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Das Rometsch

By Rob Hallstrom
Photography: Henry DeKuyper

The Rometsch is a hybrid of sorts, similar to that of the Hebmueller. Both cars are, of course, German-built using the Type I Beetle chassis and use related drivetrain and running gear. However, unlike the Heb, which utilizes much of the Beetle's body panels, the Rometsch, such as this beautifully restored 1960 Sport Coupe, is designed uniquely from the ground up with body symmetry all its own. The car is the dream of German coachbuilder Friedrich Rometsch, who wanted to build an affordable alternative to the flashy sports cars of the day. The Volkswagen chassis proved to be an ideal starting point and production soon began in 1950.

Constructed entirely by hand, the Coupe's steel frame uses wood pillars and support beams, while its smooth outer skin is comprised of lightweight aluminum.


Although many components, in addition to the pan were borrowed from Volkswagen (such as Karmann Ghia headlights, Beetle sun visors, Ghia ashtray and mirror), parts bins of other European badges were sampled from as well, including Fiat ('59 1100 D taillights), Ferrari (375 Mille Milga front turn signals) and the lesser known Borgward (for its chrome '59 Isabella door handles).

Many of the other parts used to originally build the car, including miscellaneous hardware was simply purchased off the shelf of a leading German automotive parts retailer.

This particular coupe, which is a Lauwerence model (after its designer Ben Lauwerence) fell into the hands of Volkswagen restoration specialist Lenny Copp, proprietor of West Coast Classic Restoration in Fullerton, Calif. In dire need of attention, the car underwent a six-month restoration by project architect, Guido Van Zundert.

The pan-off project consisted of stripping the body down to its bare metal finish. In doing so, several coats of paint were removed as well as an astonishing 58 pounds of body filler (yes, it was weighed). Having unearthed various body imperfections, each panel was carefully and painstakingly brought back to its original, unmarred state. Ready for its new exterior finish, the Coupe was expertly painted, using black acrylic enamel. Needless to say, the paint was color sanded and buffed to an incredibly impressive mirror finish.

To equally compliment the fresh exterior finish, the car's original (Rometsch designed) front and rear bumpers, trim and badges were also brilliantly restored. Classic Rometsch badges proudly reveal the car's vintage heritage. The main badge, which reads "Rometsch Karrosserie" is center mounted on the trunk, while other badges are visible at the vehicle's side, including the company's "FR" (Friedrich Rometsch) logo within the chrome plated fascia of the b-pillar.

Known as the "smooth side" prior styling, the car featured a large panoramic rear window. Unfortunately, the original window was beyond repair, leaving Van Zundert the tedious task of constructing a replacement from scratch. Naturally, new rubber and seals were used throughout.

Just as stylish, the interior features many classic, aesthetically pleasing lines. The steel dash, which is integral to the frame, is wrapped in red genuine leather across the top and bottom. Its black face features Borgward Isabella instrumentation, including a speedometer and clock. Its Dragger accessory fuel gauge is of the vintage vacuum variety. Also impressive is a classic Petri steering wheel with a sun and moon horn button. A vintage bud vase placed near the glove compartment is yet another stylish element.

Comfortable Rometsch seats were expertly rebuilt and upholstered in matching red leather and sewn in the vintage tuck and roll fashion. In addition to the color coordinated door panels, the headliner was replaced, as well as the German square weave carpeting. While on the topic of upholstery, the under hood compartment was covered in gray vinyl. This, in addition to the freshly restored gas tank leaves the compartment looking better than ever thanks to W.C.C.R.'s Jessie Quintana.

As stated, the pan drivetrain is comprised entirely from a (1959) Beetle. Suffice to say, the remainder of the car's components down to its standard Beetle 15-inch wheels and tires are stock. However, various items such as the Beetle hubcaps were slightly different, featuring a smooth finish, void of the VW logo. Also stock was the engine and split case swing axle. However, unlike the tranny, the 36 horsepower, 1200cc engine was slightly modified.

Accessorized with a German aftermarket dual carb set up, the single port engine uses two 28 PCI carburetors with aftermarket air cleaners, as well as a Fram oil filter. Additionally, an Abarth 4-tip exhaust replaces the stock unit. A Rometsch sales procure from 1960 suggested the new revived engine featured a total of 50 horsepower.

While the Rometsch Coupe was produced for roughly 10 years, the cabriolet version was significantly more popular. Ironically, Copp, recently received ownership of a 1951 coupe, that is not only extremely rare, but is quite possibly an early prototype, as it does not possess any body number or markings according to Copp. Although, this '60 is not quite as scarce, it does carry special importance as the very first edition of the "smooth side." The car's #559 I.D. plates support this fact. While built in 1959, it was actually the very first new model "60" assembled (one of four varied body styles between 1951 and 1961), as the former model ended with car #558.

Unfortunately, in lieu of the climactic post war period and the advent of the Berlin Wall, the Rometsch factory eventually ceased production (due to a separation of nearly 70 percent of its workforce). Thanks to people like Lenny Copp and Guido Van Zundert, the dream of Friedrich Rometsch and his incredible car will continue.

















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