Russ Swift, or Paul as he was known in the earlier part of his career, is a very significant part of the Cartune story. If you're into cars / racing, whatever the marque there is a very good chance you'll know exactly who I'm talking about. Russ is most famous for his work on TV, being one of if not the best stunt drivers in the U.K. What I found surprising though, was that his exploits in Beetles is totally undocumented online. A chance email to his website (www.russswift.com) led me to a phone call and an absolute treasure trove of images and stories, all retained by Russ available now for the first time to VW fans.
Ironically it was Peter Noad that got Russ into VW's. Russ had gone to a local autotest event where Peter was competing. Russ told me that the way he was able to handle a beetle was quite phenomenal. Nobody was even driving a mini to it's full potential at the time. Russ was also a member of a local auto club. Fortunately Ron Turnbull was also a member and as luck would have it in 1971 Ron needed someone to stand in temporarily as navigator. In stepped a relatively inexperienced Paul Swift and that was that. Ron told me that his talents were "obvious." The pair did exceptionally well in ANECC (www.aneccc.co.uk) rallies around the north of England, In an Orange 62 beetle (PXG 560, later RON 234). In 1972 the pair were placed 2nd in the championship, in with a shout of winning with 2 races to go, but unfortunately the beetle met it's fate as they plummeted at speed off a 14ft drop on the Guy Fawkes rally 1972. Despite landing on the roof Russ escaped relatively unscathed. Ron on the other hand suffered a broken arm. They were unable to compete in the final two events which left them finishing a respectable fourth place.
A new white 1302 model was to be used as the new rally car (RON 234). The car was equipped with a 1.9 litre engine fed by twin Reece Fish carburettors. In the meantime Russ had also purchased a Royal Red 68 beetle from Cartune for £200. A helping hand came in the form of sponsorship from Tyre Experts, as the cost of tyres soon mounted up over a season auto testing. Russ would go on to have great success in the car even with it's stock 1500cc engine. On one such rally the competitors (in twin cam escorts and V12 Jags) complained that the beetle must have been modified. The scrutineer took one look in the engine bay and when he noticed the stock Solex carburettor he just roared with laughter and walked away! The beetle was more than a serious competition car with the right driver behind the wheel!
Not only did Russ compete in VW's but he also actually worked at Cartune as a salesman, although by his own admission wasn't really doing a great deal there! Russ did however sort a car out for his mother. She purchased a 1972 Kansas Beige 1303 new from Cartune at cost price. Remarkably he still has this car today which is pictured below. The car also has an original set of taper tips fitted to it, but the car is otherwise standard. Russ has even retained the original bill of sale, service invoices and service history, all stamped with Cartune stamps.
Russ continued to do well at autotests in the Red 68, But by 1974 Ron had decided to give up rallying. Russ therefore purchased the white 1302 to use as a new autotest car and continued to thrive in. By 1975 Cartune was taken over by the Martins group, but this wasn't the end of the road for rallying or Russ' involvement. The white 1302 underwent some serious modifications, that not only included a bright yellow paint job, but a Porsche 911S engine was fitted out the back. So the next time that guy down the pub claims he used to know someone who put a 911 engine in a beetle, they probably mean Russ!
Despite knowing that Russ was involved in the Cartune story, I had initially refrained from getting in touch with him as I thought he probably wouldn't have been interested. How wrong I was. Within hours of his email reply I was on the phone to him discussing all of the above in more detail with some great anecdotes along the way. That was then followed up with countless emails of photos and documents which can be seen in the gallery below. There's still more to be seen In scrap books as Russ has literally kept everything, and I cannot thank him enough. Hopefully I'll be getting to see the full collection in person at a later date this year as Russ has kindly Invited me to come and see them. Maybe he could teach me a few handbrake turns too!!
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