Conquering the streets of Munich in a Mini Hotrod
An experience report of a quite unusual and quirky driving adventure.
Yes you read that right - I had a go in a Mini Hotrod!
What exactly is a Mini Hotrod? In Germany there is a Company called "Wenckstern". Wenckstern was founded in 2009 with the intention of manufacturing one off street legal - yes STREET LEGAL - Mini Hotrods which are aimed at being sold to the enthusiast with a very special taste in cars. The potential buyer of one of these funky looking automobiles can choose between many different styles, which all look intriguing in their own way. There is even a wide variety of different interior materials, colors and styles available to make sure your Hotrod is as unique as it gets. The overall level of attention to detail is quite something to behold. These vehicles are a far cry from your average garage build.
Geeking out a little more on the technical details of these little weirdos, here are some for you. The chassis is a bespoke steel tubular frame similar to that of a go-cart. Suspension: Axles, which are solidly mounted to the frame. On top sits a fibreglass body with about 2.2-2.3 metres of length (depending on the body style - roadster vs. pickup) and 1.1 metres of width. To get you your proper workout while driving, it has of course a manual steering rack. The power source is a mighty 170cc 1-cylinder, punching out around 13,6 PS, mated to a CVT transmission, which will propel the vehicle to a - not to be sniffed at - speed of about 88 km/h, which translates to about 55 mph. Trust me, that is more than enough for this little match-box. The "slowing down" task is executed by rather tiny drum brakes sitting behind its 6-8 inch wheels.
Enough with the stats, let's move on to the fun part - the driving. To make these Mini Hotrods available to a wider audience, Wenckstern in 2013 decided that it wants to offer guided city tours, which you can participate in while driving one of their cars. Frankly, a rather brilliant idea that has to be applauded. And in the summer of 2020, I did exactly that.
Arriving at their Munich location your are first led into a big parking garage (after the brief introduction and after all the paperwork is done of course), where one entire level of this garage is dedicated to their mighty machines. It is a gearhead's dream come true, seeing over 20 of their Mini Hotrods sitting there waiting for you to take them along for a ride. Peeling yourself - in this case all 188 cm of my humble self - into one of these is actually not a very difficult task. The seating position though is compromised to say the least. If you are taller than 180 cm you will have your knees squeezing the steering wheel a bit. But this is nothing that will get in the way of driving. The overall room you have inside is surprisingly sufficient I have to say. Definitely enough for a short blast through Munich. After waking up the mighty 1-cylinder beast behind your back and hearing it rumble into a relaxed and slightly lumpy idle you have the chance to get to grips with your Hotrod by taking it for a first spin inside the parking garage - very "Tokyo Drift style". You instantly notice the very direct and unassisted steering by applying way too much lock on your first turn. You also soon notice, that the engine has an easy job with accelerating this lightweight vehicle with your average weight European man inside. One part that also needs a little adapting are the breaks. Cart style you are left-foot-braking. Additionally you need to get used to the quite high amount of pressure that is needed to actually slow that thing down. Apply too much, and you will find yourself locking up the wheels, as of course it does not have ABS to assist you with your wonky inputs. Once we had our controls sorted out it was time to hit the road.
Still trying to manage your inputs your are suddenly out in the wild, participating in the "default" Munich rush hour, sitting and driving between vehicles multiple times the size as the one you are in. Quite as intimidating as it might sound, you quickly forget about that and just indulge in the fun of pure driving. The grin I had on my face the first time I was actually booting it a bit was of the sorts you only get when doing something really childish while totally forgetting you're actually a fully grown man. Silly, I know but great fun nevertheless. We first made our way through the center of Munich, grabbing more attention then anything I have ever driven in my life. These little pocket rockets will make people loose interest in the shiniest supercar when parking or driving next to it. We then hit some wider two-lane roads with - thankfully - less traffic. We now finally had the chance to really dip into their mighty straight line performance - at least within conformity of existing speed regulations of course. But that does not matter, as the speed you are doing feels about 3 to 4 times as intense as it would driving an ordinary road-car. Picking up the pace we were very firmly introduced to Munich's road imperfections, the likes of which regular cars would just soak up without you even noticing. These cars however, with their solidly mounted axles have the tendency to send you airborne every single time you hit the slightest bump. That is hilarious and gives you the best giggles, but in case you are planning on having a go yourself, just make sure you arrange upfront for an appointment with your trusted chiropractor. Talking transmission, it does its job in a very relaxed manner, never putting a foot wrong. You also won't miss a manual transmission, as you are busy enough countering the steering's massive tendency to tram-line every time you do not hold it firmly enough. And you definitely should hold on to it with both hands if you do not plan on being transformed into a pancake by the semi truck driving along next to you. All these ingredients make for the most raw and connected driving experience, which is simply unmatched by anything I could think of. These little things convert the streets of Munich into a racetrack - at legal speeds. Just sensational fun and engagement at a whole new level, they make driving around town an unforgettable adventure. Finally getting into a real rhythm with our Mini Hotrods, we already arrived at the destination of our short trip - "Schloss Nymphenburg". We made a short break at this stunning sight, where we had a chance to take some pictures and exchange a few words over our drive. We finally headed back to the home-base of these amazing little oddballs, where we left them - hopefully not for good.
This was overall the sort of sight seeing where the actual sights became totally irrelevant, because the vehicles we did the tour in gave me one of the purest, most fun, engaging and simply hilarious driving experiences I have ever had my life. No drive I can think of compares to what I have experienced during these roughly two hours of hooning around Munich. And for that it deserves to be on my list of the greatest drives I have ever experienced.
What about you? Have you had a city tour of the likes? Let us know in the comments!