Question: have you ever heard the names Romanshorn, Autobau or Fredy Lienhard?
If you were a nope, nope and an err nope then you’re not the only one. Fortunately for me while I was in Europe I learnt they relate to a private collection which could rival that of Jay Leno. Romanshorn is the town, Autobau the name of the collection and Fredy Lienhard the lucky owner.
Romanshorn is a sleepy town in north east Switzerland on the shores of Lake Obersee Bodensee. An easy day trip from Munich if you’re in the area. The collection is held in an unassuming, government listed old alcohol storage building which has been converted into a spectacular piece of modern architecture.
Fredy made his fortune manufacturing office furniture. While clearly successful in business he was a racer through and through. He founded Lista Racing in 1968 and competed in everything from Formula Vee through to European Sports Cars and the American Le Mans series. The story goes in 2003 Fredy showed a group of school children through his collection and their ‘gleaming eyes’ lead to the impressive site that stands today.
Ever the businessman, to supplement the collection building, is another facility for automotive vendors whose rent no doubt helps subsidize the running costs. It features mechanics, automotive collectibles, an exotic car dealership with stock like a Saleen S7, Dodge Viper RT/10 and a Ford GT. All of which would be pretty rare to see on European roads.
Across the way the collection entrance reveals three distinct sections- road cars, race cars and an exhibition space.
Starting with his road cars. Ferrari’s- he has a few…. a red La Ferrari, red F40, red Testarossa, red Daytona, red Dino, red 330 GTO, red 360 Modena race car but then a yellow F12 TDF!
He also has a taste for weird and wonderful concept cars. A Rennspeed Bedouin (read Porsche 996 Twin Turbo) was actually a ute. The rear deck lid retracted into itself to form a tray. The interior was studded with crystals and the steering wheel was made from two 996 gear knobs.
A bizarre orange Lamborghini Murcielargo based concept surely was never meant to progress past one car?
And when have you ever seen a Vector W8? One of only 22 in the world.
To balance those out he has a nice selection of Porsche’s ranging from a 356 and 912’s to a 918 and 991 GT3 RS.
There were also some other solid choices for a collection- an Alfa Romeo 8C, Aston Vanquish, a beautiful Lamborghini Muira and two Mercedes 300SL’s.
Incredibly some of his cars were missing at the time- a Maserati MC12 race car (he was racing it at Monza), Jaguar XJ220 and a Bugatti EB110.
Through the other end of the building the race car collection was as varied as it was magnificent. Formula One cars from a Sauber- a C23 driven by Giancarlo Fisichella and a C12 driven by JJ Lheto, a Jean Alesi Ferrari and a Renault RE40/02.
One of the curators told me a wonderful story about Michael Schumacher while I was admiring the Mercedes Sauber C9. He raced a C11 but prior to that Fredy saw Michael racing as a youngster and commented to his crew chief that he would go far. He noted how he was consistently fast but able to conserve tires far better than any of the other drivers.
His Audi A4 DTM was a total space ship. I didn’t realize just how far away from their road going counterparts that they had gone. Carbon fibre was everywhere, the engine was pushed so far back it would no be considered mid engined and the driver sat basically at the B pillar line. The aero work is incredible- a massive rear diffuser and multi-plane spoiler, front winglets, and a side exit exhaust the size of your fist.
A beautiful Ferrari 512BB Silhouette was amazing to see in person.
Lastly, the exhibition space. American cars were the theme. The stand out for me being the C1 Chevrolet Corvette.
If you’re in the area it’s only open on Wednesday and Sunday evenings so check before you plan a visit. Plus you’ll need Swiss Francs, not Euros to pay the admission cost. But they’ve set it up really well to cater for your other half too as there’s a cafe with free wifi.
So while the collection doesn’t rival Leno in terms of scale or value; the quality, range and accessibility of viewing the collection really makes world class.