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The Radclyffe Roadster

03 May 2024
The Radclyffe Roadster
In 1945 Colonel Michael A. McEvoy was responsible for all REME repair workshops throughout the British zone and had a history of being involved in motorsport. Before the war he had built racing motorcycles and worked on the development of superchargers for Mercedes Benz. He had also seen the KdF-car in Berlin and was aware of the Volkswagen factory, so as soon as the Americans had moved out and the British had moved in, he gave the orders to set up a REME workshop on the site.

When Major Ivan Hirst had arrived in Wolfsburg in August 1945 to take charge of the VW factory, The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers had already set up this large repair workshop within the factory. Hirst's first task was to meet with the factory manager Rudolf Brörmann who had been instated by the Americans prior to the British arriving. The factory was in a bad way, buildings had been destroyed or damaged and machinery had been burned or broken. The equipment needed to remove the rubble was unavailable and there was a shortage of workers, food, housing and work materials.

Hirst first gave orders to tidy up the site, he arranged for builders and plumbers to repair the toilets and then he sent in a British engineer unit to fill up the huge bomb craters using bulldozers. He also ordered winter cereals to be sown in the fields in front of the factory. Production was slowly re-started under control of Hirst and the REME, firstly with the Kübelwagen made from leftover parts and then later the Beetle. It became necessary for some organisation of various military departments relating to the whole British zone at a higher level than Hirst, so he was tasked with setting up a supervisory board. On January 21st 1946 this new body, known as the Board of Control, held its first meeting. Colonel Charles R. Radclyffe from the Mechanical Engineering Branch (Industry Division) was responsible for technical affairs.

Once production of the Beetle was established, Colonel Michael McEvoy suggested to Hirst that a racing style roadster should be built based on the VW. Hirst thought the idea was a bit silly, but he was interested in different body styles to the normal Sedan. The car was built in the factory custom workshop headed by Rudolf Ringel and used a modified front bonnet as a long sweeping engine cover turning the car into a 2 seater. To make up for the obvious lack of rigidity once the roof was removed, a strengthening bar was added just behind the seats. The engine was custom too, with a dual carb setup long before the likes of Okrasa produced such items. 

The Radclyffe Roadster

The car was to become the summer transport of Col Charles Radclyffe and has since become known as 'The Radclyffe Roadster'. There seems to be records that suggest two of these cars were made, although one explanation is that the chassis was severly damaged while running over an iron girder and so the chassis was replaced. Nobody really knows what happened to this car, but clearly it was the inspiration for the Hebmüller convertible.

In 1949 Volkswagen dealer Gottfried Schultz of Essen was a friend of the new VW managing director Heinrich Nordhoff and was also a friend of the Hebmüller family. It seems that Gottfried had been very impressed with the Radclyffe car when he had seen it in Wolfsburg and convinced the Hebmüller factory to base their convertible on it's design. 

Hebmuller Prototype #1