Ulrich Gauffres, chief technical officer at Brabus, is known as the brains behind its high-output engines, but not many people know he also has a long-running passion for classic cars. A love which he turned into Brabus Classic. Here, Brabus specialises in six-star restoration projects that have a very different philosophy to most car restoration companies. Ulrich explains.
How did Brabus Classic come to exist? What was the drive behind it?
Brabus classic is my hobby department [laughs]. I have been personally restoring cars for 40 years. Since my early years here at Brabus there have always been one or two cars sitting at the shop, and I spent a lot of time restoring them myself after hours. Many times clients had seen my cars and ask me to do one for them. My answer was usually no. It just didn’t fit into our business model.
What makes Brabus Classic so different?
At Brabus Classic, our philosophy is different from 95% of the car restoration companies out there. Usually, a client turns up with a car and asks you to restore it. But it’s never as straightforward as it sounds. Often they have done work on the car themselves or changed brakes or suspension, and in the end, the restoration is a bit of a compromise. It almost always turns out more expensive than the client intended. At Brabus, we select cars and buy them ourselves and then start the restoration. We rebuild everything and make it as new or often to even higher standards than the original build. Only when the process is complete and the car is finished will it be offered for sale. Because we have full control over the process from start to finish, we know our cars are perfect and there are no discussions or concessions.
How do you select the cars? I only see a few types of car here. Are they selected by supply and demand?
In the past, I used to spend a lot of time looking for cars but now we have a few dealers worldwide who help us out with these projects. So, if I need five Pagodas they can deliver me these rather swiftly. The main factor when we select our cars is that they are completely original and have not been restored before. The type of cars we choose is driven by the reality of restoring cars. Our process and the work that goes into these cars is very extensive and it takes hundreds and hundreds of hours to restore one of them. So, in order to keep a profitable business, we have to carefully select a certain type of car for which its value is high enough. Take a Pagoda, for instance. We can only use the 2.8-litre versions because, for the smaller engine, the market price is just too low.
I don’t see a lot of younger classics, not even an early Brabus car.
Well, that’s because of the same reason. These cars are often not valuable enough to be profitable after restoration. We do have a few younger classics, but these are almost always very low mileage cars with very little work done on them. We would love to have more of our own cars in here but, this is a showroom, not a museum, so we would have to start charging people at the entrance.