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The smell of oil is in the air, with pistons clattering, motors whirring and tools clanking. At Jens Herkommer’s workshop in Schwarzenberg, Saxony, the ŠKODA vintage cars are being prepared for the 21st AvD Histo-Monte. Nine ŠKODA classics, including the 130 RS (built in 1976), R 110 (1978), 100 (1970), RAPID (1985), S 120 S (1971), 130 LR (1985), S 110 R (1974), FAVORIT (1992) as well as a 130 RS produced in 1980 will be heading to the starting line. The legendary 1700-kilometre winter rally takes place from 7 to 11 February and is probably one of the most challenging vintage car routes, leading from Frankfurt via the Maritime Alps to the port of Monte Carlo. To ensure that all the vehicles arrive at the finish safely, they must first undergo a thorough ‘piston and belt’ revision.

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Jens Herkommer

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“This is a huge responsibility,” says Jens Herkommer, as he takes a look at the engine of his ‘favourite child’ – a ŠKODA 130 RS. The 130 RS – formerly referred to as the ‘Porsche of the East’ – was regarded as a cause célèbre, and not only behind the Iron Curtain. The rear-wheel drive is based on the popular sports coupé ŠKODA 110 R, but was fine-tuned as a lightweight construction with numerous body panels made of aluminium and glass fiber-reinforced plastic, as well as windows made of shatterproof polycarbonate. A sporty chassis and powerful four-cylinder engine round off the modifications. The 1.3-litre engine provides 136 hp and accelerates the 130 RS to more than 200 km/h. The sleek racing car on Herkommer’s lifting platform is one of the few ŠKODA 130 RS that still take part in rallies. Only 35 units were ever made of this rare model, which the veteran vintage car mechanic bought for ŠKODA – in his words – as a “scrap heap” almost four years ago.

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Revision rather than repair

ŠKODA automobiles are put through their paces at the “Saxony clinic”. No bolts remain in the nut here: be it the engine, transmission, brakes or axles, everything is removable. Each of the parts is carefully examined, fixed or replaced, such as the crankshaft of the engine; depending on the number of rally events, it could be replaced several times in one season. Even the cable harness is checked for wear and the discs also are removed. “Then the body undergoes a visual inspection,” says Herkommer. “Everything that’s cracked is re-welded and then varnished.” Herkommer has now been working on vintage ŠKODA cars for 10 years – and the ŠKODA 130 RS has made a particularly good impression on him and his employees.

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Not only because it has been driven by has seven-time German rally championed Matthias Kahle. The Czech coupé has an output of 136 hp, despite the ŠKODA 110, which this speedster is based on, only providing 50 hp. A challenge that the master mechanic gladly accepts. He studied at ŠKODA during the GDR era in his hometown of Crandorf. For 23 years, Herkommer has been operating his own workshop: “We are constantly developing the vehicles,” he says.

This is the difference between vintage cars that are only taken out once in a while: rally vintage cars are “not repaired but revised”, says Herkommer. “They are pieces of sports equipment, even though they are old. This is the special thing. And it is time-intensive. The revision of the vehicles for the Histo-Monte takes around three months.

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Living the dream

The ŠKODA 110 R (built in 1978) will also be heading to this year’s Histo-Monte. Just as all the other models of the Czech brand, the 110 R’s final stop before the rally is the dynamometer. Like on a treadmill at the gym, the orange-coloured racer rolls on the spot for half an hour with the engine running. The performance is measured by computer, the exhaust gas values and the ignition are checked. Herkommer is satisfied: “The vehicle passed the test drive

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The vehicle passed the test drive smoothly under difficult conditions

smoothly under difficult conditions.” He is looking forward to the rally; he will be taking part with a ŠKODA 130 LR in the Histo-Monte. “It’s always exciting! When I broke the crankshaft in Switzerland a few years ago, my son in Schwarzenberg jumped in the car immediately and brought me a new one. I had to work through the night and I was on the road again the next morning.” It was no problem for Herkommer, though. He loves his job: “I’m living the dream”.

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