From Salesman to Classic Car Mechanic: Clemens Jeßberger in an interview
Clemens Jeßberger, 30, gave up his secure job in sales and re-started his career as an apprentice in car mechatronics engineeringwith the Klassik Garage Kronberg –heeding his passion for classic cars. Not enough, he just accomplished hismaster’s certificate! In an interview he tells us just how this came about:
Klassik Garage Kronberg: You gave up your secure job to start an apprenticeship as a mechatronics engineer here at the Klassik Garage Kronberg and then went on to pass your master’s certification! First of all congratulations, and how did that happen?
Clemens Jeßberger: Thank you, thank you. Well, prior to this I went through a commercial education and then worked in sales. But that did not really interest me, really. When I turned 26 and asked myself what I wanted to do, it was clear at some point: I wanted to fix old cars. That was more from the heart than a rational decision!
Klassik Garage Kronberg: A bold decision! Why old cars?
Clemens Jeßberger: When I was a teenager I lived in the USA. A neighbor in New York had an old Corvette C3 and a Pontiac Transam. I was allowed to help him fix the cars. Looking back, that was just amateur stuff – but I had tasted blood for the first time! That’s where it all began – even though my mom always likes to say, that,when I was two years old, I used to kick tires, saying, “good tires, good tires”!
Klassik Garage Kronberg: But despite your commercial education, you did not become a car salesman, but a mechanic. Didyou get immersed into the classic car world immediately?
Clemens Jeßberger: Yes, I asked myself: did I want to change the same brakes over and over again in a VW Golf built 2015, or did I want to do something that had a thrill to it? The VW Golf was out of my mind pretty fast.
“It’s honest work to me!”
Klassik Garage Kronberg: What fascinates you about classic cars?
Clemens Jeßberger: It’s honest work to me! You don’t just hook up a computer to analyze the car and then swap defectparts, but you work with all your senses to identify and solve a problem. You can still touch things, disassemble the whole thingand then rebuild it again. There’s a chance to actually exchange individual parts of a component – even if you have to make them yourself. It just is honest work!
A small difference: between VW polo built in 2014 and working on a Jaguar E-type v12 –built in 1975
Klassik Garage Kronberg: Your mechatronics apprenticeship dealt with current models. A parallel universe to the Klassik Garage. How difficult was it to constantly change between the different technologies? Did working on the tangible mechanics make theories have more sense for you?
Clemens Jeßberger: Yes, sometimes it was easier for me. The basic functional principles have barely changed. Of courseintermediate shafts were introduced and things don’t jerk as much today. But to acquire the know-how in the field of modern vehicle electronics was more difficult for me. Especially because we rarely have them on our lifting platform. But Ido have the know-how now and won’t fall behind in that.
Klassik Garage Kronberg: I guess with your work you keep know-how on working on classic cars, which is increasingly being lost in the market. Right?
Clemens Jeßberger: Yes, I actually see it that way. I can work on modern cars and historical ones on top! Especially with regard to carburetors. No one really cares about them today. Something that wasn’t mentioned in our vocational education nor in our masters courses.
“I miss the character of contemporary cars.”
Klassik Garage Kronberg: Do you miss something regarding contemporary cars?
Clemens Jeßberger: Yes, I miss the character of contemporary cars.
Klassik Garage Kronberg: The character?! But there are some really beautiful cars nowadays, aren’t there?
Clemens Jeßberger: Yes, there are some very beautiful cars around today. But somehow they all seem to come out of awind channel … They all look the same, have super modern-looking lighting concepts and start to fall apart after just three years. When I think back to the Mercedes models of the 90s: W126, W140 or even the smaller builds like the W124 whichI currently own myself, these are heavy duty cars built to last a long time. High-class workmanship compared to the BMWX3 built in 2014 which my parents own – better not take a look at from beneath. Of course, it’s impressive what can be done with state-of-the-art materials nowadays. But after 5-6 years the cars start to squeak and creak. None of which isconvincing to me.
Klassik Garage Kronberg: But when we talk about classic cars, they do have their peculiarities.
Clemens Jeßberger: They definitely do. That’s what gives them their character!
Klassik Garage Kronberg: That’s what gives them their character?! When did such a car with a character annoy you last?
Clemens Jeßberger: Well, that’s the beauty of classic cars – you always find the problem. In new cars it can be a software bug. I can’t really analyze binary digits that would fill this room. Of course it can happen, that former owners of the car have added non-original manufactured parts or have altered parts considerably. Then, for example, nothing in the electrical system works as it should and you sit there and all you want to do is get the car registered in Germany and on the road –this can imply a tremendous effort and can be annoying at times. But still, it’s predictable and incredibly fun work! ”
“It’s still about hands-on work, you can disassemble parts and rebuild them.“
Klassik Garage Kronberg: Well I guess, that makes my next question almost superfluous: Ignition key or push-button starter?
Clemens Jeßberger: Yes, it does. I still want to turn a key!
Klassik Garage Kronberg: What is your dream car?
Clemens Jeßberger: Well, in fact, I’m a bit biased from my time in the US. And probably every second German fan of classic cars will throw their hands up in disbelief. Actually, I’ll have two cars parking in my driveway – a Corvette C3 Stingray built in 69 and one of the latest Jeep Grand Wagoneers. For almost 30 years these have been built almost unchanged. This is virtually the forefather of all SUVs, suitable for off-road and fitted with all the luxury that you are used to from the American sedans. Everything’s electric: air conditioning – later climate control, power steering, cruise control … All of which wasn’t typical for SUVs and that makes me like this vehicle so much and of course because it was also the initiator of a new era, a new age. And of course, because I think it’s beautiful too.