Despite it's outward appearance, this 1956 Opel which looks like a recent barn find is taxed, tested, insured, and ready to roll. It just happens to have seen a bucket of soapy water up close for the last time in 1976. It's also been with the same owner since then. So what kind of person does it take to let a car decay like that?

Hanns – Lüdecke Rodewald, a Professor for automotive engineering at the Engineering University in Berlin, bought the car in 1976. And as you can see from the picture, it was still quite good looking then, especially for being 20 years old at the time.


A year later, he wanted to sell it, but as nobody was willing to meet his asking price of 500 DM he decided to keep it, but while doing only the maintenance needed for the notoriously strict German TÜV inspections and NOTHING else. As a Professor of automotive engineering, he knows exactly how to dance the dance. After all, a lot of his former students moved on to become inspection engineers with the TÜV to put into practice what they had learned from him.

So he kept it as his little pet project. Just to see how a long a car would last with only the repairs needed for the TÜV inspection and nothing else, until it has to be scrapped.

So he drove it. And every two years, he went to a random TÜV place to get a new sticker. See, this has to be noted here, although a lot of his former students were working for the organisation, he avoided the places where they where working at, so as not to put them into awkward situations. By switching places, he never had an inspection engineer who was familiar with the car and it's back story, as one usually would do.

As the car got older, and started to stick out like a sore thumb more and more, it got more attention. And not always the good kind! After all, these were the early 80s when only long haired dudes with sympathies for the Red Army Fraction drove these cars.


It didn't take the authorities long to try and make him scrap the car. This was Germany after all and there were rules for everything! So, a clunker like that must be violating at least one of them, right? The first attempt, he could fend off with the help of a lawyer quite easily. But in the mid-90s they forced it off the roads despite it having a fresh inspection sticker.

This probably was when his second passion awoke, keeping the car just to mess with the authorities. They managed to keep it off the road for a year and a half back then, but he won in the end, and they even had to pay compensation for him not having been able to use the car!

His daughter identified four different species of moss on the vehicle at one point. But that isn't the only “green” aspect it has going on for itself. As the owner points out, by him keeping on driving it, several new cars didn't have to be built. This also puts the average fuel consumption of around 9-10L per 100 kms (around 25 mpg?) into perspective.

Right now, the owner is facing another legal battle. He is living within the Berlin city limits, where, due to smog regulations, only cars with catalytic converters, modern clean diesels, or cars with historic plates (30 years or older) are allowed. The Opel isn't eligible for historic plates as those require a certain level of maintenance and the vehicle being somewhat presentable and worthy of preservation.

He keeps it parked in front of his house, but uses a trailer to get it outside city limits to actually drive it. Which should be legal. Yet the authorities do have a problem with that. I for one wish him all the best of luck!

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