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by Jim Benjaminson. Courtesy of the Plymouth Bulletin.
Irma Darre Brandt, who became the first Norwegian lady motorist to compete in the famed Monte Carlo Rally, passed away at her home in Norway on March 26th, 2003, at the age of 93.
Miss Brandt died at her farm estate where she had lived here entire life. Intensely private, almost to the point of being a recluse, Miss Brandt became the first female from Norway to compete in the famed European Monte Carlo Rally. Although she had competed in some gymkhana's she purchased a 1933 PC series Plymouth two door sedan and entered it in the 1934 running of the Rally. A timed road rally and not a "race", only minor modifications were allowed to be made to the car, including locking the travel of the springs, adding one leaf to the springs and replacing the distributor with a magneto.
Irma chose one of the longest routes to Monte Carlo--starting at Stavanger, Norway. While she didn't win the Ladies Division Cup, Irma returned to the Rally in 1935 -- this time as the driver of a four woman contingent. Racing in the "large car" category Irma was joined by Lina Christiansen, Else Castberg and Borghild Bieltvedt--driving Lina's 1934 PE Plymouth four door sedan.
At the end of the 1935 Rally Irma had gathered 1060.3 points--just 12.7 points short from first place in the General Classification and 8.2 points from first place for the Ladies Cup.
Educated as an agronomist, Irma retired from Rally racing to concentrate on running the family farm on land that has a written history back to the year 1030! Always interested in machinery, Irma prided herself in having the newest and largest tractors avaiable. Her first tractor was an International Mogul imported from the United States.
Perhaps Irma's greatest claim to fame was the fact she kept the 1933 Plymouth she raced in the '34 Rally. When Nazi storm troopers occupied Norway in April of 1940, Irma parked the car next to a shed, removed the wheels and tires, starter, coil, distributor, fan belt, battery and headlamps and refused to give it up to the occupying Nazi forces--telling them the car was no longer operable and was only used as a toy by her 2 year old nephew.
As the 50th Anniversary of the 1934 Monte Carlo Rally drew near, Irma's neighbor Ole Hafsten urged her to have the car restored. Restoration of the car, which by now had badly deteroiated was undertaken in 1982 and completed in time for its debut at the Norwegian Veterans and Vintage Car Club rally in 1984.
This writer was privileged to be one of the few with whom she corresponded regarding the history of the car, sharing memories and photos of the car as it underwent restoration.
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