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Film car specialist Markus Zimmermann: Cars for the film

Hardy Mutschler
Film car specialist Markus Zimmermann
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D he Opel Diplomat is of course known. As the official vehicle of Henning Baum alias Mick Brisgau in the Sat 1 series 'The Last Bull', the Rüsselsheim classic is probably the most prominent German film car at the moment. The taxi diagonally behind it? Sure, you know from the Münster crime scene, where it is regularly driven by the smoking father of inspector Frank Thiel while the red Saab 900 belongs to Pastewka, at least in the eponymous series. The red Volvo 245 station wagon can also be classified: It can be seen regularly in the ZDF crime series Wilsberg. Guessing the film title based on the cars in it - this game can be guaranteed to continue for many hours in Markus Zimmermann's hall in the west of Cologne.

3 to 5 cars are on the move on film productions every day

The specialist ( www.filmauto.de ) owns around 100 cars, mostly old and classic cars, which he rents to film and production companies. The city on the Rhine is one of the centers of the German film industry, shooting here almost around the clock. 'On average, 3 to 5 of my cars are on the road to some shoot every day,' explains Zimmermann. And adds that the industry is currently increasingly relying on the coolness factor and at the same time on the great sympathy bonus of a classic. 'The car should deliberately underline the character of the actor.'

A tough, unconventional guy like the last cop who wears almost exclusively Hawaiian shirts and cowboy boots, picks up a cigarette at every opportunity and women in passing ever gives a pat on the bottom - someone like that would never drive to the crime scene in a politically correct Golf Blue-Motion. 'That would be absolutely unbelievable,' explains Zimmermann.

Markus Zimmermann is one of the old hands in the industry. Cars have always been his world, and while studying mechanical engineering, the Cologne-based man was already trading in used Mercedes parts.

Rather by chance, in the mid-1990s he came into contact with a production company that produced the RTL series ' Stadtklinik 'is looking for a Mercedes. Zimmermann can help, organizes an S-Class (W 116), shortly afterwards the first major order follows: for the movie 'Peanuts - The Bank pays everything' he drives seven luxury vehicles for the film company - all of them cars from his ownCircle of acquaintances. 'Some of the cars belonged to my friends' parents', the film fan smiles.

Only models with automatic systems

The inquiries are increasing, Zimmerman buys more and more cars from now on after consulting various production companies, which he then rents out on a daily or weekly basis - an, as it turns out, an optimal solution for both sides: The production companies do not have to worry about the procurement and the Caring for the maintenance of the vehicles, while Markus Zimmermann found his job, which he still enjoys today.

'Of course, my models are usually not collector's cars with a condition rating of 1,' explains the Cologne native . In other words: his cars have to drive, the lights have to work, and the windows have to be opened to take pictures. You wouldn't see minor damage on TV anyway. So far, at least: 'Since the introduction of HD, the picture quality has become so good that suddenly even the smallest scratches in the paint are unpleasant.'

However, certain features are essential for a movie car - automatic, for example. 'Switching would only distract the actors from their role in driving shots,' says Zimmermann from experience. A sliding roof is also regularly on the wish lists of the production companies so that as much light as possible falls into the interior during driving shots.

A canister as a tank

Over the years Zimmermann has learned to improvise. Of necessity. While looking for a Jaguar limousine, he buys an XJ 12 from 1987, which looks reasonably neat, but whose tank would have to be replaced. 'Too expensive,' he says, replacing the ailing fuel reservoir with a 20-liter canister temporarily attached to the trunk: 'That's enough for the car to drive a few meters through the picture as desired.'

Or the famous taxi from the Münster crime scene. Vehicles with diesel engines are not in demand during filming because of the loud engine noise. However, because a suitable Mercedes taxi could not be found, Markus Zimmermann had a conventional gasoline engine from the W 124 series covered with a foil in light ivory.

And what if a car on set does not start? 'Something like that should just not happen,' explains the Cologne native. Before being transported to the location, a mechanic would check the respective vehicle again and provide it with a freshly charged battery. In the case of particularly long-term filming such as 'The Last Bull', where the fourth season has just been produced, Zimmermann has an identical Opel model ready as a double for security, while there are even three red Saab 900s for the permanent series Pastewka.

Own car inWatching television

When looking for certain models, Zimmermann sometimes turns to the appropriate clubs or internet forums: 'Many owners have great fun when they see their vehicle on television.' Over the years, a considerable file of private cars has come together, which the film car specialist can fall back on if necessary.

Markus Zimmermann has an entire floor of an underground car park as well as a large outdoor area directly for his own, constantly growing vehicle fleet rented next to his sober hall. There is no trace of the glittering world of films, no stars and starlets who can choose a classic for their next film assignment. At most someone who thinks Markus Zimmermann is a used car dealer. But selling his vehicles is out of the question for the car fan: 'At heart, I am a collector who has built a very personal relationship with each of his cars.' Zimmermann is particularly proud when he can equip entire streets with his classics for historical films. A current example is the ZDF production Blutgeld, whose shooting began in October 2012 and whose action takes place at the beginning of the 1980s. Around 30 Zimmermann cars will be shown in the film, including his personal favorites such as a Ford Capri, a Ford Granada, a Mini, his Beetle, the Duck and the Renault R 4.

Volvo is always in demand

While certain models are constantly being booked, others often have to wait years for an appearance. 'Volvo always works,' explains the film car specialist, 'and when a vehicle is being sought for a robbery, my BMW 750 with darkened windows is regularly used.'

And the inconspicuous Renault Rapide with that faded paint? 'The ideal car for moving scenes or for a gardener, while a 2 CV or an R 4 is regularly ordered for scenes that take place in a student environment.' From time to time, however, he also buys models without a specific order, a Pontiac Fiero for example: 'It has been waiting for its first TV appearance for nine years.'

More film cars from Zimmermann

  • Film: Neue Vahr Süd (ARD), car: Opel Kadett B
  • Film: Contergan (WDR), Car: Ford Taunus 12m
  • Series: Everything that counts (RTL), Car: Mercedes 500 SL
  • Series: Lena, the love of my life (ZDF), Car: Jaguar E- Type Roadster Series III
  • Series: Murder with a View (ARD), Car: BMW 320i Cabrio
  • Series: Forbidden Love (ARD), Car: Porsche 911 Targa
  • Series: Soko Köln (ZDF), car: Citroën ID 19, Mercedes-Benz 200D (W 115)
  • Series: Komissar Stolberg (ZDF), car: Mercedes-Benz 230 (W 115) as a stunt vehicle for an accident scene

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