This Ex-Race Driver Shares His Remarkable Collection of Motorsport In A Country That Banned It
Photography by Robb Pritchard
With a racing career that spanned forty years, privateer racer Fredy Lienhard did pretty well for himself behind the wheel. Starting in the 1970s in Formula V and Formula 2 with his Lista team and working himself up the ranks in all sorts of series, the pinnacle of Fredy’s racing career came with a victory at the 2002 24 Hours of Daytona. His motorsport legacy is not just limited to his own though, for his massive collection of historic racing cars is on display to be shared with the public. On a recent trip through the country, I made sure to save some time to pop into Autobau in Switzerland, full expecting to be blown away by the variety of cars.
Outside is a tribute to James Deen in the form of a 550 Spyder sculpture made out of cogs and nuts and bolts, but inside my attention is immediately transferred to the Ferrari. The 250 GTO is officially the world’s most desirable car as measured in monetary value, as one sold not too long ago for $70 million, but this isn’t a 250 that I’m looking at, but a replica of the much rarer 330 GTO—real or not, the story behind this car is pretty interesting. In the 1980s, when the values of the GTOs started attracting real attention, some GT road cars were converted into the more desirable GTO race car spec, especially for classic racing enthusiasts. The 330 GTOs had 4.0L engines, but as only three originals were made in the 1960s they weren’t homologated in period, as. With the extra power from the larger V12 they are preferred for modern historic series today when building a replica to run. This one, owned by David Piper, is one such recreation, and apparently he was untouchable in it.
Walking passed the immaculate, Raceline restored 904 that looks as new as its spotless paint are two more special horses from Maranello. For starters, the 512 M, which became the main rival for Porsche’s 917 after Ferrari turned factory attention to other programs. Although not as successful as the Porsche, the 512 S and later Ms are hugely impressive cars in their own right. This one has a bit of a confusing history though. Made with a replica chassis but with original spare parts, is it really a 512 M? No. Three of these were made at the same time, but there were only two original 5.0L engines, so this Penske-painted car was the odd one out that got a 4.4L from a Daytona Competizione.
Next to it in the collection is the sublime 512 BB LM. The Ferrari works team had pulled out of GT racing in the early 1970s to concentrate its efforts in Formula One again, but it did occasionally support privateer efforts in other disciplines, such as Michelotto taking the 308 rallying or turning their supercar into a circuit racer with the creation of the 512 BB LM. In 1978 four slightly modified cars fielded by three different teams were entered at Le Mans, and Ferrari saw enough interest and potential in its 512 BB to work with Pininfarina to create a fiberglass body optimized in the wind tunnel. To fulfill homologation requirements 25 cars needed to be made, and although these cars are absolute works of art from the rear end (the front is a bit plow-like), it was never as successful as Ferrari would have liked. They had less than 500 horsepower, and just weren’t competitive against the Porsche 935s in championship racing. A GTX class win at Le Mans for Jean-Claude Andruet and Claude Ballot-Léna in a 512 BB LM in 1981 was the car’s best result, and one to be proud of.
This particular 512 at Autobau started out as a new 512 BB road car for Roger Penske, but was written off after an accident sometime in the 1980s. Instead of being scrapped though, it was given a new life and transformed into an accurate replica of the Le Mans-winning BB made by the same workshops that did the race car: Sauro in Bologna, and Bachelli & Villa in Modena, the ones that put together the originals in 1979 and 1980. It might not then have any race history then, but this is an absolutely gorgeous car and is indistinguishable from the originals in both aesthetics and mechanics.
For privateers in top class Can-Am and sports car racing from the 1960s to the 1980s there was no better known name than Lola. The T70s stand as some of the most successful race cars of their time for those without factory budgets, and although this one is pretty much identical to the Lolas made between 1965 and ’67, this spyder it is just 10 years old. With the popularity of classic car racing and people wanting to compete in machines with no precious historical value to up the risk, Lola made three “Continuation Series” cars in 2008. Strict FIA rules stipulate the cars must be “built by the manufacturer to the original plans, using the original materials.”
There are more current race cars to check out as well, like this 2006 Sauber BMW F1, which at one point had a total of 400 people working on its design and operation, with driver Nick Heidfeld finding the team’s best result of the year with a 3rd in Hungary.
It’s far from the only Sauber car in Autobau. Swiss motorsport of that era is synonymous with Sauber, and Autobau houses the biggest collection of them in the world. The old complex the cars are housed in is a former factory for alcohol production, and the rounded building at the end used to be a 2.5 million liter storage tank… Now a three-story display center, the lower level houses each example of Sauber’s F1 contenders starting back in 1993 when they were supported by Mercedes (’94 is the first year they ran with the Mercedes name) until the 2005 car, after which they formed a partnership with BMW. Perennial mid-fielders, the Red Bull and Petronas-liveried cars had drivers such as Kimi Räikkönen, Filipe Massa, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Jean Alesi, Giancarlo Fisichella, and Jacques Villeneuve behind the wheel.
The beginnings of Sauber’s storied history also have representation here. The wedge-shaped C3 from 1973, a lightweight Ford BDG-powered hillclimb racer, was the first to have the chassis, body, and suspension all made in-house at the same facilities in Hinwil that the F1 cars came from.
The bright blue C5 was the first real success for the company when Herbert Müller won the 1976 Interseries with one of the five 290bhp BMW-powered cars. In the summer another was leading the 2.0L class at Le Mans before having to pull out with engine failure. Le Mans holds a special place for Sauber though, as thirteen years later they won there. In partnership with Mercedes who was officially back in motorsport for the first time since the 1955 Le Mans disaster, they came up with the C9. In the old German silver, a nod back to the company’s Silver Arrows, the purposeful C9s dominated the race, taking a 1-2 as well as the World Sportcar Championship that Le Mans was part of.
Sadly no real Group C Sauber graces the collection, but the M119 5.0L twin-turbo V8 engine on display made for an impressive consolation piece. So were the scale wind tunnel models of the C11 and C292, a car that sadly never raced, as it was at this point that the F1 chapter began.
Up the steps is Alain Prost’s Renault RE40 Turbo. With this car he almost won the 1983 Formula One Championship. Leading the points standing at the final round in South Africa, he needed to keep in touch with Nelson Piquet during the race but the turbo blew and he lost the championship to the Brazilian by just two points.
A lot more emotive, simply because it’s a Ferrari race car, was this ex-Jean Alesi 412T from the 1994 season. With 750bhp and weighing only 500kg thanks to the use of carbon fiber for the chassis and suspension, it looks the business on paper and in real life. And the V12 wound up to 12500rpm is also one of the best sounding engines in all of motor racing if you ask me. Far from the company’s most successful car, Alesi’s teammate Gerhard Berger scored the 412Ts only win, but that came about because 11 cars didn’t make it around the first lap of the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim that year.
Moving along, we get to the 2004 Doran JE4 Daytona prototype. For me speed and sound is of course important, but I also like to watch a good looking car out on track. The JE4 looks like someone tried to turn some deep sea diving equipment into a race car, but it is quick. Powered by a 4.3L Lexus V8, this car finished 4th overall and 2nd in class at the 2004 Daytona 24 Hours, while its sister car won.
In Europe the IndyCar series gets derided for only racing in circles, but 220mph with nothing but a wall to catch you if something goes wrong is something I won’t joke about until I’ve tried it. I bet Simona de Silvestro has bigger balls than most to handle a car like this. In the HVM Racing Honda-powered car she finished 20th out of 44 drivers in the 2011 Indycar Series.
The top floor of the tank room is where Fredy keeps the collection of his own personal race cars. Starting out in the ’70s with fat-tired and big-winged F2 cars, there is also the 2002 Daytona-winning Dallara Judd, the Porsche RS Spyder 96 707 from his last race in 2008, and a very odd-looking 1987 Horag. The rule-free spirit of Can-Am lived on for many years in the European-based Interseries, where almost anything could be raced. And was. Based on an F3000 chassis covered, mostly, in bodywork, it is powered by a 3.5L F1 engine; the Horag CanAm won the championship for three years straight in the mid-1990s.
On the other side of the huge building is the collection of street cars where a Porsche Carrera GT and 918 Spyder share floorspace with a Ferrari F40 and LaFerrari. But that’s almost standard fare for your world-class car collection. The Vector W8 stands out. An American supercar that is supposed to have as much aeronautical influences in its design as automotive—still, can’t help feeling it looks a bit like someone melted a Lamborghini over a brick. With a 6.0L twin-turbo V8 in the middle, it’s no joke if you’re talking bite to back up the bark.
So, if you find yourself passing anywhere near Zurich, on the southern shores of Lake Constance, consider an afternoon at Autobau if you’d like to see some motorsport history in a country that doesn’t allow it!