Azura’s Al (and celebrity pals) are taking Herbie back to Monte Carlo

//Azura’s Al (and celebrity pals) are taking Herbie back to Monte Carlo

alandherbie.jpgToday is a special day for Al Clinton. After months at sea – he works as wine host and sommelier in the Glass House wine bar on board P&O cruise ship Azura – he is going on leave, and as soon as he could get off the ship when it docked in Southampton, he was off like a rocket to his home and family on Merseyside.
“You won’t see me for dust,” he wrote on Facebook.
Al is a man with an obsession, and today is his first chance to see his new baby in all its shining glory.
The “baby” is a VW Beetle which Al discovered as a rusting wreck (below), and which has now been turned into a perfect replica of Herbie from the Love Bug films – accurate to the tiniest detail thanks to Al’s OCD and the skill of restorer Dan Miller.
beetle.jpgThe original Herbie – a car with a mind of its own – debuted on the big screen in 1968, the year Al was born. In the third film of the series, made in 1977, it was raced from Paris to Monte Carlo.
Next year Al plans to take his Herbie back to Monte Carlo, raising thousands of pounds for charity along the way, and helped by many of the celebrity friends he has met during the 12 years he has worked for P&O.
On May 18 he will set off from Liverpool with a co-driver and back-up team to travel first to London for a series of fund-raising events before crossing the Channel, driving to Paris, and then on to Monte Carlo, arriving in time for the Grand Prix on the weekend of May 26-27.
The whole journey is being filmed for a TV documentary.
Marco Pierre White will host a fund-raising dinner at the start of the challenge, with Scouse comedian John Martin providing the entertainment. In London a charity auction will be held at the Classic Car Club, hosted by TV wine expert (and the man behind the Glass House) Olly Smith, and with food laid on by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar.
Olympic athletes Derek Redmond, John Regis, Solomon Wariso and Kriss Akabusi will race against the car, and a charity auction has already attracted lots including holidays in St Lucia, a cruise, an Aston Martin DB5 for a weekend, and dinner at Kochhar’s Benares restaurant in Berkeley Square, which will also host a £100-a-head dinner for 100 people on Al’s return from Monte Carlo.
al.jpgAl, 42, said: “I have loved Herbie since I was a child and always dreamt one day of owning one. I did have a UK ’65 Herbie a few years back but it wasn’t right so I sold it.
“While daydreaming about how I could get the ultimate Herbie, I thought about driving to Monte Carlo taking in the original route and getting the car valet-parked in front of the famous casino. Herbie will possibly be the most photographed and talked-about vehicle that weekend.
“At the end of the Grand Prix, we are looking for permission to get a current or former F1 driver to drive a lap of the circuit.”
That driver can be assured that Herbie is as authentic as it is possible to be. Al tracked down an original Californian left-hand-drive rag-top Beetle and then had it completely rebuilt – with a powerful Porsche engine – by experts at Red Barn restorations in Youngstown, Ohio. When I last spoke to Al, he was insisting the restorers re-paint the number 53 on the car’s bonnet because it was inches too high.
“There were 40 cars used in the filming, and they were all numbered,” Al explains. “Herbie No. 2 was the Porsche one we have modelled ours on, and Herbie No. 12 is owned by Dan Miller who did the restoration. There was never a No. 11. Until now. Dan and the Herbie community (I am such an anorak) have decided to bestow the title of Herbie No.11 to my Herbie. This is, believe it or not, a huge deal. Mine will be the only Herbie replica recognised as a real one.”
The finished vehicle was shipped across the Atlantic and arrived in the UK this week. Now it is waiting for Al to arrive in Crosby to make his final inspection – and possibly take it for a very gentle drive.
He added: “To start off the funding, my dear friend and regular P&O passenger Mrs Elly Clough very kindly donated £10,000. I have spent around £19,000 on top of that.
“My original aim was to raise £53,000 for charity but friends have told me I might get up to £530,000.” The money is going to Claire House Children’s Hospice on Merseyside, which cares for young people with life threatening and life-limiting conditions.
I will be following Al’s – and Herbie’s – progress, and will keep you updated during the next nine months. You can also follow things on the Herbie’s Going Back To Monte Carlo Facebook page.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:03+00:00 5 August 2011|Cruise News|1 Comment

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

One Comment

  1. Bob Croesus 8 August 2011 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Love the story. Thanks for keeping Herbie alive.

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