- A tale of Diamond Smuggling across Inter-War Europa -
One evening I was visiting some friends from the Automotive World and they bid me take a look at an unusual piece of equipment they had found during the restoration of a pre-war Aston Martin saloon. I had to examine the object for five minutes because it was like nothing I had ever seen. Nor could I imagine what it might be used for. Finally, I observed that part of it looked like some pieces of church organ.
My hosts told me I was on the right track. That indeed it was an church organ of sorts: It was an exhaust horn. To install it a full-diameter valve was fitted to the exhaust pipe of the automobile underneath the bodywork. One out route of the valve, the exhaust continued full bore through the normal exhaust pipe of the automobile to the rear. On the diverted route of the valve was fitted the organ section, which looked like four sections of church organ bound in a 2x2 combination. The diverted exhaust gases would be blown across the top of the organ pipes which then gave a loud and deep whistling noise. To demonstrate, my hosts started up a C-type Jaguar, and using thick leather welding gauntlets, held the Auspuffhorn to the end of the exhaust pipe on the C-type. With the engine of the C-type being revved, the loud and musical note would be emitted by the Auspuffhorn. It was an impressive device.
In the above photograph, the Auspuffhorn. The left hand pipe is the exhaust pipe. Where the L-shaped fitting joins the exhaust pipe is a butterfly valve operated by a cable. When the butterfly valve diverts the exhaust gases down the L-shaped fitting they blow over the organ pipes. The ends of the aluminum organ tubes are stamped »Auspuffhorn«.
In the above photograph, the Auspuffhorn. The exhaust gases, entering frame left at speed, were diverted down the L-shaped section to the left of frame, and exited the hexagonal fitting over the edge of the organ pipes, disappearing to upper right of frame.
If you know of any more of these devices or know anything about the Company which manufactured them, then please email me with more information.
My hosts handed to me another piece of equipment and bid me identify it. It was a large thick section of tubing about the length of the distance between the two frame rails. At the end it was capped by two heavy plugs which were flanged to permit fixing to the internal sides of the frame rails. It seemed to be some some sort of container and indeed it was. With the heavy end caps attached and the tube placed in the chassis, it looked like just another chassis member. It was solid and there was nothing which permitted entry to it. Even if it was unbolted and removed from the chassis, it was solid and nothing could be viewed within. There were, however, two small holes, one at either end of the tube, perhaps one and half millimeters in diameter. Into each hole was inserted a small key with a splined end. The key turned a geared mechanism within the heavy flanged end caps which withdrew two bolts which protruded from the flange into the heavy tube. Once the bolts were withdrawn then end cap could be taken off the tube and access to the interior could be gained.
In the above photograph the detachable chassis tube end-cap. The flanged end mated with the chassis, you can see the lowermost edge of the flange has been milled flat to make it fit within the chassis.
It transpired that the previous owner of the Aston Martin saloon was English nobleman who was readily identifiable from the boxes of correspondence which had been stored within the automobile during its decades of inactivity. The Englishman had used it to smuggle diamonds and gold between Weimar Germany and England among other places. The tube in the chassis concealed the valuables. The Auspuffhorn was also fitted to Weimar era German Army staff cars and has he approached road checkpoints at night, he would give a couple of blasts on the Auspuffhorn and the checkpoint would open to allow him to speed through.
The whole Evening and the whole tale was something of Automotive M.R.James Story. Ian Fleming in his novel Goldfinger (1959) tells that
»The car was from the pool. Bond had been offered the Aston Martin or a Jaguar 3.4. He had taken the DBIII. Either of the cars would have suited his cover - a well-to-do, rather adventurous young man with a taste for the good, the fast things of life. But the DB III had the advantage of an up-to-date triptych, an inconspicuous colour - battleship grey -and certain extras which might or might not come in handy. These included switches to alter the type and colour of Bond's front and rear lights if he was following or being followed at night, reinforced steel bumpers, fore and aft, in case he needed to ram, a long-barrelled Colt .45 in a trick compartment under the driver's seat, a radio pick-up tuned to receive an apparatus called the Homer, and plenty of concealed space that would fox most Customs men.«
Fact, being always stranger than Fiction, it seems that there was more than one International Man of Derring-Doo with a smuggling compartment in their Aston Martin.
+ Aston Martin Pre-War Automobiles
+ Aston Martin Pre-War Automobiles and Race Efforts
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