There is a collection of cars that every racing and car enthusiast should see. It is at the Autobau, located in Romanshorn, Switzerland. On the southern shore of Lake Constance, the Autobau is easily accessible by train (it is located right next to the Romanshorn main train station) and is close to Zurich. It is also easily reached via lake steamer from Friedrichshafen Germany.
Autobau was originally Fredy Lienhard’s idea, the Swiss Industrialist and auto racer for many years, but it is now run by his son, Fredy Jr. Fredy has amassed a very nice collection of cars and he views the Autobau as a way to ‘share the passion’, so to speak. There are guided tours available with docents who can explain the cars. It is also open to the general public twice a week for self- tours. Frequently it is used for private events, weddings, business meetings etc, more information as to times and schedules is available at www.autobau.ch
The collection is housed in an old alcohol tank storage facility in Romanshorn which was built at the turn of the 20th century, but closed in 1996. In the United States, the building would be listed as a National Historic Site, and in Switzerland it carries similar status, being the only surviving storage facility of its kind in the country. Fredy acquired the site, then invested to prepare it for the ‘auto experience’. Part of the deal with the government, when he bought it, was that it should maintain its exterior appearance as a historic site. The original Autobau building facility was opened in 2009 and in 2011, the Autobau Factory was opened next door, housing corporate exhibits and workspaces. In late 2016, the most unusual building on the site was added, the twelve-sided tank building. This large steel tank used to hold some 2.8 million litres of alcohol, but it now holds cars on three levels.
The collection includes many of the old race cars from Fredy’s teams throughout his racing career, as well as a few other spectacular cars that are on loan from Peter Sauber. However, it is not only limited to racing cars, but many eclectic and very interesting road cars as well.
I must say, as a point of disclosure, I am quite familiar with some of the cars in there, having worked as a mechanic and crewman on some of Fredy’s racing teams in IMSA and the American Le Mans series from 1996 to the point at which he retired from racing in 2008 at the Silverstone ELMS race, when he finished on the podium with his RS Spyder and the young age of 61!
From a Porsche perspective, there are quite a few things to see including both road and race cars, and you notice a Porsche theme even as you prepare to walk in the front door. In front of the building sits a stunning life size sculpture of James Dean and his Porsche 550 Spyder, made entirely from steel car bits and pieces.
There is a very nice 962 here, chassis #159, as run by the Japanese Trust team in 1990 and 1991. Driven mainly by George Fouche and Steven Andskar, the car only ran in three races, Le Mans twice and Autopolis, so it is in excellent condition, and beautifully presented. Apparently, one of Fredy’s favourite race cars to drive is the one he ended his racing career in, the RS Spyder 9R6-707, which displays prominently in the new tank display. This car, driven by Fredy, Didier Theys and Jan Lammers, won the ELMS index of performance in 2008, basically completing the most laps with the least amount of fuel. Other racing Porsches include; a current day GT3 Cup car; a 1974 RSR replica (looking exactly as the one Fredy drove in 1974); a 1972 911 RS (the actual car he raced); and a 917 replica (one of 25 built) displayed in Gulf colours. The crown jewel must be the 904 Carrera GTS. Just a stunning car, looking like new.
On the road car side, there are several stunning examples of Porsche technology. A 911 GT3 RS, a few 356 models, a beautiful 912, a 911S Targa, and a Carrera GT.
There are quite a few Ferraris as well, notably Ferrari 333SP-012. Having worked as a mechanic on this car in 2001, it carries special meaning for me. It is still taken regularly to track days to stretch its legs. There is even a Formula 1 Ferrari 412 T1, one of Jean Alesi’s cars from the 1994 Formula 1 season.
Ferrari road cars include a Dino 246 GT, a LaFerrari, a 70th anniversary edition of the 488, a 365 GTB/4 Daytona, a Testarossa, a 360 Challenge car, and a Ferrari F12tdf (Tour de France), among others. The neatest Ferrari would probably be the 330 GTO, a special version 250 GTO built with the larger 4.0-litre engine and run in period as a prototype, as it was not homologated with that engine. This car was originally built for David Piper and raced by him.
The main halls contain some other very interesting and varied cars, such as Simona De Silvestro’s Dallara-Honda Indy car. Alain Prost’s Renault RE40/02 F1 turbo car from 1983, the 2002 Daytona 24-hour race winning Dallara-Judd, the Doran-Toyota Daytona prototype car as run in Grand Am in the early 2000s, and a Maserati MC12. Fredy’s original early 1970s March BMW Formula 2 car is also on display.
There is a full sampling of American muscle cars including, a 1957 Corvette C1, a 1958 Chevrolet Impala Convertible, a 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, a Shelby 427 Ford Cobra, and a 2006 Ford GT, while a new 2018 Ford GT is on order. British cars are also well represented by several Jaguars, including an XJ 220, a 1961 E-type and a 1961 XK 120C. A few Mercedes are present as well, notably two 300SLs including a white roadster and a black coupe.
There is a collection of the sports cars from Peter Sauber starting with the C1 up through the World Championship winning Sauber Mercedes C9. The bottom floor of the tank display area contains a collection of Sauber F1 cars, starting in 1993 and encompassing various models up through the 2008 range.
There is an interesting wall display serving as a Swiss Motorsport Hall of Fame, which includes quite a few well-known Porsche drivers, such as Fredy himself, Walter Brun, Jo Siffert, Claude Haldi and Herbert Müller. Clay Reggazoni is of course also on the ‘wall of fame’, as are people such as Peter Sauber, Silvio Moser, Markus Hotz, and others.
In addition to the cars there is an impressive 1/43 model collection of Porsche race cars, and as I understand it, it’s one of the largest in one place. A highlight for me was to see several of the cars I have worked on as a mechanic/crewman in the display cases!
As with most everything Fredy Lienhard does, the Autobau is a first-class operation, beautifully presented, and well worth seeing.
Written by: Martin Raffauf
Images by: Martin Raffauf & Virtual Motorpix/GHS