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- June 2009
Veritas: The Story Behind a Rare Barn Find
Written By: Molly Barari, Photography By:Dan Brouillette
Heath Rodney chases old cars. When the Sioux Falls car lover got a call from longtime friend Dereck Freshour about a 1950 Veritas nestled in a barn in Southwest Iowa, he and Freshour went for a look. The friends share a fascination with classic and specialty cars, so this was a once-in-a-lifetime find. What they didn’t know is that their 1950 Veritas – the Latin word for truth – was about to reveal a hidden truth of its own. A truth that would make the car even more valuable.
“The car as we found it had been sitting in the barn since 1968,” said Rodney. “It wasn’t far from Offutt Air Force Base. It was most likely brought over here after the war by a soldier.”
After starting the restoration process, and with some help from Jim Proffit, known as “The Pre-War BMW Authority,” the friends discovered there was something special under the Veritas’ body – besides the obvious Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) 328 motor and driveline, which was common for the model. No, this Veritas was unique in a way they never imagined.
As Rodney and Freshour stripped down the car and dug deeper into its past, they uncovered the bones of the car – the original 1937 BMW 328 Roadster Chassis 85031, a lost BMW 328 NSKK Works Race Car.
BMW developed three factory prototype race cars starting in 1936 with a total of 9 or so True Factory Owned Developmental 328 Race Cars produced prior to 1940. The last Works car was found in the late 1980s in Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union…until now.
The BMW Works Department was the name of the Experimental Race Department, which later was absorbed by the National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK), part of the Nazi propaganda machine. The car with chassis 85031 raced in the 1937 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 1937 Tourist Trophy, the 1938 Tourist Trophy, and the 1938 Mille Miglia – an open-road 1,000-mile endurance race which took place in Italy 24 times between 1927 to 1957.
The Works cars were always lent out to the best drivers of the time. In fact, legendary Thai race driver Prince B. Bira raced the car in 1937 and 1938 in the United Kingdom’s Tourist Trophy entered as a “Frazer Nash BMW,” the U.K. BMW distributor.
According to the BMW-published book BMW 328 Roadster to Legend, the three vehicles with the chassis numbers 85002, 85031, and 85032 enjoyed their last glory days at that 1938 Tourist Trophy race. No further trace of these white first-series roadsters – complete with ZF gearboxes and 3.9:1 rear axles – were detected after that, at least with their standard bodies.
“After the war, the allied occupation forces prohibited the manufacture of cars as war reparations, within the occupation zone,” said Rodney. “BMW couldn’t make new cars, so the ’328 roadster got a new body put on it by a post-war race car company named Veritas. Our car is the third factory lightweight 328 to be found, that had passed through the Veritas Work Shop.”
Rodney said it’s no surprise that the three factory Works cars were touched by Veritas, as the founders of the company were the same men responsible for hiding the factory BMW race cars prior to the onset of World War II reaching Germany.
The historic BMW-Veritas hybrid is currently on two continents, undergoing restoration – a true passion project for both Rodney and Freshour.
“My hobby has always been chasing old and unique cars and motorcycles, but this is a whole new level,” said Rodney.
In the past year, Rodney and Freshour continued to pursue the truth behind the Veritas with a trip to Germany, where they received a Certificate of Authenticity from BMW Classic in Munich.
They found out what they already knew in their hearts: The car which lived in a dusty old barn is indeed “The Lost” BMW 328 NSKK Race Car.
“It’s the real deal, and we’re lucky to have the opportunity to be part of such a historically significant race car,” shared Rodney.