Bergisch Gladbach –
It’s the little things that fascinate Marcel Hapke. “That sounds just great,” he enthuses as he opens and closes the door of the blue Porsche 964 Carrera 2 Cabrio, built in 1994. The classic car is not the only piece of jewelery that can be found in Hapke’s workshop in Bergisch Gladbach. If you come here for the first time, you don’t even know where to look first.
Several Porsches from the 356 series are lined up next to each other. Most of them still look a bit sad, without any equipment or paintwork. But you can already guess from the bare bodies how much history the cars have.
Automobile world history preserved
Preserving automotive history is what Hapke is all about. For 23 years he has been restoring young and oldtimers true to the original delivery condition and since then has made the hearts of many oldtimer lovers beat faster. The 39-year-old went into business for himself six years ago and moved his workshop from Leverkusen to Gladbach in October last year.
Hapke has specialized in the restoration of sports cars, especially those of the Porsche brand built up to 1997. “I was fascinated by Porsche as a child,” he says. However, at the age of 16, when he began his apprenticeship in a restoration company as a body and vehicle builder, he would not have thought that one day he would be restoring classic cars.
Difficult to find spare parts
The customers who bring their cars to Hapke and his team of five come not only from the Rheinisch-Bergisches Kreis, but also from around the world. “Most of them are collectors who care for their cars with a lot of passion,” explains Hapke, who values his work so much for this very reason. “We are building something here that will be preserved because it is cared for.”
During the restoration, he and his team try to keep as many original parts as possible. Hapke gets other original parts from specialized dealers. Parts that are difficult or impossible to get have to be rebuilt, sometimes at great expense. Painting and saddling are carried out at partner companies in Leverkusen and Cologne.
Restoration usually takes up to three years
“I just think it’s nice when you can still see individual signs of use, because that’s just part of the history of a classic car,” says Hapke, stroking the unevenness of the silver door handle of a Porsche Carrera 2 convertible, which has already been given a new white paint job. The Porsche, built in 1962 and built only 67 times, has had no road under its tires since 1970. Hapke and his team have even preserved the floor in the footwell and completely refurbished it. The most expensive restoration in his workshop was that of a Ferrari in the multi-digit million range.
In addition to the necessary financial resources, customers must above all be patient. A classic car usually stays in the workshop for two to three years until it is completely restored. Three cars are finished each year, because not only is the restoration itself time-consuming, but the waiting for spare parts can sometimes take longer. For example, Hapke has been waiting for the rear right door for a BMW 1800 Tii for six months.
Huge photo archive for orientation
In the case of car brands that differ from Porsche, Hapke asks its customers for an original comparison vehicle that it can use as a guide. “We then take a very precise picture of the original car,” he says. In the meantime, Hapke has created a huge photo archive of all classic cars – especially the Porsche series models, sorted by year of construction. The restoration steps are also meticulously documented.
One job in particular is burned into Hapke’s memory. “That was Bruce,” reports Hapke, who gives a name to all the cars in his workshop. Bruce, a Porsche 356 Speedster, was the first order from a major customer in Denmark. The special thing about the car: The US car racing driver Bruce Jennings took part in numerous car races in it in the 60s and 70s.
Hardly any envy among classic car fans
“We needed a total of 1270 hours just to work on the body,” recalls Hapke. After three years, the owner was able to whiz down the streets again in a true-to-the-original racing Porsche. Because that is also the aim of the work. Hapke and his team not only restore the classic cars, they also make them roadworthy. “Cable construction is always new, because function comes first.”
Hapke knows that memories often hang on the classic cars. Many would have bought their first car back then for nostalgic reasons. “They think a rattling four-cylinder is great now.” There is hardly any envy in the classic car scene. “It’s more likely a thumbs up when you meet up on the road,” says Hapke, for whom driving in vintage cars means pure relaxation despite the lack of power steering.
However, Hapke currently has little time for the restoration of his own classic car, a Porsche 911 Targa from the 1960s. “He’s back in line and has to wait a little longer,” he regrets. Marcel Hapke likes to do his job every day, despite the hard work and patience it takes. “And you also have to be a bit positively crazy to be passionate about classic cars,” he says.