A ‘motoring’ family
For Raphael Fünfer, Specialist Product Quality Assurance OE at NGK SPARK PLUG EUROPE GmbH, cars have always played a significant role. Born into a ‘motoring’ family in Baden-Württemberg – one of Germany’s automotive heartlands – it did not take long for him to develop his very own interest in the field. “Growing up outside of Stuttgart, near to where the headquarters of the iconic Porsche are based, I was originally fascinated with sports cars,” he says.
This interest evolved into one of vintage cars and, more specifically their restoration, when his father purchased an old MG and began to do it up. “Observing how he was able to return the car back to its former glory awakened my passion and I knew from then on that it was something that I would have to try myself,” he tells.
He did not have to wait too long to achieve his goal of owning a classic car. “After finishing school, I began an apprenticeship in mechatronics engineering and it was during this time that I acquired my very first classic car, a Triumph TR3A. This English sports car was built from between 1957 to 1962 and is quite rare nowadays. Of the 58,000 manufactured, it is estimated that only 9,500 remain today,” he informs. As things would transpire, however, this would not be his only experience in owning a classic car.
The French connection
With a particular interest in automotive engineering of cars produced during the ‘post-war era’ of the 1950s/60s, Raphael set about finding his next classic car. With its simple technology, affordable price and abundance of replacement parts, the very popular Volkswagen Beetle would have seemed like the perfect match for Raphael. However, perhaps due to some subconscious affinity with the neighbouring country which Baden-Württemberg shares a land border with, he decided to set his sights on locating a Renault Dauphine. “This French car was considered a competitor to the German Beetle but is much less well-known here in Germany. I found this aspect particularly appealing,” he informs.
After some searching, Raphael finally located a 1960 Dauphine on a French car selling website in 2016. “After the death of the vehicle’s first owner, it was given to a neighbouring family before finally coming into my possession, after I had it imported from Le Mans,” he says.
Despite its age, the car was in excellent shape. “It was in its original condition – unwielded and not overpainted. There were some minor signs of wear around the body of the car but, technically, it was in perfect condition which probably had something to do with the fact that it had only been driven 41,000 km,” he explains.
The car needed only minor alterations to satisfy German road requirements. “Once I had retrofitted a high beam control light and a hazard warning light system, I was able to hit the road. Since then, I have driven it several thousand more kilometres,” he says.
Nicknamed ‘Dauphinle’, meaning ‘little Dauphine’ in ‘Schwäbisch’ (a dialect spoken in German federal states in the south and south west), the car requires only a little more maintenance than a modern passenger car. “I carry out almost all of the repairs myself, except for the usual service-related things. This includes the installation of NGK BR6HIX Iridium Spark Plugs. I am very proud to work for a company that endeavours to manufacture the perfect spark plug application for every type of vehicle, no matter the niche. A precious car deserves premium precious metal spark plugs!” proclaims the classic car enthusiast.
It brings joy not only to Raphael, but also to his “older neighbours who are reminded of their youth when they see ‘Dauphinle’ being taken out for a spin when the weather is good.” And when it comes to suitable conditions for driving a classic car, the weather is something he is keen to emphasise. “The car will stand in the garage through the winter because salt on the road is something that every classic and vintage car owner should avoid. But once the weather improves, I am happy to take ‘Dauphinle’ out for day trips and even longer if I have the time. Cars, no matter the age, are meant to be driven,” he informs.
An occasional participant in meetings and events within the vintage and classic car community, Raphael would recommend anybody, who is considering buying such a car, to be adventurous. “Look beyond the horizon and give a chance to car makes and vehicles that are unknown to the general public. The classic car scene likes to see exotic cars and is happy to welcome their owners,” he tells. “Moreover, for anyone who is given the opportunity to drive such a car, don’t be afraid to do so. Although, the appropriate caution should be exercised, owning, repairing, and driving a classic car is a rewarding hobby that I would recommend to everyone,” he adds.