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Wenckstern / Hotrod Citytour, Hamburg

24 March 2016

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Maik Wenckstern had his eureka moment while messing about on a self-drive lawnmower. It’s probably fair to say that he’s in the minority in that respect.

However, some ideas are fun, pure and simple, and the Wenckstern mini-hotrod is one of them. Many of us, of a certain age at least, will remember cobbling together a go-kart as a kid. All you needed was a couple of bicycle wheels, a crate and a rope for steering. Then imagination took over and tearing downhill felt like winning the Monaco Grand Prix. It’s that sense of fun and adventure that Wenckstern set out to recapture.

“We wanted to create something that had never been seen before,” he says. “I grew up on motorbikes as my Dad was a motocross fanatic, so I was always into customising them.”

Naturally, a hobby is one thing, a viable business proposition another. “We built our very first Wenckstern for a good friend,” he continues. “He loved it and it attracted a lot of attention. At the same time, we concentrated on patenting the design and making sure that the vehicle was completely roadworthy and street legal. It was a long battle with the German MOT, over two years, but we finally got approval in 2010.”

Post-product launch the idea was to sell individual cars to like-minded enthusiasts. In those early days Wenckstern and a group of pals would often take to the roads in and around Hamburg at weekends, forming what was an eye-catching convoy. “Whenever we stopped people would come up to us and ask where we got the vehicles and, more importantly, if they were available to rent.”

Like any good entrepreneur Wenckstern thought, why not? Over the following year he hatched a plan to set up the first Hotrod Citytour in his native city. It opened to the public in 2013 and “took off straight away. People were, and still are, crazy about the concept”, he says. “It’s a fantastic way to see a city, great fun, with the added bonus of taking you back to your childhood.”

Driving your own Wenckstern for an hour or two certainly beats the usual staid tourist itineraries and designated tours. And, although the tour takes place in a group with a trained leader, the overwhelming feeling is that of freedom. All you need is a clean driving licence. It really couldn’t be easier.

From that first tentative step back in 2013, expansion has been rapid. The Hotrod Citytour has become quite a phenomenon, with rental stations now at various locations throughout Germany, Austria and even Spain. Asked what lies behind it, Wenckstern explains, “I guess it really captured people’s imaginations. Something different to do that you’ll never forget. But, to be honest, we truly never expected such success so quickly.”

Yet no start-up is without teething problems and hiccups along the way. “I’m very lucky. I love what I do and every day is different and exciting,” says Wenckstern. “Sometimes it’s a little stressful but giving up is not in my vocabulary.”

As for the future, tentative steps are the key. “At the moment we’re concentrating on Europe, but we’ve had lots of enquiries to set up rental stations all over the world. In time I hope to see Wencksterns for hire in places like Cape Town and Dubai.”

hotrod-citytour.com

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

After a tour of Hamburg in a Wenckstern the best place to grab a drink is…
Strand Pauli Beach Club next to the Hotrod Citytour Station.

To experience Hamburg like a local go to…
The Port, the Reeperbahn, the new district Hafencity, and Portugiesenviertel.

You’ll find the best views at…
20 Up at the Riverside Hotel – floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbour.

To eat like a local head for…
One of the fish restaurants at the port. Nothing better.

The best advice I can give is…
Do what’s fun, work hard and never lose respect for the people you work with.

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