Ruedi Stoop, owner of a garage for classic cars from Wangen in the Swiss canton of Schwyz, and Aleksandar Rankovic, Product Manager CAR at MOTOREX are sitting having coffee and pastries in the 1950s diner in a building next to the Classic Garage in Wangen. The jukebox and the little flashing lights on the pinball machine transport the pair back to the age of flares and in-your-face tracksuits. The window at the end of the room offers glimpses of the mechanics hard at work in the classic car garage.
Ruedi, please tell us a bit about the company
My name is Ruedi Stoop, I am 59 years old and Patrick Wäspe and I run Classic Garage Wangen GmbH in Wangen, Schwyz. We mainly take care of the after sales business, so we don’t sell vehicles ourselves. Our services cover everything relating to repairs, which includes services across all brands, models and ages – mainly classic cars. That means any vehicles that are more than 30 years old. We also provide support for all technical matters. We restore cars with our partners, which involves bodywork, leatherwork and paintwork. We have a solution for every type of damage. We also provide advice on insurance matters and support for classic car purchases. Customers can ask us to go with them to view a car and then provide our recommendation. We also finish projects that have been started by others. These jobs are highly challenging and exciting.
How did you get into classic cars and what inspires you in your day-to-day work?
I inherited the passion from my father. He used to work for the largest Swiss automotive journal “Automobile Revue”. So, when I was a little boy, I was allowed to go with him to the motor show and he brought lots of interesting cars home. You start to get a little biased even as a child. My dad’s old MG completely fascinated me as a classic car. It was a right-hand drive and had rear-hinged doors. I always knew that I wanted to have a classic car too. Before I started training as a car mechanic I had the opportunity to buy an MGA. It was a barn find and very much in need of restoration. Even though this car didn’t have a working steering wheel anymore, the brake and clutch pedals had already reached the floor, rust had set in and many other things – including the engine – had ceased to function, I went against my parents’ advice and took on the challenge. I got a lot of support from the workshop manager during my apprenticeship. But even after I completed my training, the whole classic car thing never really left me.
In the car business you know that spring and autumn are the busy times. There was less work on over the summer, so this is when workshop walls would be painted, tools would be sorted and the garage would be given a good clean. But I wanted to use the time for something else and started revamping classic cars. The classic car business then picked up speed and word got around. I was even approached about my exotic vehicles at vintage motor racing events, which was my hobby. The customer base for classic cars grew so quickly that the sideline developed into a business of its own.
Do you have a personal favourite among the classics?
I often get asked this question but I don’t have a definitive answer. Pre-war cars are extremely challenging to drive, but I love them simply because of their nature. They may be uncomfortable, not the fastest and often have poor brakes, but the experience of driving them is indescribable. Then there’s the Golf 1 GTI for example. I’ve owned a few of them over the years – they were often rusty and had a lot of miles on the clock. Now when I sit in a Golf 1 GTI, I am transported back to my youth. For racing, my favourite is the little English TVR Griffith. The car’s 4.7 V8 engine, several hundred horsepower and weight of 900 kg make it extremely fast. They are the cars I’m enjoying most at the moment, but there are so many great cars that I couldn’t possibly choose just one.
What are the tell-tale signs that you are sitting in a classic car?
Classic cars usually don’t have driver assistance systems and the speed of pre-war classic cars is limited. When you are driving uphill, you go slightly faster than walking pace. You have to always keep an eye on the coolant temperature when you’re driving. Sometimes you might have to fetch some water from a stream to pour into the radiator during a stop and let the car cool down with the bonnet up. With an old car, you should never drive down a hill faster than you drove up it because the brakes do not work perfectly. Unlike new cars, classic cars only have a one-speed windscreen wiper, which is actually more like a raindrop spreader. The windows mist up quickly and visibility quickly becomes a problem when you have no air conditioning. The lights aren’t ideal either and may sometimes still have double-filament bulbs. With just 6 volts, it feels like you don’t have any light at all. Instead of having all the technical bells and whistles, you adjust the vents for cooling in the wind or open the window. Some cars only have three or four gears. When you drive a VW Beetle at 120 km/h on the motorway, it is the ultimate high. You won’t get faster than that!
How can you influence the driving experience?
Classic cars need regular maintenance and lots of love. You have to be very careful with the brakes because they are not self-adjusting. The brake pedal will travel further over time due to wear. It is also essential that you check and change the brake fluid regularly. The same applies for gearbox oil, rear axle oil, coolant and motor oil. Lots of parts also need to be replaced, cleaned or readjusted over time. A classic car like the VW Beetle needs to be serviced every 2,500 km, which is unthinkable nowadays!
What should you look out for during maintenance in the garage?
I recommend that all customers have the oil changed regularly. Oil is not particularly expensive compared with servicing work or even an engine overhaul, but it can have a big effect and prevent major damage. MOTOREX caters exactly for the needs in question with its products. I’ve found the entire range of products here, from monograde to multigrade oils for the engine, gearbox and rear axle, as well as the corresponding maintenance products. For me, MOTOREX makes the ideal partner as a Swiss manufacturer with its own research and development, the associated field trials with oil analysis and the perfect blends. For instance, I don’t need to mix in a zinc additive separately like I would with an oil from a service station.
Message for classic car fans
Look after your classic car because you don’t drive a car like that forever. The aim is to hand down a classic car at some point. You should keep your classic car in shape so that you will be able to bequeath it to your son or daughter, a neighbour or a friend. Don’t hide cars under a cover in the garage – take them out for a drive so that you are seen with them frequently. We have a huge abundance of classic cars in Switzerland and they are sadly not seen on the road nearly enough.
Take your classic car to a meeting or organise a trip. Get young people interested and invite them to go for a spin: it’s not just an old clunking and smoky car. The evolution from the horse-drawn cart to the modern-day car took almost 100 years – classic cars are part of that journey and therefore part of our history. They are with us on this journey as they were for our parents and grandparents. This heritage should be handed down to the younger generation. People out walking smile when they see this cultural asset. The car will often bring you nice encounters and new acquaintances. It is really a great experience to be able to drive a classic car.
More about CLASSIC LINE.