Mystery German Racer Found In A Barn

Hans Custom

In today’s racing scene, most if not all of the cars are based on production models. While production cars have always been important players in racing, there was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to see custom built racers dominating race tracks all the over the globe. Of course, many ended up wrecked along the side of the track, which might explain why you don’t see many home built race cars anymore. Reader Michel S tipped me off to one of these home built racers that has popped up on PrewarCar.com and boy does this car have an interesting and mysterious past. Based on what information the seller was able to dig up, this was one of those racers that ended up wrecked along the side of the track, but clearly someone has put it back together. The history seems to be composed of a lot of hearsay and lacks much in the way of documentation, especially for a car that the seller is asking $185,000 for! Drop a zero or two off that number, and than I wouldn’t care so much about documentation.

Avus Race

After looking around the web, here is the story I’ve been able to piece together. The car was built by a Hans Fischhaber in Germany some time in the early 1950s. At the time, the Lancia Aprillia was the favorite choice of a donor car for custom builders. Hans installed the Lancia engine in a custom chassis wrapped in a sweet all aluminum body. It was light and sexy, but it didn’t seem to perform as well as he hoped. He campaigned the car during the 1953 season, but with limited success. According to VeloceToday, he ran the car in all four rounds of the German Championship, but only finished one. The photo above is of Hans and his custom in front of the Porsche 356 of Harry Merkel.

Wrecked custom

We don’t know how many races Hans actually raced his custom in, but we do know that at Avus the car went off the track and rolled over. It was put back together, with a different nose and was turned into a street car. Clearly, Hans didn’t feel the car was competitive enough to put it back on the track. We don’t know exactly how much longer he kept the car, but eventually he sold it to a fellow German. From there it was sold to a US Serviceman whom had been stationed in Europe. He had the MGA windshield fitted to it so that he could tour Europe in it before returning home.

Eigenbau Lancia as found

After touring Europe, it was imported to the States. It seems the car travelled all over the country and eventually ended up being parked in a barn. It’s seen a number of modifications over the years, including a thin layer of fiberglass over the aluminum body, the installation of parking lights and modifications to the grille opening. While the layer of fiberglass makes me a bit nervous about what damage might be hiding underneath, I think this little special is absolutely gorgeous. The original front end looked a bit cooler in my opinion, but the redesign looks clean and sporty. I wonder what kind of condition the Lancia 1100 is in, but it looks complete in the photos. The interior is mostly missing, but it’s so small it shouldn’t be too hard to craft a new one for it!

Fischhaber's Custom Lancia

While I’m a huge fan of this car, I’m not sure about the seller’s asking price. It seems a bit high to me for a car that never won a race and was seriously wrecked. If it were a well known racer with a number of documented wins under its belt, this would be a different story. I do hope someone saves it though and gets it back on the road, I’m just not sure anyone will at this price. Hopefully I’m wrong and someone will see the historical significance! Special thanks to Michel for this tip. So how much would you be willing to pay for this Eigenbau?

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Comments

  1. Steve Devine

    Hmmm….German car with an MGA windscreen….Maybe they were tryin to see what it would have been like to have won ww2?

    • Roger Owen

      When Adolf Hitler asked head of the Luftwaffe Herman Goering what he needed to defeat the RAF – Goering replied ‘Give me a squadron on Spitfires’.

      Not actually sure how much of this car is German. Italian engine, British winsdscreen – and it’s RHD.

  2. Bobsmyuncle

    Couldn’t agree more, way over priced and sadly the will suffer for it.

  3. Dave at OldSchool Restorastions

    Guys, Don’t be too sure that it is overpriced… the seller, Dan Rapley, is Tops in my book, when it comes to selling rare cars like this, and I don’t think he is jeopardizing his reputation with a bunch of BS …

  4. Roger Owen

    Strange that it should be RHD.

    • Dave at OldSchool Restorations

      @ Roger ” RHD ??? ”

      around the World, including the USA, the preferred driving position in Sports Racing Cars was RHD … since most racing is counterclockwise and the weight distribution is better on left hand turns…
      Production Cars were normally the same as the country of origin or destination, so most US Production Cars that were raced were LHD… however, many drivers converted the cars to RHD, as I did with my Bugeye, using a LHD Morris Minor steering rack , flipped end for end. The Sprite dash already had RHD cutouts, as well as mountings for the pedal assemblies..(brake, clutch, and throttle), so the conversion was simple.

      ” @ Dolphin ” .. in the Racing World, and the Rally World, Lancia WAS a major manufacturer…while BMW built bikes and micro cars…..
      How many 4 dr sedans can you name that had 4 wheel disc brakes in 1955 ??? or an aluminum V6 in 1955 ? Rear discs were INBOARD … and the car used a transaxle, so the cockpit floor was almost flat……

      • Dolphin Member

        Dave, I have never disagreed that Lancia was a major manufacturer in racing, rallying, and road cars. I have admired their technical advancements for years. In fact, I wrote an article that was published in Automobile Quarterly (remember AQ, before the internet?) about Lancia engineer deVirgilio’s development of the first-ever V6 engine for the Aurelia, which is one of my favorite cars because it used the first V6 and because it was so technically advanced in ways that you mention.

        I was simply saying that Avus was a power track because such high speeds were possible, and that from the history of it given in ‘Postwar Classic’, this particular race car was less powerful than the other cars it raced against. The Aprilia V4 was only 1100cc and was designed as a road car engine with long thin ports I believe, which might not have been the best for a racing engine. That was my thinking anyway, based on what Postwar Classic said about this car.

        So, like you, I have always and still do admire all vintage Lancias, even the Aprilia, which like the little postwar Fiats, put people on the road, altho at a much higher price for the Lancia than for a Fiat.

        And as for transaxles with inboard disk brakes, I own an Italian car with that exact equipment right now, altho an Alfa rather than an Aurelia, which unfortunately I can’t afford, otherwise I’d own one of those instead. I actually test drove a very nice Aurelia in California years ago but could not come up with enough $$$ to do the deal.

      • Roger Owen

        That’s interesting. However, I’m not sure I’m following the logic correctly. I used to race a RHD TR2 in the UK (back when life was in B&W), and distinctly remember Brands Hatch, Castle Donnington, and Snetterton being clockwise circuits. Better (in my opinion) for right hand turns in a RHD car – that is apart from my loosing it ‘big-time’ one day going into the Snetterton RH hairpin at the end of a very long and fast downhill straight and ending up on the gravel (more to do with drum brakes than anything else!)

        So, I’m not really getting the idea of RHD being better on a counter-clockwise circuit on left hand turns.

        For single seat racing that’s obviously less of a problem – and I’m reasonably sure that a majority of F1 circuits are clockwise in orientation.

        Kyalami in South Africa is clockwise and they are a RHD country.

        Keeping the UK out of Europe (purely for the purposes of this discussion, of course!), I can see why a predominantly LHD Europe would opt for a counterclockwise circuit direction for LHD sports car racing. Which brings me back to the photograph of the German mystery racer, and – for my money I think I would prefer LHD for left hand turns what ever the circuit orientation.

        The only thing I’ve got against Left Hand Drive is that I keep trying to stuff my natural ‘gear change’ hand through the door card. It’s embarrassing!

      • Dave at OldSchool Restorastions

        of course,I meant ” most roadracing is CLOCKWISE” and the weight distribution is better on right hand turns…….

        tough to get old…please don’t tell the guys I still race with, they might expect to find me going the wrong way into turn 1 and void my competition license LOL

      • Dave at OldSchool Restorastions

        @Dolphin
        it was your first statement regarding value, that I was addressing.. I think a Lancia based car of that period is not necessarily in the shadows of BMW,s of that period….. maybe I am wrong.

        My concern was that many younger carnuts have a better relationship with BMW, and very little knowledge or respect at all for Lancia ……… I’m not aware of a ’55 Alfa 4dr that had 4 wheel discs and an alloy v6 … but maybe I am wrong about that too..Lancia was first in building a Production alloy v6 in 1950, and we have two of the ’56 2.5L motors here at the shop.
        Your ending with the comment about “but could not come up with enough $$$ to do the deal. ( on the Lancia) ” supported my premise that Lancia cars are not cheap.
        Neither are most of Daniel Rapley’s high quality offerings.

        Otherwise I am in agreement with your posts, and think they offer great insight for many of our younger friends at Barn Finds

  5. Dolphin Member

    If this car had been done by a major manufacturer like BMW it would be worth many times the asking price, and BMW would likely have paid it so they could restore it and put it in their terrific museum. But being a ‘special’ that was made by an enthusiast, it’s worth what someone will pay. I guess we, and the seller, will just have to wait and see.

    It looks good, with rounded shapes, altho if it had the original nose I think that would fetch a higher price. Despite the low drag I think that unless the Aprillia 1100cc engine had been modified the speeds around Avus would have been modest. That was a highly banked track that allowed very high speeds if you had the power, and cars with the power would have likely blasted by cars that didn’t. The little Lancia V4 was made for a small family sedan and I think did not have optimal breathing, which would have held the power back.

    The long narrow opening at the very rear of the body may be an aero device. I have heard that back then people thought that race car bodies needed to have an opening at the back to let air out that was coming into the car through the grille. I don’t know if that’s actually true—the idea, or the aero principle, or both, but you sometimes see oblong openings like that in vintage race cars with full bodies.

    Isn’t the seller the fellow from CT who had a Zagato bodied Fiat Abarth for sale a year or two ago?

  6. Tim

    It’s expensive for sure, and way out of my range, but it’s not overpriced. It’s a one off, has history and the right buyer won’t batt an eye at the asking price. Don’t knock it just because you can’t afford it. I hope it is restored to its original body spec and perhaps slightly tuned so it could be a competitive racer. Nice little roadster.

  7. John St. Clair

    The Lancia that this special was based on would be RHD from the factory. Lancia did not switch to LHD until the later 50’s.

  8. Roger Owen

    Hi John St. Clair, That is a very interesting historical note. Funny enough I do remember that at some time later (1990’s?) Lancia stopped making RHD for export. In my opinion this was a massive error of judgement, and the Lancia name in the UK was very abruptly consigned to history.

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