The cars we talk about on ViaRETRO are by definition relatively rare by virtue of their age. After all, they’re generally at least 25 years old, and often much more. Increasingly, some – including some of what we refer to as “everyday heroes”, cars that were built and sold in their hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions – can now only be seen occasionally, even in their home markets.
Then there are those that are as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth, come with superb motorsport or ownership histories, are basically mobile works of art and are valued as such, fetching sums of money ranging from the hundreds of thousands of euros or dollars into even the multi-millions.
There are very few, however, that are totally unique – even the world’s most expensive car, the Ferrari 250GTO, comes in more than one example. Classics of such scarcity rarely feature in our Prime Find series – not least because they don’t often come up for sale, and when they do, their prices are beyond the vast majority of us. This week, however, we are indeed going to feature a unique car, one that, while it doesn’t have a price tag in the advert, is unlikely to cost more than a decent Pagoda Mercedes, E-Type Jaguar or early 1970’s Porsche 911. Yet it doesn’t bear the name of any of these renowned marques.
It was while researching the Small on Power, Big on Style article we ran a few days ago, that I came across a car that I had neither seen before nor heard of: the 1968 Auto Union 1000SP Coupé, currently being offered for sale by a Netherlands-based dealer, Kucarfa.
This exquisitely pretty small coupé has quite a story behind it, and the Kucarfa website has some fascinating information about the car they are selling. To start with, it wasn’t actually built by Auto Union. In fact, although it’s based on the chassis of a 1963 DKW 1000S De Luxe, it transpires that the car was in fact built by a group of eight engineering students at the Pfälzischen Meisterschule für Handwerker (Coachbuilders Masterschool in Kaiserslautern, or MHK) back in 1968 as a college exam project.
The car was built entirely by hand, with the DKW chassis presenting several challenges necessitating some work-arounds. For example, the rear window is from a Fiat 850 coupé but installed upside down, and the front windscreen from a Porsche. The students didn’t get around to installing an interior and once the project was complete, their exams passed, the car disappeared. It was found again in 1980, in a warehouse in Frankfurt that was rented by a group of DKW fans, and bought by a Dutchman named Joop Verwij, who continued the restoration process that had been started by its post-MHK owner in Germany.
The car was not in great condition, and since it was a one-off, parts were obviously hard to come by and a lot of improvisation was required. The nose and bumper came from an Audi 60, round rearlights that look like they might have come from an Opel Manta A replaced rectangular ones, the doors are from a Porsche 911, and the original rectangular Audi 100 C1 headlights were replaced with a four round-headlight set-up, making the car look much like a contemporary Audi. In fact, the resemblance between this car and the Audi 100S Coupe – itself a beautiful car introduced in 1969 – is impossible to miss. The original 2-stroke racing engine was replaced with a standard 1-litre, 3-cylinder, 2-stroke DKW unit, and over time the car was fully restored following a repaint in its original red.
Eventually, the car found its way via other Dutch owners into the hands of John Kuiper at Kucarfa. He’s owned the car for about three years and is now trying to sell it for what appears to be the second time.
One lovely sidebar to this tale is that in September of last year, the original builders of the car, the eight student engineers at MHK, were reunited with their class project after some detective work by one of their number, Richard Wisse. Now 76 years old, he managed to track the car and John Kuiper down and remarkably, all eight of the car’s original builders came together at Audi Tradition in Ingolstadt for a class-and-car reunion.
For me, despite its humble origins in a college workshop, and the – of necessity – mix-and-match nature of the restoration, this little gem of a car works wonderfully. As it was impossible to restore to its original state, the various parts pinched from other cars have clearly been carefully selected to maintain as much design integrity as possible, and I think the restorers have done an excellent job, though I appreciate some might think of it as a bit of a Frankenstein car.
This utterly charming little coupé was apparently for sale in 2016 for a fairly hefty €77,777. Kucarfa isn’t saying what the current asking price is(a practice I find frustrating), but for the classic car collector – I doubt it will be driven much due to its uniqueness – it represents a very rare opportunity to put a genuine motoring curio in their garage.
Here’s a link to the advert on the Kucarfa website: 1968 Auto Union 1000SP Coupé
– as well as a link to an article in the Donaukurier about the MHK class reunion: Wundersames Wiedersehen mit Glanzstueck
All pictures courtesy of Kucarfa or the Donaukurier newspaper.
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to firstname.lastname@example.org