The Ultimate Problem Solver: Mechanic Siggi Walz. A Portrait.
Anyone in the World Rally Championship, who has brought a caliber like the Audi Quattro up and running again, won’t be unsettled by anything that may pose a problem at the Klassik Garage Kronberg. Especially not for our multi-talented Siggi Walz, the man for all of the tough cases, who – on occasion – devotes some of his time for a little chat…
His father was his role model, and so it wasn’t long until son Siggi stuck his oily fingers into the mechanics of whatever had wheels. For the nine-year-old nipper at the time it may have seemed like a very long way – but not less a predetermined career – that ultimately led him to the Klassik Garage Kronberg – with a detour here and there. Along that path he acquired several skilled trades, participated in top-level motor sports and assimilated decades of know-how. All of which now come to fruition in the daily handling of historical technology…
An ideal match even in the mobile service unit of the Classic Car Rally
The qualities that distinguish the man born in Brunswick, Germany, are particularly appreciated by the participants of the Klassik Tour Kronberg, of which the workshop veteran is a permanent member. Of course it’s best to do without involuntary stops, when the rally really runs smoothly, but it’s reassuring to know that the mobile service car with Siggi on board is just a call away. Much better in any case than having to call the ADAC service man, who, once he gets out of his vehicle and encounters historical technology, can do nothing himself, but call the next tow truck.
No offence against the so-called Yellow Angels – but if Siggi Walz takes care of things, one can be certain that the show goes on – even in particularly tricky cases. “We mechanics can’t complain about being bored with a good 100 vehicles participating in the rally”, he says, pointing out that “most of the time it’s just about fixing minor things like a damaged battery or problems with the fuel flow. But from time to time, there are more serious matters that need our undivided attention to get the car through the finish line – even if that means working a night shift!”
Motorsport – a learning field with extreme situations
The savvy professional undoubtedly knows his way around extreme situations. Due to the hobby of his boss at the time, Siggi’s path to becoming a service mechanic in a rally team in the eighties was virtually pre-programmed – the perfect place to learn the name of the game: fast thinking and determined action. Back in those days the rally scene was undergoing a change from the spectacular furious and fast to the cars almost built in series. They had less power, but still demanded a high level of professionalism on behalf of the crews: “Today everything in the World Rally Championship is perfectly organized and even small teams have tents with all the trimmings. Back in the olden days we only had a big umbrella – and if there was space – a plastic sheet for underneath”, Walz recalls.
“Back then, our base was in Hochheim. And that’s where the boss of our team rented out various rally cars together with complete service packages for the races conducted by the German Motor Sport Organization. We did get to know the crazy cars in Group B together with their pilots like Juha Kankkunen or Michèle Mouton, but we had Opel Asconas, the archetype Audi Quattro or cars like the Lancia Delta HF 4WD or more classical cars like the Escort with a BDA engine in our collection. “Either way, one could rightfully say, we did have an interesting mix of cars rally fans got excited about. Not least of which the BMW M3 stands to be mentioned: although it was better known as being one of the most successful touring cars in the world, the Bavarian did have some remarkable appearances in the World Rally Championship, primarily in Group A.
In the center of the restless rally entourage
In 1987, Siggi Walz witnesses the premiere of the Group N-M3 at close quarters: “We converted a top circuit car into a genuine rally car – and that alone was already a good school. The M3s we prepared were rented to Jari Niemi for almost a whole season, a Finn who previously drove the Audi Quattro. In Portugal and on Corsica we had a bumpy start, but when we were ready to rumble at the Acropolis in Greece, our cars were stolen prior to the event. When they reappeared later, the World Rally Championship was as good as over!”
Apart from that unfortunate episode, being a mechanic in the restless rally entourage was an exciting and formative time. Walz, however, quits and leaves the motor sports sector all together. After living at full throttle for nearly ten years, he decides to look for a new professional challenge – and also to gain some distance from that industry he was in from early age onwards.
From ground up – in all disciplines
“Most certainly my father influenced me here. He was at least as crazy as I was. We came from Brunswick, Germany to the Rhine-Main Area when I was eleven. From then on, I used every opportunity to go to the gas station across the street. When I turned 15, I spontaneously decided to start an apprenticeship there.”
Walz is simply a man of action: he extends his knowledge as a gas station attendant for many years into other classical automotive traits. In addition to his successful degree as a motor mechanic, there are various training courses he accomplishes. “The only thing I really regret is not having added the master car mechanic degree”, he says in retrospect today. Nevertheless, Siggi is indeed a real all-rounder – and species of that kind are rarely found in this field.
An ideal cast at the Klassik Garage
And this turns out to be a significant element, the day Walz decides to return to his roots – after almost two decades outside of the industry. A time in which he acquired a master’s certificate as interior decorator and parquet expert!
“My contacts to the automotive field were always still there. Through a mutual acquaintance I was able to introduce myself to Klaus Flettner in Kronberg, when he was looking for someone to take care of his collection of cars. That was actually the basic idea, but it quickly became clear that we could develop more out of it. Anyway, the two of us had a good relationship from the first moment onwards and my attitude was right, too – so things just took off at the Klassik Garage.”
That was more than ten years ago, and there’s no question that Siggi Walz does fulfill the ideal profile regarding vintage cars. Even if some of the exotic cars require getting used to, the man rarely reaches his limits thanks to all his professional experience – which is why he is always the first contact person for the younger members of the workshop team. Nonetheless, Walz contemplates, there are limits: “You can give young people advice, but the details of how and why one has finally accomplished solving a damned complicated task have to be experienced individually, otherwise the learning effect is zero.”
Contacts with high expectations
What Walz is referring to here are those low blows that drive one to despair until finally finding a practicable solution – often requiring improvisation and imagination: “One must always show the necessary initiative to solve a problem – being able to connect the plug to the onboard diagnosis socket simply is not enough. New and old cars are indeed two different worlds. Surely my work in the beginning with Opel Kadetts type B and C or the Manta was a whole different story altogether. For example, I can very well remember the time when we tuned a Golf GTI to get it ready for a rally race, and had to cut up half of the front of the car to mount a Kugelfischer injection system.”
The roof of the Porsche 911 Targa on the other hand – the one Walz is working on while we chat – doesn’t require that much creativity. It’s not much of a challenge. The roof no longer could be closed properly due to bent hinges. The problem is solved with just a few skillful grips and some bending. That’ll bring the hinges back to shape.
When challenges meet know-how
Again it’s routine business, but, as with all the other working steps required in repairing or restoring classic cars such as the 911, they are preceded by mandatory learning processes – and experience. Of course, one always has to struggle with unforeseen pitfalls, but, “the good thing is that in the end you’re only fooled once, and then you know how it works”, says Siggi, who until this day has not yet been knocked out by that car with the boxer engine made in Zuffenhausen.
In Eschborn, the 911 is known to be a welcome guest whose care is based on a wealth of experience. Nevertheless, it is always necessary to master unforeseen challenges, which – as Siggi Walz remembers all too good – may require some extensive thinking: “We once had a 911 on the hydraulic car lift with an indefinable noise on the rear axle suspension. For days we simply didn’t get to the bottom of it. But I had to take my holidays and thought: ‘Well, it’ll be alright.’ When I came back, the problem was still not clarified and we had to go back and dig deeper until we discovered the rear swing arm had too much clearance. The problem was then eliminated by fastening the respective bearings.”
Growing with your tasks
One of the virtues Siggi has perfected is to stick to one thing with persistence. And he still has plenty of examples in stock he can tell about – without revealing too much, of course … One from a long time ago, for example, is a curious story about an Opel C Record which he was supposed to take care of at the time: “That was when I worked at the gas station and they had brought around an almost new Opel Record with a rattling noise we couldn’t identify although we had already taken half of the car apart and then reassembled it.”
But with someone like Siggi around, there was also a solution nearby: “I stood in front of the Opel in the evening after work and thought, ‘That’s not possible, there must be something we can find!’ So we took the rear seat out again and the trimming down, and then suddenly an old sneaker, two beer coasters and an old disposable lighter popped up in a cavity of the body’s left side! The guys at the assembly line in Rüsselsheim must have left these items behind as a souvenir – and it took a while for the waxing in the cavities to release them.
There is no question a car that has matured into a classic car can still hide secrets today – unless it is restored completely. Customers who approach the Klassik Garage can be sure to find someone with a good nose in Siggi Walz. No matter how enigmatic the symptoms may be, he will find the right solution and solve the problem.
And maybe he’ll chat even more out of the sewing box …