Tour Americal, or life with Isabella

A 1958 Borgward Isabella coupé might seem at first glance that it is not the ideal car for a long-haul journey through the United States, in which eleven states will be crossed, namely New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Indeed, with its modest engine of a liter and a half displacement capable of 75CV -the last ones manufactured had a slightly higher power, of 82- to move a maximum mass of 1.440 kilos, with its drum brakes and a peculiar positive drop in the rear wheels comparable to that of the SEAT 600, the Isabella, although with its coupe name and two-seater homologation, it has little of sportiness.

However, when I received a phone call proposing a position as a boater in the Tour Americal that was to be held from October 8 to 18, 2013, it took me only a few minutes to check my schedule and agree to be recruited from among the members of the 155 teams. that they were going to participate.

The Isabella with several of his "opponents"

En The Escudería we deal with any aspect or activity related to classic cars, and the opportunity to observe the behavior of a car manufactured in 1958 in comparison with other more recent ones during a trip of more than 3.000 km along all types of roads, from highways - the famous Interstate -, even regional ones -even with a small mountain route with unpaved trails-, it seemed like an interesting challenge, both from a personal point of view and from the perspective of readers who wish to participate in a rally of these characteristics.

Let us first clarify that the word rally is accepted in the field of classic cars not only as an endurance sports competition on the road in stages, but also as any other type of road event with more or less formalities to respect. In this sense, a rally can be made up of non-timed stages in which rules are imparted either of regularity or, simply, of orientation, generally through a Roadbook facilitated by the organization.

Our thick Roadbook Tour Americal, of 170 pages, consisted of routes drawn on maps and guidelines written in text that had to guide us through stages that ranged from 370 to 200 kilometers per day, with stops and visits at the choice of the participants and with the only requirements of showing up in a certain place at the end of one day and the beginning of the next.

Italian-American mix, the Iso Grifo Rivolta with V8 engine
Italian-American mix, the Iso Grifo Rivolta with V8 engine

The use of electronic navigators of the TomTom type and the like was not only allowed, but was also very practical when it came to following the routes in the interior of cities and urban agglomerations, as we know very dispersed in the United States, in immense extensions of ground. It is not exceptional for a street to have twenty thousand numbers and more, since the highway is usually the main artery shared by many successive populations that stretch indefinitely on both sides of the road.

It is interesting to note that during the previous month of May, the same organizer of the Americal Tour had taken his loyal followers on a tour called the Amical Tour, with an itinerary Zaragoza - Madrid - Zaragoza.

But let's go back to the journey at hand. The first operation consisted of carrying out customs procedures and loading the cars in a port north of Antwerp bound for Newark, New Jersey, whose airport would also be the arrival point of the crews weeks later.

The Empire State Building (on the left) and the Chrysler Building (smaller on the right)

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Day 1

Upon landing in Newark, the cars were waiting in a depot near the airport from where we went to the hotel in Newport, with magnificent views across the southern part of Manhattan.
There, above the World Trade Center subway station, stands out a skyscraper under construction nearing completion that adjoins the space known as Ground Zero

In the photos that illustrate this report, the building in question is identifiable by the geometry of its facades in inverted triangles. Baptized as One World Trade Center, it is 541 meters high. Another of these huge buildings, of similar height, is tearing off on the opposite side and will give symmetry to the whole.

During Day 2, in the zigzagging crossing of Manhattan, we would pass near the most famous skyscrapers in the city, such as the Empire State or the Chrysler and MetLife buildings, with heights of 381, 319 and 246 meters, respectively.

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New skyscrapers rise in the area of ​​Ground Zero
New skyscrapers rise in the area of ​​Ground Zero

Day 2

Under the careful supervision of the New Jersey police and before a certain local expectation, with numerous pedestrians who had not seen cars like those of the tour and who approached with curiosity to ask questions to the participants, the official start was given at nine in the morning. We crossed the Holland Tunnel, below the Hudson River - a sixteen dollar toll, which is somewhat expensive for residents who use it frequently - with very dense traffic, to emerge on the outskirts of Manhattan and cross the Great Manzana, leaving New York for the monumental Washington Bridge.

In the great avenues of this city there are inevitable traffic jams at rush hours, but the traffic runs with order and patience and the motorists do not lose their calm. Many were those who rolled down the windows of their vehicles to exchange a few words with us about the Isabella or to take pictures of us with their mobile phones. We border Central Park, leaving at one end the infamous Dakota Building, John Lennon's last residence, to later cross the huge park that is the main green lung of the city.

1- The famous Iron building named after its plank-shaped plant
2- A Ford Mustang prepares to face the Manhattan crossing

We began the journey itself heading south, passing near the Newark airport where we had landed the day before. Thus we arrived at the pleasant city of Princeton, New Jersey, which has a famous university and whose center is the most European of all we were going to find on our way. Battles took place on the outskirts of Princeton in 1776, during the War of Independence against England, and south of those grounds, we very appropriately had a left rear tire puncture.

We changed it without major difficulties and continued heading southwest, passing near Philadelphia and Baltimore, with the end of the first stage in the rain in Anapolis. The Chesapeake Bay has remarkable fishing activity and the cuisine is rich in fish and shellfish, as evidenced by the excellent crab sauces and rock fish offered in local restaurants.

Watchman Tricycle Parking Lot in Princeton
Watchman Tricycle Parking Lot in Princeton


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Written by Mario Laguna

Mario Laguna, author of the book "The Pegaso Adventure", scholar and observer of the history of motor racing, brands and characters. Regular visitor to automobile competitions, whether of current or historical categories, international contests of elegance, lecturer ... Read More


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