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Stories from our visitors
Vasek Polak Rememberences
from Bill Marks
In 1967, I bought a 2000 TiLux BMW from Vasek at his new dealership in Manhattan Beach, where I lived. I saw the car inside the show room and I wandered in as my 10-month-old, '67 Buick Riviera was being washed next door. I had heard of BMW and asked the salesman if I could drive it, though it seemed stuck inside with no driveway to be seen. He slid back the huge front window and put some boards over the two-foot-high wall, and drove it over the sidewalk and into the street. I told him I was recently at a Mercedes dealer and they wouldn't let me drive one as I told them I had never driven a car with a stick shift on the floor and wasn't sure I could do it right off. He said, "We'll show you how." Just then, Vasek came in (I think they had called him from the Porsche dealership down the street) and took the driver's seat. He showed me how you could drive using the engine's wide rpm range: driving the BMW using only 1st and 4th, and then other mixed-up, gear-shift combinations with ease. I then drove it for a while and I could see it was a hot-rod, four-door sedan with great handling - and it had twice the gas mileage of my Buick, too. Even the seats folded down and made a bed! I told them I would buy the car and "take it home right now." Amazingly, they went for the deal, with me being a total stranger, and they picked up my trade-in car at the car wash.
The service people all spoke German and were perfectionists. They must have put a half-dozen tachometers in my car till they were satisfied with one. The Solex carburetors needed tuning every couple of thousand miles and I had only to put the nose of the car into the garage, pop the hood and, I remember it was Heintz who would come over and balance them so they fed the four cylinders evenly. He had the touch. Years later, the mechanics left Vasek to work on Porsche racing engines and they have only recently retired.
Visiting the Porsche dealership on occasion, Vasek (sensing I was an enthusiast, I guess) would offer me a 911 to test drive. I would drive them around the Palos Verdes coast line, going up and down the rolling hills and curves. Those cars had great-sounding, air-cooled engines that responded like a gas-turbine; and they had sticky handling with a light feeling from the steering that encouraged you to go faster.
Years later, after moving east, I always stopped in to see if Vasek was at the dealership whenever I was in LA. The salesmen would say, "He comes by occasionally." I wanted to thank him for putting me on to German cars. I bought a 914 in 1970 and a Boxster in 1997, when those cars were first introduced. I still drive the Boxster and people think it is a Ferrari super car.
I always compare how Vasek's dealership was to the present-day dealerships. A passion for racing was the characteristic that dominated his place. The mechanics worked only on race cars on Thursdays and Fridays. Saturdays they cleaned the garage. Sundays, they raced. Vasek would buy three of the racing cars from Porsche and sold two of them to pay for the one. I think that is why he never sold any of the cars he raced. Why sell them when you got them for free?
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