Peter Sudeck is perfectly prepared. Having invited us to some vintage car racing at the Nürburgring, he has organised tickets, access passes for the paddock and a parking ticket for us. “So that we can take a look at these wonderful classic cars. And for the photos it’s much nicer in the paddock than here in the hotel lobby,” he explains..

He has spent his whole life optimising things, stabilising processes and ensuring that quality is always at the highest level. Peter Sudeck is a textbook engineer. His interest in technology began early on: with models. Sudeck was fascinated by vehicles, aeroplanes and boats, whether homemade or die-cast toys.

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Peter Sudeck
engineer and ŠKODA classic car collector

He was also an explorer. Mostly he played in the nearby Bielefeld coal trader’s complex. “It was paradise. But you always ended up dirty as a pig,” Sudeck laughs today about the past. That’s also where he first drove a vehicle – a 3.5-tonne Opel Blitz when he was just twelve.

After passing his driving test eight years later, his first car was a Beetle – a Volkswagen 1200 delivering power of 30 PS, which he used to commute from Bielefeld to the Niedermendig airfield during his military service.

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DISCOVER THE WORLD, EXPERIENCE SOMETHING NEW

He was also a keen traveller, which is why he found Volkswagen’s offer to go to the US so appealing. After eight years as a production engineer at the Wolfsburg plant, he moved to the Group’s North American headquarters in Warren, near Detroit, in 1977. His job was to ensure that, in terms of the resulting quality, the processes in the US were identical to those in Germany.

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Back in Germany, his wanderlust got the better of him again. Inspired by the “Spurensuche” series of articles in the Gute Fahrt magazine, Sudeck set off for the East and explored the car industry behind the Iron Curtain. The ŠKODA factory in Mladá Boleslav, the birthplace of Ferdinand Porsche in Vratislavice nad Nisou, a town near near Liberec, and the Tatra works in Kopřivnice – all this fascinated him tremendously and sowed the seeds of his move from Volkswagen to ŠKODA in 1991. There, he was involved in rebuilding the production processes and developed a love of classic automobiles.

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CAMARADERIE AND A CAR COLLECTION

Despite making his way back from Mladá Boleslav to Wolfsburg in 1998, his passion for ŠKODAs remained. Sudeck met Matthias Kahle and Peter Goebel, who together had won the German Rally five times, at a classic car event and became good friends with them. Together, they brought a ŠKODA 130 back to life, though initially they had little more than the body to work on. With help from ŠKODA AUTO Germany’s Jens Herkommer, they lovingly restored the vehicle, imbuing it with the specs of the legendary 130 RS, and have been racing it very successfully at rallies throughout Europe ever since.

 

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In general, it is the camaraderie that Sudeck values so much here. Wrenching together, laughing together, talking together – these are the things he still loves today. One characteristic that has shaped his entire professional life (including the procurement of rare spare parts) comes in handy for him: his problem-solving.

Yet, by solving problems, he created one for himself: when would there be time to drive all the cars in his collection? He has a six-cylinder SUPERB 645, a completely original LAURIN & KLEMENT 110, a red FELICIA cabriolet, a POPULAR ROADSTER and an OCTAVIA. Together with his wife Andrea, he takes part in many rallies and classic car events every year. “People are happy to see an old ŠKODA on the road,” explains Sudeck. He enjoys not only driving and collecting, but also maintaining his cars. “I can tinker around myself, but for larger-scale jobs I rely on our friendly ŠKODA network. If there is one thing I have learned to appreciate, it is those famous golden Czech hands. They had to improvise a lot back then, which made them very talented mechanics.”

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“WHAT’S THE PROBLEM? WHAT MIGHT THE SOLUTION LOOK LIKE? WHEN CAN WE USE THE SOLUTION?”

These three questions have occupied him all his life. And his wife smiles when you ask her if he still views things through the prism of an engineer in his everyday life. Sudeck himself is very modest on this front. He would never claim to have achieved great things. Yet look at how he improved operations at Mladá Boleslav, how he helped to form the ŠKODA classic car scene in Germany, and how he co-organises tours and events – they can all be attributed to his commitment, skills and diligence.

And, first and foremost, how he lives for his cars.

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10 questions for Peter Sudeck, engineer
and ŠKODA classic car collector

1. YOUR WORKDAY YESTERDAY: WHAT DID YOU DO?
(Laughing:) Luckily I’m retired, I don’t have to work anymore. Yesterday we drove from the Classic Days event at Castle Dyck to the Eifel region to take part in the Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring. I haven’t been here for ages, so I explored the place with my wife. We found a very nice café and went for a walk. It was wonderful.

2. HOW DID YOU BECOME A QUALITY ENGINEER?
I did an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer and eventually studied in Bielefeld. After two years with the German Armed Forces, I joined Volkswagen as a qualified mechanical engineer in quality assurance. That was in 1969! From 1977, I was the quality coordinator for Volkswagen USA in Warren, near Detroit. On my return, I worked back in Wolfsburg until 1991, ultimately as project manager for the third-generation Golf. I jumped at the opportunity to move to Mladá Boleslav, knowing that it was the perfect place and challenge for me. It was certainly the hardest job I had professionally, but it was also the time I felt most fulfilled and satisfied.

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3. WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR WORK?
Technology has always interested me. Even as a small boy, I was building model cars and playing with machinery at our coal dealer in Bielefeld. When I embarked on my studies, I became fascinated with industrial production. Predicting problems, coordinating and optimising processes – that was always the most fun for me.

4. WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT YOUR WORK?
I’ve been out of the loop for a while now, but in the my time the work ratio was 80% technology and 20% administration and organisation. I get the feeling that today it is the other way round. As a result, we can’t harness all the opportunities available to us.

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5. WHAT WAS IT LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU DROVE A CAR?
Brilliant! It was at the coal merchant’s place in Bielefeld. He let me drive his Opel Blitz, a 3.5-tonne truck. I was probably about 12 years old. I quickly got the hang of this big vehicle, so well that a few years later I took it out on the road and got stopped. I must have been about 13 or 14 at the time and there was a lot of trouble, but the coal trader took it in his stride. Times were different back then, and such things were still possible. In today’s traffic, that would be unthinkable.

6. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF CARS DIDN’T EXIST?
That’s a good question. What would happen if there were no cars? Would aircraft, ships and other means of transport exist in a similar form? If so, then I would be busy in these industries, organising their production.

7. WHAT WILL CARS LOOK LIKE IN 20 YEARS?
If I knew that, I wouldn’t be sitting here! (laughs)

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8. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE TOY WHEN YOU WERE LITTLE?
A Hanomag SS100 truck/semi-trailer combination. I got it for Christmas in 1942. It was a wonderful gift, high quality, zinc die-casting, I loved it!

9. DO YOU HAVE ANY UNUSUAL CAR STORIES?
Actually, one from not so long ago. We wanted to compete as a ŠKODA team at the Avd-Histo-Monte in Monte Carlo. Matthias Kahle and Peter Goebel were all set to drive my OCTAVIA. Peter Goebel had it tested at a specialised workshop in Hamburg beforehand. But half an hour after setting off on the first stage, he called me to say: “Peter, your brakes are shot!” I couldn’t believe it. All that effort for nothing? But no! Fortunately they managed to complete the entire rally. Despite having to bleed the brake system after each stage, they actually clinched victory in the category and eighth place overall.

10. WHAT’S YOUR DREAM DESTINATION FOR A CAR TRIP?
Oh, I’ve actually already been on my dream trip. That was my 2010 Cornwall trip with the ŠKODA Oldtimer IG association. We drove a good two weeks through all of outh-west England and Cornwall. It was a really great experience. I’d also like to drive to North Cape (Nordkapp) in a classic car. To enjoy the expanses and tranquillity of Scandinavia. Maybe I’ll get to go soon.

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