Ultimate Fantasy 2: Driving Your Car on the Autobahn

Mark Bramley
volkswagen-scirocco

MAY I HAVE THE 'RING, PLEASE?

When you get married, you buy your partner a ring. When you take your car to Germany for your fifteenth anniversary, you also buy it a ring. A lap of the Nuerburgring, that is. I have no delusions that I will break any records. I have no intention of even trying. In fact, I'm doing a lap of the Nordschleife merely so I can affix a Nuerburgring sticker to the back window of the Scirocco and make fun of my poseur friends back home who have similar stickers on their cars.

Oh, yeah, I'm feeling like a big man until the moment I pull into the parking lot. People, cars, and motorcycles are everywhere; Aston Martins with roll cages driven by professionals with helmets, brakes outgassing visibly and tires shredding rubber chunks audibly. It's a festival of fearlessness and testosterone, and everyone suddenly looks more qualified than me.

Thankfully, the butterflies fade the second I drive through the gate. Although I think I'm taking it easy, the VW's speedometer needle is pointing to a three-digit number every time I look at it -- usually after I pass a much newer car. I will never know just how fast or slow my lap was (ten minutes? eleven? twenty-five?), but I drove hard enough that the engine ran hot for a half hour after I left, and that was enough to earn the sticker.

WHAT GOES FAST MUST SLOW DOWN

Thanks to the fifty or so additional horses I've crammed under the hood, my Scirocco is able to amass about 20 percent more kinetic energy than it was intended to -- something I figure shouldn't be much of a problem when it comes time to slow down. I learn just how wrong I am when I attempt to dive-bomb a rest area from a buck thirty-five. As I apply firm pressure to the pedal, the pads bite admirably, but by the time I'm decelerating through 80 mph, the pedal is nearly on the floor and the stench of nuked brake-pad material fills the cabin. I abort the stopover and allow the brakes to cool slowly until I reach the next service station. The heat generated by the deceleration was sufficient to permanently discolor the brand-new rotors. It's also enough for me to institute a voluntary speed cap of 115 mph for the remainder of the journey.

That's not much of a sacrifice, as I'm about to reenter the Netherlands and its depressing speed limits. I drop off my car at the gorgeous Amsterdam warehouse, having covered 1137 miles in three and a half days. The vast majority of those miles were driven at triple-digit speeds, and I experienced no mechanical maladies and no dangerous close calls.

THE WAIT FOR THE RETURN

As I track the progress of the Scirocco on its way home, I can't stop looking at the pictures of my car -- my car! -- in Germany. This was a vacation with an old friend, one that had brought me to the Atlantic seashore, the Pacific coast, and thousands of places in between. This is a car I know inside and out because I've removed almost every bolt at least once, and yet there were things I didn't know about it until I took it to another continent. It's one thing to drive some random car at its top speed on some autobahn. It's quite another to do that in your own car.

One day, Germany may have a speed limit. One day, public days on the Nordschleife might be a distant memory. (Don't think so? The Nuerburgring declared bankruptcy the very week I was there.) If you, too, share the fantasy of driving your own car in Germany, you should make your Vmax vacation a reality soon. As far as fantasies go, this one's a lot more attainable than you'd think.


The Logistics
Cosdel is a very high-end shipping company that specializes in shipping cars that are valuable -- monetarily or nostalgically. The Scirocco's container shipping was not inexpensive, but there are far cheaper ways of getting your car across the pond. Just as you have the choice between coach and first-class travel, so does your car. RoRo (roll-on roll-off) shipping takes longer and requires that someone start your car and drive it onto and off of the boat. The potential for bumps and bruises is higher, but you'll save a boatload of money. Round-trip RoRo shipping between the U.S. and Europe is closer in price to a coach plane ticket. Alternatively, if you want the security of container shipping and your car is small, you can share a forty-foot container with another vehicle.

One note of caution: many things, including weather, can delay shipment, so make sure you allow enough time. Cosdel doesn't charge a storage fee on the far end, and the warehouse in Amsterdam is likely nicer than your living room -- so why not let your car hang out there for a week or two rather than risk it not arriving on time?

Safety
There is simply no substitute for the stress, invigoration, and bonding experience that comes from driving your car at top speed for miles at a time, but it can also be dangerous. We recommend sending your car to a professional mechanic familiar with performing tech inspections on endurance-racing cars. That's exactly what we did with the Scirocco before its visit to Germany and the Nuerburgring.

My Fantasy
Family-Style Americana

by Rusty Blackwell

I'll take a two-month summer sabbatical from Automobile HQ so I can treat my wife and our two young kids to an epic road trip in our big-block, four-on-the-floor 1968 Plymouth Satellite station wagon, which will tow a nice '68 Shasta Airflyte travel trailer. (A '66 Chrysler Town & Country would be a swell way to pull a fancy period Airstream Caravel, though. Or a '60 Buick Invicta wagon dragging a Serro Scotty Sportsman Senior. Really, I'm not picky.) We'll visit places like Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and the Olympic Mountains, hitting local car shows along the way. The next year we'll load up for Canada's Maritime Provinces and New England. Gas is $0.30 a gallon. The kids behave. There are no speed limits, and my rig will safely and reliably do 90 mph. When we return home, I'll park the car and trailer in my well-organized six-car garage, which has only one stall devoted to nonautomotive things like toys and lawn mowers.

3 of 3
the_roadrunner
Ah, your mention of rings brought up sweet memories of driving the autobahn! My wife and I went on our honeymoon to Bavaria and Austria, landing in Munich and driving the first day to Innsbruck. A cross country jaunt to Vienna followed, with stops at Castle Durnstein in the Austrian countryside, where Richard the Lionhearted was supposedly held captive while returning from the Crusades (it is now a bed and breakfast). A trip to Salzburg was next; nothing like Mozart at 110 mph. Our car was a VW wagon, painted in a crazy purple color with Bon Jovi name decals discretely applied. My wife and I kept wondering if this had some deeper meaning in German, until our questions were answered on the final day when we returned to Munich and saw the same weird purple color on a VW with Pink Floyd decals. Apparently VW did some rock band special editions for the German market. If you ever want to get a group together to go back, my wife and I and our trusty Pontiac G8 GT are ready!
Boyracer36
Another way to indulge your high speed driving needs is to take European delivery. I got my 2011 Audi S4 on May 19 at 2:00PM...Remember, the Germans ARE punctual! European delivery is fantastic! Audi took care of everything, insurance, licensing and registration...and a full tank of gas, which costs $ 9.00/gallon there. After 1,500 miles and 2 laps of the Ring, I dropped my car off at Munich Airport and flew home. Several weeks later, thank you, U.S. Customs drones, who sat on my car for 3 weeks, I got a call from my dealer, "come get your car". The German export plates were still on it. My fastest speed? 145 mph. The difference between 145 here and there? You STAY at 145 there! I only got passed twice, once by a Lambo and once as I was slowing down for a tunnel...No shame. I stayed under the rev limits the factory gave me, but still had fun. If you chose to do this, KNOW THE RULES AND OBEY THEM! The Germans hate bad drivers and Americans and the Swiss have very bad driving reputations.

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