Little did Noel Dyne know seven years ago when he picked up an old VW Beetle which was being sold online for “spare parts” that he was about to embark on restoring a piece of Mallorcan motoring history.
Noel, who works in the yachting industry and moved to the island with his wife some 25 years ago, was initially big on Minis at home in Poole, Dorset, but eventually moved on to Volkswagens. He and his wife had to sell the last one he restored to make the move to Mallorca. He then had to put the brakes on his passion for cars to start a family and help the kids grow up.
However, he eventually managed to find the time to fire up his hobby again and some seven years ago came across a Beetle on the internet.
“It was being sold for spare parts by a woman called Angela who lived in Inca and worked in Magalluf. It had been off the road since 1987 but stored in a garage so it was in quite good condition,” Noel explained.
The only problem was that it had been involved in an accident in the early '80s and the story had made the Daily Bulletin. At the time the Beetle was owned by Joan Mary Tow, nee Spencer, who moved to the island permanently with her late husband Eddie Tow and four children in September 1957.
Once Noel had bought the vehicle, he set about sorting out all the paperwork for the vehicle. Despite it having had a few owners over the years, the traffic department, Trafico, still had the car registered in the name of Joan Tow. So Noel, based on the evidence from the police, could only presume that she was the original owner.
“I also found out that the Beetle was built in October 15, 1963 and was shipped to Spain, arriving in Bilbao on October 22, and was registered in November. Apart from being brand new, what was very interesting was that at the time, under the Franco regime, only Spanish cars were allowed on the roads. But Joan, or whoever the original owner was who had the car shipped to Spain, managed to get her registered. She still had the original number plate, which shows that she was the 67,000th vehicle to have been registered in the Balearics.”
So, the Beetle got off to a new life in Mallorca, until one day in the early '80s Joan was reportedly out for a Sunday drive to see the almond blossom with some friends. As was to be explained in the article which appeared in the Bulletin, in order to avoid an oncoming vehicle, she ended up crashing the Beetle into a tree. From that point, her love affair with the car appeared to have died.
“From what I can gather, it was parked up outside her house in San Agustin for many years until it eventually changed hands.”
Then, through the process of restoring the Beetle, Noel began looking into its history and owner - he once met the original mechanic - and was put in touch with one of Joan’s sons, Simon, who still lives on the island.
“I went round to visit him when he lived in his mother’s old home in San Agustin and on the wall was a framed cutting from the Bulletin which had reported on the accident."
With the headline ‘Driving into a tree’, the report was said to be an exclusive by the newspaper’s motoring correspondent, a Mrs. J.M. Tow. Under the subtitle ‘Jerky start’, Joan was reported as having said “I was not up to my usual standard, I was very jerky in starting.”
The article continues: “She had been driving for about 40 minutes and was about to take a left hand bend at about 15 to 18 mph when she saw an oncoming car. For some reason she took her foot off the clutch and must have hit the accelerator. The car shot forward and I knew if I carried on I would collide with the oncoming car. Instinct told me to pull to the left. I shot down the road and the next thing I knew I was into the tree.” Asked what her reaction was on realising that she was going to encounter the tree, Mrs. Tow replied that it was to “brace herself against the dashboard, as the car bounced back and forth off the tree with the engine still running, and shout ‘now you’ve bloody done it’."
However, for those readers who remember the late great Riki Lash, Simon explained to the Bulletin that the article had appeared in his column, which was famous for it “True or False” articles.
“The ‘article’ in question was a spoof, done by a very good friend of hers, after she had had a small accident near her home, when a tree suddenly jumped out into the middle of the road and she, at that time being slightly tired and emotional, was unable to avoid it. Luckily, apart from the front bumper, only her pride was damaged, and as it was a long time before mobile phones ever existed, the DB was not contacted and neither did they interview her. So, as Riki used to say “True or False”, I can assure you that, in this case, the interview was 'false'."
However, the fact that his mother crashed the Beetle into a tree is true. Noel replaced the front , which had taken the brunt of the force of the crash (some of the green markings can still be seen), sourced an old rusty bumper in California and even came across the Real Automobile Club de Mallorca badge in the States.
He replaced the dynamo for the battery, which has a tendency to go flat after being used, and got the Beetle back on the road. The trouble is that it's now part of the family, the kids love it, so he can’t sell it and still uses it to run about in.
Noel set up the Coffee and Cars, Café y Coches club a few years back and organises regular meetings for car enthusiasts in the car park at the Son Moix football stadium. All that has had to parked up because of the pandemic, but as soon as possible the regular gatherings of some 200-plus vehicles will resume.
While he retains his piece of motoring history, he is now working on restoring a VW camper van while combing the net for other future projects to keep his passion alive. Who knows what he might find next.