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ALPLA founder Alwin Lehner turns his vintage vehicle hobby into his new life’s work

Different machines, same passion

Austria

ALPLA founder Alwin Lehner turns his vintage vehicle hobby into his new life’s work.

Vintage cars are just more hands-on.

He purchases them from around the globe, sometimes in good condition and sometimes no more than heaps of scrap: vintage vehicles – motorcycles, cars and tractors. Around ten years ago, Alwin Lehner, the founder of ALPLA, placed his extremely successful company in the hands of his son Günther and started looking for a new calling. Although he is still very interested in the extrusion and stretch-blow moulding machines, “there’s not as much to tinker with on the new models”. The same cannot be said for vintage vehicles. That’s why he opened a vintage vehicle workshop and museum. His “hallowed halls” already hold more than 120 different treasures. With no plans to stop, the nearly 84-year-old business man is on the lookout for more. “I have been fascinated with machines that move since I was a little boy”, Lehner shared with me during our conversation at the company headquarters in Hard, Austria.

65 Tractors

His vintage vehicle museum now includes more than 65 tractors, including brands such as Steyr, Deutz, Schlüter, Hannomag and, of course, many Lanz Bulldogs. And all of them look as good as new. “We only buy original parts, and we restore all of the machines that we have here to their original condition.” Although Lehner is still in good health, the work is too much and too difficult for him to do alone, and he has enlisted support. The three mechanics employed by his workshop perform restorations with the same passion and attention to detail as Lehner himself, while Lehner continues do most of the searching for replacement parts and new classics. “When he was active at ALPLA, my father was not particularly computer savvy”, Lehner’s son Günter notes with a grin. “Now he can spend hours on the computer looking for the parts he needs. If there’s an amazing vintage vehicle up for sale somewhere, he’s the first to know.”

the treasure trove

Along with tractors and motorcycles, the halls of the vintage vehicle museum now also house many cars. Lehner is particularly proud of two Mercedes that are part of the Adenauer Mercedes series. After the German Chancellor had selected the Mercedes 300 as his official car four times, the entire series was named after him. The collection in Hard, Austria also includes a black convertible and a burgundy-coloured limousine. Among the real gems are a Rolls Royce wedding car and several Porsche models. Anyone who thinks that vintage cars drive just like the cars of today is completely mistaken. As Günther Lehner, who occasionally has the pleasure of driving one of these classics, explains, “First I need instructions on how to drive this type of car.”  One of the halls houses a particularly exotic specimen – a brand new car, only two years old. The car in question is a hybrid vehicle which can run on either electricity or petrol, allowing it to easily achieve a range of 400 km and a top speed of 200 km/h. Not well known in Germany, the car is an American model produced by Fisker Automotive. “I bought this car because I am convinced that it will be valuable someday”, Lehner explains. Of course, he is also interested in the model’s special technology.  Günther Lehner: Sometimes when he’s found something new, my father will ask, “What do you think of this car?” If I suggest that he already has so many and he decides not to buy it, he’ll sometimes kick himself for weeks afterwards. And occasionally he’ll tell me later: “Günther, I should have bought that car.”

A passion for flying

An airplane – also a classic – hangs above all of the splendid old vehicles in the large hall, but that alone isn’t what makes it special. What makes it special is that it was built by ALPLA. A jack of all trades, Lehner has a pilot’s licence and used to fly himself. What could be more natural than to build a plane? Lehner is well-versed in mechanical engineering – after all, ALPLA also built its own blow moulding machines. “From 1972 to 1978, we built and sold a total of 26 motorgliders under the name Samburo.”
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