DDR DREAM

What do you do when you live be­hind the Iron Cur­tain yet dream of own­ing a Porsche? Why, you build your own… We tell the fas­ci­nat­ing story of the 356-in­spired Lind­ner ʻPorsche­liʼ coupé

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Keith Seume Pho­tos: An­dreas Ried­mann

The Lind­ner ‘Porsche’ was a dream come true for two East Ger­man broth­ers

ʻAt Schloss Dyck we were the out­siders,ʼ says Alexan­der Fritz. ʻWhile oth­ers were whisked away to their five-star ho­tels in chauf­feur­driven lim­ou­sines, we walked to our lodg­ings in a monastery, stop­ping off on the way at the lo­cal beer cel­lars.ʼ The Schloss Dyck con­cours dʼélé­gance, you see, is an event held ev­ery autumn for only the very rarest and best clas­sic cars.

Alexan­der Fritz and his Lind­ner coupé were in­vited by the organisers to com­pete in the con­cours in the cat­e­gory for ʻCoupés and cars of class built be­tween 1948 and 1955ʼ. Among the other en­tries were a Mercedes 300SL ʻgull­wingʼ, once the prop­erty of the Aga Kahn, and Prince Bern­hardʼs Fer­rari 212, so a rare Ger­man sports car that looked rather like a Porsche was­nʼt too far out of place. Ex­cept, of course, it was­nʼt strictly a Porsche…

Knut and Falk Reimann were twin broth­ers, born in 1932 in Dres­den, the city in­fa­mously laid to waste in Fe­bru­ary 1945. Post-war they loved trav­el­ling through­out Ger­many but were frus­trated by the par­ti­tion­ing which split their home coun­try in two: the ʻfreeʼ west and the com­mu­nist east – the

Deutsche Demokratis­che Repub­lik, or DDR for short. Con­tact with the out­side world be­came in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult, but vis­it­ing Ber­lin gave them the op­por­tu­nity to peak into the west to see what they were miss­ing – and fore­most among the hid­den plea­sures were cars like the early Porsches, of which they could only dream of own­ing.

How­ever, there were still the bat­tered re­mains of cars and mo­tor­cy­cles that had some­how sur­vived the war. The two broth­ers be­gan by re­pair­ing a BMW mo­tor­cy­cle, fol­lowed by a Fiat Topolino, but what they han­kered for most of all was a Porsche. But where to be­gin?

The an­swer lay in the form of the rem­nants of a wartime VW Type 82 Kü­bel­wa­gen which the broth­ers dis­cov­ered near their home. This sim­ple plat­form chas­sis, once stripped of its body, was taken to the coach­build­ing com­pany Lind­ner in

Mo­horn, near Dres­den, an old-school car­rosserie run by Arno Lind­ner and his son Hel­fried. The Reiman broth­ers talked of cre­at­ing a Porsche-styled coupé, a chal­lenge to which Hel­fried Lind­ner rose with some en­thu­si­asm as he saw it as a great way to pro­mote the fam­ily con­cern, maybe lead­ing to build­ing a se­ries of such cars.

The cho­sen method of con­struc­tion was one which had stood the test of time: us­ing an ash frame for the main body, with a tubu­lar steel front and rear frame­work to sup­port the nose and tail sec­tions. Over this frame­work of wood and metal, hand-formed steel body pan­els would be mounted, the Kü­bel­wa­gen chas­sis be­ing stretched by some 30cm. The source of the nec­es­sary metal in such days of aus­ter­ity? The bon­nets of 15 old Ford trucks… The con­struc­tion process took some 1000 man hours, for which the broth­ers were charged 3500 Ost­marks (the cur­rency of the DDR at the time). It was not, said Hel­fried Lind­ner, a lu­cra­tive con­tract…

The plan was to build a se­ries of a dozen or more coupés but be­fore that the pro­to­type was put to the test. Be­cause the bor­ders be­tween East and West Ger­many were some­what ʻporousʼ at the time, the broth­ers had lit­tle dif­fi­culty in trav­el­ling out­side their home coun­try, vis­it­ing Brus­sels, Nice, Lake Geneva and even­tu­ally Italy. In 1956, they ven­tured south to Stuttgart to visit the

“THEY TALKED OF CRE­AT­ING A PORSCHE-STYLE COUPÉ…”

Porsche fac­tory it­self. There, after some ne­go­ti­a­tion, they were al­lowed to look round the fac­tory, leav­ing a let­ter for Ferry Porscheʼs at­ten­tion in which they asked if it would be pos­si­ble to buy parts to con­vert their old VW en­gine into some­thing more along the lines of Porscheʼs 356 unit.

A few weeks later, a let­ter ar­rived in which Ferry Porsche ex­pressed his ad­mi­ra­tion for the project and agreed to sup­ply parts – they would be despatched to the Win­ter VW deal­er­ship in West Ber­lin. From that point on, it was up to the Reimann broth­ers to find a way to smug­gle the parts into East Ger­many.

The broth­ers named their car a ʻPorsche­liʼ, us­ing a false num­ber plate to fool the DDR bor­der guards into think­ing it was a West Ger­man car. Shar­ing a driverʼs li­cence to save money, the twin broth­ers drove through France, Italy and Bel­gium be­fore the net be­gan to tighten and the bor­ders be­came less per­vi­ous. The fun con­tin­ued un­til one fate­ful day when the bor­der guards said ʻno moreʼ – the broth­ers were even­tu­ally im­pris­oned as they planned their es­cape to the west in 1961.

They were re­leased after a year, but the car had, in the mean­time, fallen into the hands of Sieg­mar Bunk, a driver for the Dres­den-based Melkus com­pany (which man­u­fac­tured small-ca­pac­ity rac­ing cars), who sub­se­quently sold it for parts. Falk Reimann moved to Hun­gary, while his brother Knut re­mained in Ger­many, but of the car there was no trace.

To­day, it is be­lieved that just two of pos­si­bly 13 Lind­ner ʻPorsche­lisʼ sur­vive, one of which – the car seen here – is thought to be Num­ber 4. The sorry re­mains of the car sur­faced in 2008, hav­ing been res­cued by clas­sic car en­thu­si­ast, Ernst Bern­steiner. No­body knew much about the car when he showed it in ʻas foundʼ con­di­tion at some old-

timer meet­ings, the sorry-look­ing coupé only re­ceiv­ing com­ments sug­gest­ing it was a Ta­tra­plan, or that it had the wrong bumpers for a Pre-a 356 Porsche…

At the time, cur­rent owner Alexan­der Fritz had lit­tle in­ter­est in the Lind­ner un­til he be­gan to carry out some re­search. After spend­ing sev­eral hours in front of the com­puter, the full story be­gan to un­ravel and he struck a deal. In 2012, he tracked down the Reimann broth­ers, Knut in Ber­lin, Falk in Bu­dapest, and they were more than happy to dig out all their photo al­bums show­ing their ad­ven­tures with the Porscheli. Hel­fried Lind­ner, by now an old gen­tle­man, was also tracked down in the search for in­for­ma­tion.

The hunt for a suit­able re­storer led Fritz to Ab­so­lut Clas­sic in Bu­dapest, the only com­pany that was pre­pared to take on the restora­tion at a rea­son­able rate.

Sadly nei­ther Knut Reimann nor Hel­fried Lind­ner lived to see the com­ple­tion of the restora­tion, but Falk did and was over­whelmed when he fi­nally saw his trea­sured sports car once again look­ing as it did some 60 years ear­lier. He, too, passed away within weeks of the restora­tion be­ing fin­ished, a sil­ver rose from his fu­neral flow­ers now sit­ting in the bud vase on the dash­board of the re­stored car.

At the pres­ti­gious Schloss Dyck con­cours, the Porscheli was the only Ddr-built car on show. It im­pressed the judges enough to win its class. It also im­pressed Porsche, who re­cently used it as part of a spe­cial dis­play. The Reimann broth­ers and Hel­fried Lind­ner would have been proud. CP

“THE REIMANN BROTH­ERS WOULD HAVE BEEN PROUD…”

Above: From this an­gle, the Lind­ner-built coupé clearly dis­plays the in­flu­ence the Porsche 356 had on its de­sign, right down to the trade­mark grille on the en­gine lid

Be­low left: Dash­board fea­tures gauge pods and glove­boxes (with ac­ces­sory lids) from a Volk­swa­gen

Be­low right: Alexan­der Fritz spent many hours track­ing down in­for­ma­tion be­fore em­bark­ing on the restora­tion

Be­low: Longer wheel­base and lower waist­line changes the pro­por­tions com­pared to those of the 356

Above right: Front end body­work was formed over a tubu­lar steel frame

Above left: The Lind­ner coupé used an early VW en­gine, brought up to Pre-a Porsche spec­i­fi­ca­tions

Above: Rear three-quar­ter view is prob­a­bly the least at­trac­tive, the rear body­work look­ing a lit­tle too wide. But that is not to de­tract from the amaz­ing ef­forts of the Reimann broth­ers in cre­at­ing their ‘Porscheli’

Be­low left: Ash frame with tubu­lar steel sub­frames sup­ported the hand-beaten steel body­work

Be­low cen­tre: The Reimann broth­ers with their dream car

Be­low right: Alexan­der Fritz has writ­ten a book about the fas­ci­nat­ing Lind­ner coupé and its cre­ators

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