Happy 80th Birthday Elisabeth Weckmann
It was 30 years ago when my mother first told the story about the Borgward Isabella she travelled in during her youth. What prompted this was my having just purchased a Kharman Ghia Coupe. I was 19 and pretty excited. Elisabeth (Liesel) said it reminded her of the car her employer owned, back when she was roughly my age.
Rewind to post-war Germany and a young Liesel Weber employed as a housekeeper by a dentist and his wife who have a practice in Radolfzel. Liesel is just 22 and has been corresponding for some time with a gentleman (Hans Weckmann), a cabinet maker who has already emigrated to Australia. She has almost decided she will also emigrate and possibly marry this man, even though they have never physically met. The arrangement is that if things do not work out when she arrives in Australia, Hans will pay Liesel’s sea passage back to Germany.
Liesel has organised to meet with Hans’ parents in Cologne before possibly emigrating to Australia to begin her new life. It is the Easter long weekend and the dentist and his wife will travel by road, down the Rhine to a rowing regatta where he is training a team for the event. A girlfriend dares Liesel to ask her employers if she can passenger with them as far as Cologne and be collected again on their journey back. The dentist agrees. My mother never forgets that journey in the Borgward Isabella. She maintains to this day that it is one of the most beautiful cars she has ever seen.
Fast forward to Melbourne Australia, 2013. Liesel will turn 80 in June. The intervening years have provided a life ‘full to overflowing’. Hans and Liesel married in Camberwell, raised 4 children, created a successful business with Hans working as a Master Builder whilst Liesel provided immense support from home. Currently, there are 12 grandchildren and a great grandchild has been born. The family is dotted all over the continent.
My mother’s support of the family now takes a different form. Liesel is Hans’ primary carer whilst Parkinson’s Disease slowly but surely dictates his abilities. It is decided that the 4 children and as many grandchildren as possible will travel to Melbourne to help Liesel celebrate her 80th birthday. The question is... “What do you get your mother for her 80th birthday when she no longer needs things?” An experience of course!
Remembering the twinkle in Liesel’s eye whenever she told the ‘Borgward Isabella Story’, an SOS email was sent to anyone in the Borgward Car Club of Australia who might assist. After many well intentioned responses from interested members/owners, Lyn Biner revealed herself. This wonderful lady Borgward owner offered us the use of her beautiful car for the weekend of Liesel’s birthday. Yes... some people really do understand what it is to be trusting and kind. Thank you so much Lyn!
We arrived from Perth and met Lyn the next day. She was as lovely as we imagined and obviously appreciated style, living in an art deco apartment with many objects d’arte surrounding her. The car was a delight to look at and an absolute joy to ride around Melbourne in.
My mother got quite a surprise when a ‘chauffeured’ (son in law in suit) Borgward Isabella arrived to give her a joy ride through the hills on the way to lunch at Monsalvat. There was much laughter and commotion. Cameras were on overdrive as it was ‘spotlight on Liesel’ for the day. This vehicle was right at home in this centre of artistic pursuits. The ride in the Borgward Isabella brought back the twinkle in my mother’s eye and we can assume, that for her 80th birthday, Liesel again experienced what it is to be driving around in a beautiful sports car with a bright, exciting future to contemplate.