Laurin & amp; Klement 300: Belle Epoque

Arturo Rivas
Laurin & Klement 300
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K it is old. Cold and wet. When people rave about the golden autumn, they are either not quite comforted or weatherproof. I think so, and with my fashionable shoes from the costume rental shop, I avoid a puddle.

9.15 am. Marienbad, Czech Republic, in November. The monster wakes up. Classic car expert Oleg Dohalský, whom everyone calls 'Olda' Dohalský, started the engine of the Laurin & Klement 300 in the hotel courtyard. Even the last sleepers should now be awake, because the entire hotel complex seems to shake under the infernal thunder of the 50 hp four-cylinder. People in dressing gowns appear on the balconies, pulling out cell phone cameras. Liveried employees who have come to the back door to smoke step forward. Listen to the noise and watch in amazement the spectacle that an old racing car and two costumed people deliver.

Laurin & Klement 300 with the turning circle of an oil tanker

Due to the year the car was built, I don't drive myself : That's the man's job. Olda maneuvers the 1923 Laurin & Klement to the exit. This takes a while. The driver explains that the steering is stiff and gives no feedback. The turning circle corresponds to that of an oil tanker. At some point the two-seater is turned and I begin the ascent. 'Be careful,' Olda admonishes me. That means he's screaming so I can hear him over the deafening chok-chok-chok of the machine while idling. 'Watch out for the exhaust pipes!'

After just five minutes they got so hot that I had to gather up my layers of clothing when I climbed over them so that they don't strip the glowing metal and go up in flames. I'm afraid. Olda helps me gallantly from the wheel. I get into the cockpit of the Laurin & Klement 300 without an accident and squeeze myself next to Olda. The leather upholstered bench is reminiscent of a driver's seat. Also offers a similar amount of space. Driver and co-driver have to like each other, otherwise driving in the racing car will be torture. At least when it comes to the tightness. Otherwise the racer is surprisingly comfortable. What the leaf springs do not iron away, the upholstery absorbs.

The Czech motorcycle and car maker Laurin & Klement produced a total of 80 of the 300 series in the early 1920s. Almost all of them were custom-made, mostly trucks. How many still exist today is not known. This example from the Skoda Museum got a landaulet body, only inIn the 1960s it was given the two-seater body - a replica of the racing car of Count Alexandr Kolowrat, a famous Czech racing driver of the era.

Laurin & Klement part of Skoda history

In 1925, Skoda took over the company, Laurin & Klement became part of Skoda history. Accordingly, the manufacturer bought the Laurin & Klement 300 for the museum in the 1970s and restored the car. Now Olda, who works as a technician at the Skoda Museum in Mlada Boleslav, regularly drives with him at classic car events.

On the way through Marienbad, it starts to rain. Small fountains splash from the tires. Amazingly, my legs stay dry. And warm. I don't know how fast we're going. Speedometer? Nothing. We are now in third gear. The 4.8 liter engine is quite elastic, explains Olda. And manage 100 km /h top. But then it would become unbearably loud. Olda forces the shift linkage into the fourth position.

We turn a bend and meet a taxi. In the middle of the intersection the driver stopped, lowered the window and leaned out. Turn your head and follow the Laurin & Klement 300 with his eyes. An ecstatic grin on my face. A dachshund on the side of the road tripped to the curb, floppy ears and tail erect, head tilted. This car even seems to work on dogs.

With the Laurin & Klement 300 around the city

Marienbad, in Czech Mariánské Lázne - pronounced 'Mariaaanskeee Laaas-nje' - lies around 40 kilometers from the Bavarian border. Sick people have been coming here for treatment and recreation since the 17th century. Six springs are said to bring healing. Goethe also spent his vacation here. And Wagner composed two of his most important works here.

We roar along curved forest roads around the city. Only here Olda shifts back into a low gear. He needs the engine brake, because the deceleration of the drum brakes was so bad even then that the engineers also installed a cardan brake. It is, says my companion, the 'mountain emergency brake' and acts directly on the cardan shaft.

While we are taking the last photos, the cloud cover is tearing open. The sun comes out. My left hand is blackened with soot. It smells strongly of oil and burned gasoline. I've warmed them too often by the exhaust. The machine is booming in my ears and I'm sure I'll be deaf for a while.

The leaves shimmer in the light, the raindrops glitter. Yes, I think this is the golden autumn. Arcadia. Just cold, it still is.

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