium Jensen dealers, had placed an order for a variety of spare parts, so I agreed we would take them with us, and drop them off in Brussels enroute to Vienna.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Bad Flight & French Customs
We took off a little late, since the cold spell plus damp conditions, was creating icing conditions. Apparently the air authorities were concerned about ice developing on the wing of the ancient Bristol Freighter at their outward height of 2000ft.
With an all clear, the aircraft started its travel down the runway, but next thing we heard a loud clattering from under the plane, followed by severe braking as the take-off was aborted.
Off we went, back to the airport buildings, where, whatever had fallen off or broken, was replaced. Once the repairs were completed we were off down the runway again, and this time into the air – much to the consternation of Mike, who did not like air travel at the best of times.
We arrived over Ostend to discover that there was a 45 knot cross-wind at the airport. We were told, Bristol freighters cannot land in 45 knot cross winds. As such they announced the pilot would try Calais.
On arrival over Calais we were advised that there was also a 45knot cross-wind there, and as such the pilot was now going to try and land at Le Touquet. By now everyone was getting very cold, heating was minimal in these old aircraft, and we were all issued blankets.
When I say everyone, I am talking about a total passenger compliment of about twenty. This included a very elderly Belgian lady who had been taken ill during a visit to England, too ill to return home using the car ferry, and also too ill to fly in a pressurised aircraft.
She was in a very poorly state, and as such we were then told that any further attempt at a landing was being abandoned and we were to return to Lydd. I suggested to the cabin crew that opening a bottle of brandy would be a good idea and, bless them, they did. But too late for most of us who were suffering from the cold by then.
So, back at Lydd it was lunch time, and we were sadly adrift from our programme. Mike said, somewhat forcibly, that not only did he never want to go in that aeroplane again, as far as he was concerned that meant any aeroplane.
However, the weather cleared enough for us to make another attempt to get across to Le Touquet (Ostend and Calais were still suffering cross winds). I struggled not to smile, as Mike stepped up silently along with the rest of us, to commence our journey once again.
Once at Le Touquet, we were re-united with our Interceptor, and after firing the car up, drove it into the the customs shed. This had been cunningly built with two open ends, carefully aligned for the icy winds to whistle straight through, and it was icy cold.
To our dismay, the official requested a full search of our car (which often happened. Probably as few had even seen an Interceptor at that time). On opening the boot, the customs official was somewhat taken aback to discover the boot was full of spares, including a radiator and steering rack.
Immediately suspicious, he wanted to know why we were trying to illegally import spare parts into France. I asked him if he had ever seen a Jensen Interceptor before, and on hearing that he had not, I carefully pointed out that neither had many other people in France.
And, as were embarking on a trip through France, Belgium, Germany, and down to Austria, we needed to carry spares in in case of breakdown. Incredibly for a French customs official, he saw my reasoning, and agreed to let us through.
We had originally planned to spend the night in Brussels, but losing half a day meant that this was impossible. Sadly we were also going to have to forgo dropping off the spares in Brussels.
So we elected to travel as far as possible during the rest of the day, stay overnight somewhere, and then continue our journey south, dropping the spares off at the Beherman branch in Liege along the way.
The weather was really awful by now, very heavy rain and truly bad traffic conditions around Lille. By early evening we had both had enough, Having got to Valenciennes, we found a suitable hotel, checked in for the night. ‘Oh, how lovely’ said my wife when I reported in, “Where the lace comes from !”.
The problem was, we were now way behind schedule, and tomorrow we would need to quickly drop off the spares in Liege, and head for the German border. From there, we would be committed to some pretty high speed driving all the way down the autobahns to Munich, with short stops for fuel, and for Mike and myself to swap turns at driving.
Luckily, next morning was bright and sunny, but the roads were icy. That put paid to a rapid start, but we made reasonably good time to Liege, where we dropped off the spares. Then we cracked on down the autobahn to Munich. Shades of our Travemuende trip back in September, but not quite so far.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Fight With A Crash Barrier
Having taken the driving in turns, I was driving the last leg down to Munich. When we got to the Munich turn, I failed to remember how tight it was, and was still driving too quickly.
Slamming on the brakes, the back-end broke away a touch, and suddenly swerving at the back, I gave the Armco crash barrier a fairly good nudge, surprising the driver of a big Mercedes-Benz that was following us from behind, much too closely.
Although I knew we had probably done a bit of damage, I carried on driving, and decided to make it to our Munich-based hotel for our overnight stop.
At last, we checked in at the Park Hotel, near to where the Duerrs had their house (Carl would commute between Munich and West Bromwich. Staying most of the time at West Bromwich, then going back to Munich some weekends).
Once parked up, Mike and myself checked the damage. It could have been a lot worse, but was bad enough – rear quarter of the bumper heavily dented. Overrider smashed up, and a broken rear light cluster.
In the hotel, I telephoned our Marketing Director, Dick [Richard] Graves. He was due to fly out to the Press Launch the next day, along with Gethin [Bradley] from Good Relations, so I told him about the damage to the car.
Unfortunately, since the rear bumper was a one piece assembly, there wasn’t going to be a possibility of replacing that, or indeed picking up any other spare parts at this late stage.
After a much needed meal, and before going to bed, we decided to have a beer at the local Gasthaus. In those days, and probably still used, the score of beers consumed were kept by tick marks on your beer mat.
So after our one beer each, we signalled for the bill. The elderly waitress looked at the two ticks, then at us and then said, scornfully ‘English, ja?’ We were not having that! And so it was a while later, with a reasonable score on the mat, that we left for a well earned night’s rest.
It was going to be an early start in the morning, and feeling better than we should have, after a night of beer drinking, we made it over the Austrian border by about ten o’clock.
I stopped to give Tarbuks a quick courtesy call, reporting we were on our way, and to mention about the damage to the car. Now, having got over the tricky bit of mentioning my accident, I asked how the white car had survived the train journey, to be told that it was pretty filthy, but otherwise in good condition.
That was until a little bit later that day, when one of the Tarbuk mechanics had reversed a Chrysler New Yorker into the side of it, just ahead of the passenger door. Oh well ! at least it made me feel better about damaging the car we were in.
So, a Press Launch the following day, and two damaged cars !
We arrived at the Schloss Laudon around lunch time, and Dick [Graves] along with Gethin [Bradley] arrived later in the afternoon. Meanwhile a couple of the Tarbuk chaps arrived to start cleaning up the rather dirty looking beluga Interceptor. Apparently, back at Tarbucks, a team of chaps were working on the white Interceptor, repairing the damage, and painting in that area, ready for the Press Launch.
We would meet up with Dr Mario Seiller-Tarbuk, and Franz Marsch for dinner in the evening, after which, Dick, Gethin, Mike and myself, retired to our rooms in readiness for the ‘big day’ tomorrow.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories | Press Day
It was a lovely sunny morning and we were looking forward to the Press Launch. Mike and myself were already in the breakfast room with Dick and Gethin coming down a short while later.
Dick exclaimed, that despite being on foreign soil, he was determined to start the day with a traditional English breakfast. So the waiter was told, “I will have orange juice, corn flakes, fried egg, bacon and tomato, followed by toast and English marmalade”.
Orders duly placed, the cornflakes arrived but without sugar. Dick shared a sharp note of disapproval to the waiter, and like lightning, a large white bowl duly appeared. With a liberal coating of sugar spread on the cornflakes, breakfast was started.
But not for long. Having taken his first mouthful, Dick discovered that what was supposed to be sugar, turned out to be rock salt – I don’t need to say anything more, you can imagine the scene ! What made matters worse, was Dick noting the three of us desperately trying not to laugh.
By 10.30 am the white Interceptor was positioned inside the hotel, fully repaired. The beluga demonstration car was outside the Schloss ready for action. The press duly arrived and, typically, were looking for an attractive girl to pose with the car. Franz Marsch had just the person on hand – his very attractive secretary.
All went well for a while, with the secretary standing by the car, sitting in the car etc. Then she was persuaded to sit on the front wing of the car, right over the freshly repaired spot. Suddenly there was a shout in Austrian from one of the Tarbuk guys – but too late.
After lifting herself back off the front wing there was a firm impression of her dress material in the still not fully dried repair. Amazingly, after an hour or so, this had flowed out again and there was no sign that her graceful bottom had ever perched there.
Outside, we had arranged a few drives in the beluga coloured Interceptor, both for the press, and some of Tarbuk’s good customers. However, before that could take place, the press guys wanted a range of images of the secretary with that car as well.
Meanwhile, Gethin from Good Relations had his camera with him for a few informal shots, once all the press had achieved what they wanted.
Sadly our dealings with Tarbuk were short lived and these two cars were the only ones supplied. For whatever reason, the market for luxury cars in Austria either did not exist, or we had persuaded the wrong company to represent us.
After a couple of years Tarbuk and Jensen Motors went their separate ways. Over the time Tarbuk had represented us in Austria, I had got to know their Sales Manager, Franz Marsch, quite well.
On one of the occasions we went out for dinner, I asked what he did in the war (remember, this was the 1960s, and the war was anything but a distant memory, and certainly not confined to the history books, as it is today).
Marsch was quite open, and mentioned he had joined the SS, but had spent much of the war years as a part of the German Army of Occupation in Denmark. I think he wanted to make it clear he hadn’t been in the main areas of fighting against the British.
Jensen’s Austrian Press Launch 1969 | Marshall’s Memories
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Tony Marshall, former Sales Manager, Jensen Motors
COPYRIGHTS: Jensen Museum | Tony Marshall, former Sales Manager, Jensen Motors
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