History & Vehicle Background by Eric Meyer
“It's a What?”
I first saw a Rometsch Beeskow at a show in the mid 1980's and knew then that I had to have one. It was one those cars you stop and look at, and then walk around to the other side and look at it… and then walk back to the first side and scratch your chin… then get down on your knees and peer up under it. There was a big crowd around that car and all sorts of smart VW and Porsche guys were scratching their chins. It was the coolest thing… it stumped everyone. This was the car for me. I live for this sort of thing. Forget weird wild accessories… here was a whole car nobody had ever seen. It looked like so many other cars …I thought perhaps it was a small Mercedes. But I would later discover that it had been designed 4 years earlier than the Mercedes SL and it was in fact Mercedes that was copying Rometsch!
I spent a long time staring at the thing and noticed another guy doing the same thing. He had been quietly listening to all the know-it-all guys describing exactly what this car was. He smiled and nodded. He listened as it was alternatively described as a pre production Karmann Ghia, a prototype Porsche of some sort, a DKW cabrio special, etc etc. After about 1/2 an hour of listening to everyone describe the car he got in it and drove off! That was the best… I was sold.
That guy turned out to be Blue Nelson… an avid 356 Porsche and VW coachbuilt collector. I would run into him again after that first meeting and eventually get to know him. I told him of my interest in buying a Rometsch Beeskow and with his help, in 1998, after some 13 years of searching; I was able to buy a Beeskow of my own.
A complex set of random circumstances led to my purchase of this car. It is fairly involved so you're going to have to bear with me:
Among other things I am a lover of VW 23 window Microbuses. A bus of mine was featured at the “VW Classic” show in Southern California . Later I was contacted over the telephone by a fellow named Brad asking me if I wanted to sell the bus. I said “no thanks, I like the bus and drive it a lot.” He said that he really wanted to buy the bus and was I sure. I was getting sort of perturbed by his insistence so I said NO again. He asked… “well if you did want to sell the bus how much would it be?” I didn't want to sell it but I thought… well, what can it hurt… and gave him a number that was pretty high. He basically just said ok… and I sat there for about ten seconds sort of stunned and then said ok. Anyway, Brad had received my number from Blue Nelson and was actually negotiating to buy the bus for Jerry Seinfeld. As it turns out Jerry knew a lot more about Microbus pricing than I did because right after I sold it the prices seemed to skyrocket.
At the time all of this was happening I was living in Santa Barbara and would occasionally see Jonathan Winters (the comedian) when out and about. The afternoon following the phone call to sell the bus I got in it for one last drive. I stopped at the store to get a smoothie and Jonathan was sitting there at one of the outside tables. When I came back to the bus he was staring in the window at it. He asked me if I wanted to sell it and I was thinking… “what is it with microbuses and comedians today”? When I explained that I had just sold it to Jerry he asked if he could leave a note for Jerry to discover… He wrote: “Dear Jerry, if you can attach Arnold Schwarzenegger to the roofrack with duct tape, and affix an number of sleigh bells on him… I'd love to cruise Van Nuys Blvd. with you on the 24 th ” (this was a couple of months before Christmas and years before Arnold became governor)
Anyway… The reason that Brad and Blue knew each other is because Brad also had a Rometsch Beeskow.
This seems to be how you find most rare cars. You're sitting there minding your own business sorting towels in the garage…and your friend brings over some guy knows some other guy who has a buddy next door who's dad died and now there is some weird car and nobody knows what the hell it is but his mom want's to sell it and would I like to go see it? Jeez man…hop in the car… let's go.
So I pester the crap out of Blue and Brad about selling the Beeskow. No… no… not for sale etc etc. (we all know this song) and then one day… right before April 15 th as I recall… Blue calls saying that Brad wants to sell the Beeskow. Needless to say I don't think many Toyota Landcruisers have ever gotten from Santa Barbara to LA in less than an hour… but it can be done.
Brad purchased the Beeskow from the second owner in 1993. He kept the car in a storage hanger at an LA area airport until I bought it in 1998. Prior to Brad's stewardship it was owned by a Hollywood film editor that worked at both CBS and Universal Studios. The parking stickers for these studios are still on the windshield. It was his second Beeskow and he bought it in ‘57 or ‘58. He had wrecked the first one on Malibu canyon on his way to his other job as a lifeguard! (there is also still a lifeguard sticker on the windshield). He purchased this Beeskow second hand from a sports car dealer in Los Angeles . (I am presuming it was Rometsch dealer “Hollywood Sports Cars” but this is not verified.) He stopped driving it in 1973 and just parked it in his garage. I don't know who the first owner was but both Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck owned Beeskows in the fifties. I'd like to think it was one of them… (but, more likely, it was titled a “used car” only because it had been bought in Europe by an American citizen in order to get around the export license problem Rometsch had due to being from Occupied Germany … and then just went straight to the dealer in North Hollywood ). Who knows… it is a fun mystery anyway. …………………………………………………………………….
So when I bought the car it had not been started or driven since 1973… 24 years. My friend Bob Heintz and I looked over the engine… it still turned ok. So we changed the oil, the spark plugs and the brake fluid… added some gas… and started it… I put it in gear and then drove it around the block! Amazing. The damn thing ran fine… after 24 years in storage.
The car was all there… but it had four paint jobs on it. One white, one silver and two reds! That Hollywood guy had repainted the car 3 times between '57 and “73… weird. I hired Jason Ransbottom of “Rustbox” in Ventura , CA to strip the paint off the car and help carefully remove all the bits and pieces. All of the bits were sorted in little baggies… blah blah blah. The chrome was sent to Christensen Plating in Los Angeles, the silver cadmium plated bits were sent to Van Nuys Plating, Steve Herron, a vintage Porsche and Devin-Porsche racer, rebuilt the Okrasa Motor with a larger period Empi crank, Porsche 90mm pistons, Porsche 1300s cam, Pre A Solex 32 pcib carbs, and larger valve Okrasa heads. It dyno'd at 69 HP. The metal finishing was carried out by Henry Wehr. The paint and finish was applied by Victor Miles' Porsche 356 restoration shop “Concours Refinishing” in Santa Barbara . The upholstery was carried out by Richard Jeffers in Santa Barbara . North Hollywood Speedometer rebuilt all the gauges.
We painted it with Glasurit. The color is VW Azure Blue from 1952. It is a very, very attractive color. I highly recommend you paint at least one car in your life this color… and put a red interior in it. I can't explain why you should do this because I am happily married. But you just have to trust me and go do it… especially if you are single.
When you restore a Porsche or VW you can call any number of characters and get rubber or chrome bits or a plastic trim piece. When you restore a coachbuilt you are basically out there by yourself… like Star Trek… “where no one has gone before”. You have to make almost everything or figure out where it came from originally. You have to research each part individually in order to find replacement parts. Some parts are VW… primarily the chassis and suspension. Some parts are from other cars… like the exterior door handles (Mercedes 300s), the turn signals are Hella stock items used on a number of low production cars, the window winder handles are Mercedes, The dash lights are Porsche (1950 –51 only!), The side trim is unique, the license lights are unique, the door windows and winders are unique, the headlight trim rings are from a German bus company, etc, etc. I am now in possession of a lot of weird automobile parts supply knowledge that has absolutely no value to anyone except me and maybe 6 other guys.
The hard part is making parts. Rubber for instance. We had to make the rubber. Go try that sometime… fun, fun, fun. Or the back half of the passenger door. We had to make that too. Or the license lights… yep…compound curves in steel… My buddy Henry made them from scratch. Go walk out to your 356 or your 911 and imagine making some of that stuff… this will give you an idea about restoring a coachbuilt. The windshield is treated like the baby Jesus… coddled and swathed in soft cotton blankets and talked about in hushed tones… it is completely irreplaceable unless any of you know where the car it came from, a Goliath GP750, is being parted out. I spent an entire day removing that windshield from the car… you could watch my hairline recede.
So a lot of time was spent in a lot of weird places all over Europe finding the bits and pieces necessary to rebuild the car to new. The Rometsch coachbuilder badges were acquired from Rometsch itself when I went there with Blue Nelson… prior to it's final closing. They were still there. Except that they were now just a body shop specializing in Mazdas or something weird like that. Not too many Mazda's in Berlin . There was a small pile of about 6 of the badges… in a drawer upstairs above the shop floor. I looked at them like Indiana Jones… looking at the Holy Grail. Blue's voice quivered as he inquired with the gentleman who ran the shop. He just gave them to us. You have never heard grown men squeal like we did as we got back to the car that day. The rear emblem on the engine cover I bought from another Rometsch owner who only had one… probably the only spare Rometsch script lettering in the world! The taillights were found NOS (new old stock) in Holland on the bottom shelf of an old car dealer… in a dusty torn box…. I had been searching for 3 years for those lights. Blue had a set of the sun Visors (unique to Rometsch Beeskow and VW Hebmuller cars). It was a wild goose chase at every turn but after 4 years eventually everything was found and the car reassembled into the concours condition it is now.
It has won best of show or first in class at every event it has been in. It is a blast to drive and with 69 HP it is much faster than it's 36 HP VW cousins. Nobody really knows what it is so if you park it and just listen to people try and figure it out it is often pretty funny. Usually it is thought to be a Karmann Ghia… or sometimes a Volvo, a Fiat, a Borgward, a Porsche or a Mercedes. Occasionally someone will know. Seinfeld came by at one show. I had only met him very briefly after I sold the microbus years earlier. He looked at the Beeskow for a long time before asking, “ is this the Rometsch Brad had?”
One day last year my buddy and I were at a coffee shop in Grover Beach CA , and a lady in her late 70's walked by and glanced at the car… “Look”, she said to her friend, “a Rometsch Beeskow”. I about fell over. At shows the hardcore people know what it is occasionally… but that lady at the coffee shop just blew me away. I asked her about it and she said… “I used to like cars” and then drove off in her Dodge Caravan!
Eric Meyer, California, Sept 2006
For more information on Eric Meyer's fabulous Rometsch, click on these links: