Classic film The Italian Job showed gold bars being smuggled out of Italy. Now some are about to be taken into Italy - and they were made in Carlisle.

These are Gold Bar biscuits, made at the McVitie’s factory in Caldewgate.

Next week Paul Rheinbach and Angus Grant will drive to Italy in a Mini Cooper similar to the three which were used as getaway cars in the film.

They are raising money for Carlisle Youth Zone, Eden Valley Hospice and CFM’s Cash For Kids.

Paul, 50, is managing director of More Handles. Angus, 38, is managing director of Carlisle Brass.

Both men are fans of the 1969 crime caper, whose stars include Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill.

Twenty-two businesses are sponsoring the journey and their logos are emblazoned on the blue Mini.

Paul had the idea of using Gold Bars to help publicise the trip.

He says: “In the film it was a gold heist. I just thought I’d see if McVitie’s would agree to letting us have some of their Gold Bars. I was delighted when they did.

“We’ll take a few with us in a cool bag. But we’ll freeze most of them and distribute them to the charities when we get back.”

The amount already raised through sponsorship and donations is £7,000. Paul and Angus hope to reach at least £10,000.

They will set off next Tuesday. After travelling by ferry from Dover to Dunkirk they will join about a dozen Minis from around the world in an organised tour to many of The Italian Job’s locations.

The cars will drive through France, over the Alps into Italy and spend three nights in Turin, where much of the film was set.

2019 is the 60th anniversary of the Mini and the 50th anniversary of The Italian Job.

The mileage on the overseas leg of the journey will be about 1,600 miles. Paul and Angus will share the driving and have no qualms about travelling such a long way in such a small car, even though both men are 6ft 1in. “It’s very comfortable,” insists Paul.

Until a few weeks ago there were doubts that he would be able to make the trip. At the end of May he was seriously ill after a gangrenous gallbladder led to sepsis.

“A gallstone had got stuck in a bile duct,” he says. “It perforated my gallbladder. I had an emergency operation to remove the gallbladder.

“I was in hospital for four nights. It was a very close call. They did a great job for me at the Cumberland Infirmary. I’ve got nothing but respect for them for saving my life.

“I had lots of offers from other businessmen to jump in. They said ‘We’ll make sure it goes ahead.’ At the end of July I was starting to feel better.”

Paul says the experience has encouraged him to “keep a smile on your face. Don’t take life too seriously. As you can see, by doing daft things like this.”

McVitie’s produces 60 million Gold Bars a year, all of them in Carlisle. The company gave about 500 to Paul and Angus.

Mike Heaney, the factory’s general manager, says: “Men of a certain age will be very familiar with The Italian Job. I love the film. Who doesn’t like ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off’?”

(This is a line said by Michael Caine’s character, which men inevitably repeat to each other in any discussion of The Italian Job.)

“When Paul approached us we were glad to help. McVitie’s have made gold here for more than 30 years. It felt like a good tie-up. It’s going to raise money for some of the charities that we support, like Eden Valley Hospice.”

Paul contacted Michael Caine’s agent and received two signed copies of the actor’s memoir, Blowing The Bloody Doors Off. These will be auctioned to raise funds.

As well as McVitie’s, several other businesses have helped the venture. M&B Bodyworks and David Fisher garage both worked on the Mini free of charge. So did Grafix Signs, which made the sponsors’ logos.

“We’ve had outstanding support,” says Paul. “I’m so pleased. I didn’t think people would get behind it so much. But it’s grabbed their imagination.”

Angus Grant says: “I’m really excited about it. It’s fantastic to be sharing this experience with Paul, who’s been the driving force behind it. There’ll be some great laughs along the way and memories made. I’m not sure our Michael Caine impressions will improve much, mind.”

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