‘Can you hold yourself ready for a trip to Detroit on 16th?’ asked Albin.
‘Well, yes. What for? I asked.
We’re falling behind on the Dart launch and some local suppliers’ commitments are not cast-iron. There is no way the launch date can be missed if we want to stay in our jobs.’
‘It’s too late to ship them.’ I stated.
‘We’ll fly the parts in.’
I goggled. Such wide skies thinking from my American boss matched my style but I had learned to tone down such thoughts to avoid derision in my previous jobs.
‘Let’s get this clear, Jim. You want me to go and prise these parts from the Detroit assembly line and put them on a fleet of planes for Sao Paulo?’
‘I’ve sent Rallo up there to start mustering the parts we need and you shouldn’t have to get too involved. Panyotis tells me that you’ll have to accompany the parts to keep it legal with the Brazilian authorities, so I told Rallo to reserve a Panam flight with full cargo space.

Albin was too much of a pro and expected people working for him to be likewise to have any but few and precise questions put to him.
‘Do I have to see anyone about the travel details?’
‘It’ll all be arranged, just have your passport ready.’
It was exhilarating working for someone like Albin; one of the top Chrysler men sent down to start production in Brazil. He had recruited me just over a year ago and when he had been ambushed by his fellow Americans at a meeting with the new President I had been able to see them off by bothering to understand the new computer printouts introduced. Because of that episode he trusted me.

Rollo was a young American who nominally worked for me but was what was called a ‘floater’ in the new Chrylser terminology I was now accustomed to. Rumoured to be a ‘plant’ by the Italian-American group running Chrysler International in the 1960’s. I knew I had to be careful dealing with Rallo, just as I did with the suspected CIA man Glen Speck. Rallo was a tall, gangling, pimply young man who spoke up but hadn’t too much to say. He called me ‘sir’ and was still in a state of wonder at being let loose in Brazil. He was a bit of an untrained terrier on any job given him and could be relied upon to leave a trail of ruffled feelings in his wake.
Most of my Brazilian colleagues had also sussed out Speck as the CIA man – he was a joker and not taken seriously as a workmate whereas Rollo was treated with amused condescension by the Brazilian Staff.

In spite of the authority Albin wielded I was not to leave on 16th September. Getting my visa, delayed the departure for some days. Eventually, as I sat in a first class seat on  Varig DC8 Detroit bound, I mused on the fact that Albin gave tough assignments but looked after his staff.

Rollo was at the Metropolitan airport to meet me and usher me through formalities. He had found me a comfortable motel at Grosse Point and had a Plymouth model car ready for me to get around. Again, I saw Albin’s hand in this.
‘You’ll have to be here for a few days because they don’t want to release some of the parts you’ll be taking back. The unaccompanied drawings weren’t put on your plane and I’ve telexed Panyotis to get them on the next flight up.’
‘Can I do anything to help, Tony?’
He wanted to say ‘no’ but replied, ‘I’ve arranged a meeting with Leinfest for Monday; there’s nothing can to be done before that.’
‘Ok, I’ll just say hello to Marcetti, leRoy, Moore and a few others.’    When I did meet these managers I found a lot of ruffled feathers and realised the Dodge Dart car we were launching in October 1969 at the Chrysler Brazilian Plant in Sao Paulo was currently being produced at the Detroit Plant and here they had similar parts supply problems. Tony had used hob-nail boot tactics which had put their backs up and we were to see the top man, Leinfest to sort matters out.

Meanwhile I had a few days free in Detroit and used them to shop for presents for the family and then to re-visit the old haunts of the time four RAF friends had spent many happy weekends here in 1944 when we were doing our flying training in Canada.

At the Monday meeting I was able to convince Leinfest that the loss of prestige to Chrysler International in failing to meet a launch date in such a country as Brazil would far outweigh the delay in meeting some delivery dates to a few dealers throughout the USA where the market for cars was booming and the other two main national car makers, Ford and General Motors, were undergoing similar parts supply problems.

Leinfest gave the go-ahead for the parts to be released and, after the meeting asked me to call off the Brazilian appointed bloodhound who was upsetting his team. I laughed and said I’d pass the request on to Jim Albin. With the matter sorted there were still a few days to wait and Tony came up trumps by inviting me to a family house party at his brother-in-laws place at Battle Creek in the country and this passed the time nicely. The parts weighed 300 kilos and were packed in 9 crates. With the documentation I was given $1,000 for excess baggage and was taken to the airport by Rollo who, in his cheeky manner, drove Leinfest’s executive station wagon. He took pride in making these small but status-enhancing impressions. A truck carrying the parts I was to take followed us.

Well satisfied I settled into my seat for a relaxing flight back. At an intermediary stop at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeao airport we were about to take off when a uniformed figure appeared in the aisle and called for a Mr William Mason. When I had identified myself he requested me to follow him and, under the curious scrutiny of the other passengers I stepped to the door and descended the steps to see on the tarmac my 9 crates and a crowd of custom’s officials grouped nearby. One of them began to ask me probing questions about the legality of what I was transporting.

It was clear to me at once what they were after and I maintained that I was a through passenger and was prepared to answer any questions put to me by the customs at my destination in Sao Paulo. At which another of them alleged that whatever  I was transporting was illegal in the manner it was being done and therefore answerable to any customs authority at any Brazilian airport.

I then became the indignant passenger, quite unabashed at their approach saying reproachfully that I was the representative of an international company in Brazil to bring prosperity and jobs here and had they nothing better to do than to hinder this effort – it would look bad when I reported this to the authorities.

When they saw that I spoke Portuguese and was not to be intimidated some of them moved off but a couple remained and tried to dig in and there followed a scene I had enacted frequently when threatened with officials on the make, by threatening them back. These people knew how to handle fellow Brazilians and usually non-Portuguese speaking foreigners but tend to back off from an indignant Portuguese speaking foreigner. There were arguments and counter arguments and I could see the port holes of the plane filled with heads of curious passengers watching the scene thinking perhaps that a big smuggler had been apprehended.
One of the crew joined us and said the captain was waiting to take off, but I warned him that the airline had a contract to take me and my baggage to Sao Paulo and the plane could not leave until I and the crates were back on board. He asked me when that would be and I referred him to my two persecutors with whom he was not able to speak, nor they with him, so I was able to make quite a pantomime much to their annoyance.

The crew member went back to give my message and the stalemate went on. They stood fast and I stood close to my crates waiting to see what they were prepared to do. The crew member came back again and expressed his Captain’s concern about the delay, and I told him that the captain should be here defending his passenger’s rights. The customs men remained adamant but now silent. I stood there silent too and continued the waiting game; there was nothing else I could do. To my surprise and relief, they backed down but, to save face, as they waved for the cases to be re-loaded into the plane, they took the number of my ticket and said they would telex Viracopas airport in Sao Paulo. When I saw the cases safely loaded back into the hold I boarded under the gazes of the still curious passengers.

At Viracopas the Chrysler representative – fixer – Silvio was waiting and I was through customs, leaving him with the paperwork to clear up any mess – and in a taxi on the road to Sao Paulo in short time.

In the taxi I ruminated on the recent events and it occurred to me that twelve years earlier I had been sent to Rio with 40 kilos of gold by the mining company I worked for and the Bank of Brazil contact to meet me had not turned up so I was obliged to wait in the busy airport with a King’s Ransom for some hours full of trepidation. (BLOG The Gold Runner). This time with 300 kilos of car parts I had been met by unexpected and unwanted officials and had greatly enjoyed seeing off their predatory intentions with a grand-standing performance.