Rarely has the author been so excited about the protagonists of a story. The three are very young, and all share a passion for classics, especially for their technology: there is Lukas, 23, and his girlfriend Maria, 20. Then there is Magdalena, 14. Still a schoolgirl, Magdalena is Lukas’s sister and has officially been given the day off this Friday as the Mercedes-Benz Classic magazine is visiting for two days.
The setting of our story: the village of Nassereith in Tyrol, Austria. It is lined with mountains, some with snow-covered peaks well over 2,000 metres high, has a population of around 2,200 and is just under 60 kilometres from Innsbruck. An idyllic village in a valley, situated on the famous Way of St James, with babbling brooks and waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes and lots of well-kept half-timbered houses in the middle of the Alps. You can see trout, golden and white-tailed eagles, chamois and red deer. In this picturesque place, 840 metres above sea level, you want to hike, climb, unwind, simply take a holiday.
Maria, Magdalena and Lukas are already waiting in front of their workshop at the foot of the steep slope. Parked outside is Lukas’s white “Stroke Eight” (W 115), which he got as a present from his father a few years ago when he passed his school leaving examination. Lukas was already there when he bought the car about 20 years ago. And even as a young boy, he helped his father repair the 220 in the family barn.
In addition, two very exclusive customer vehicles are parked in front of the workshop: a 170 S Cabriolet A (W 136), built in 1951 – only 997 units were built – and a 1993 Evo II, of which there were only 502 units. Inside, in the dim light of the workshop, there are – next to a Fiat and a Cadillac – other classics with a star: a 190 SL (W 121), a 230 SL “Pagoda”(W 113) and a 190 D “Fintail” (W 110). “This is exactly the place where I want to live my dream,” says Lukas. He pauses for a moment and smiles at everyone. “Where we want to live our dream.” The workshop is 600 square metres in size and equipped with everything that is needed: lifting platforms, tool boxes, special tools, shelves full of spare parts, engine stands, upsetting and stretching equipment for bodywork, a spot-welding gun, straightening bench, plane and valve grinding machine, a sandblasting box, and there is even a fully equipped paint room here. Lukas took over the workshop just a few months ago from an 86-year-old master mechanic who had been running it here for the past 30 years and had built up a loyal customer base.
Many of the classic car lovers come from the surrounding valleys and communities, some also from Switzerland, Italy or Germany. The fee that the old master requested for equipment and furnishings was very fair, Lukas explains. The rent? “600 euros a month plus 100 euros for utilities,” answers the young entrepreneur, who has yet to establish an internet presence.
But now other work calls. Lukas opens the bonnet of the Evo II and then fires up the engine. Its owner brought the high-powered sports car – legendary for its DTM successes – here only yesterday. “He was a bit surprised at first because I’m still so young,” explains Lukas, who knows that only satisfied customers come back. “Maybe that’s why he had some reservations at first. But in conversation he realised that I knew something about what I was doing.”
The Evo II does not run perfectly. Something is wrong with the engine. Lukas’s task now is to research the error and fix it. The three of them take turns pressing the accelerator, checking the engine noises. “Lukas, I think it’s the full-load switch,” says Maria. “It doesn’t respond properly when you open the throttle.” They decide to go for a test drive. The siblings get into the Evo II, Maria follows in the 220. Off the main roads they do the “sound check”: Maria and Magdalena stand at the side of the road and prick up their ears, Lukas drives past at different speeds. Back in the workshop, they inspect the engine again. “Maria was probably right with her first assessment,” Lukas now sums up. “The full-load switch is also slightly bent. That might actually be the reason.” After the weekend, they will continue their research.
The next day: Saturday. Maria and Lukas are taking the 220 for a spin through the picture-perfect Tyrolean landscape. Their route meanders across winding roads and long straights that are ideal for relaxed cruising. On the way, the two young mechanics explain how they got into their passion. “It’s definitely in my genes,” says Lukas matter-of-factly. “My grandfather and father drove quite a few old Mercedes. The 111, 114, 115, 123 and 124 model series, to be precise. They never took their cars to the workshop. Instead, they insisted on doing everything themselves. And I was there from an early age. When I was six years old, my father, who is deputy headmaster full-time and a passionate mechanic and DIY enthusiast on the side, took me to the family workshop in a barn-like structure. He always motivated me and said that I had talent. He and Grandpa were my first teachers. They showed me everything they knew – and that was a lot. I was inquisitive and learned quickly. The first car I really worked on was the 220 that I drive today. So my career aspirations crystallised very early on: I wanted to restore classic cars. You have to be creative, always come up with something, find solutions – it never gets boring. I love what I do.” Maria smiles and nods knowingly. “I know all that too. I grew up on a farm and handed my father the spanners when I was two or three years old, when he was fixing the tractor,” she says.