I first used this gem of a picture about a year ago. It certainly captures the essence of the man better than any other. I somehow stumbled upon it in an obscure site, and since then, it’s made the rounds on the web. But the story behind the picture was left to speculation, beyond knowing that it happened on an Opel test track. I helped a German site (oldtimer-markt.de) find the source of the photo, and in exchange, I got the story, from Florian Schwaab of oldtimer-markt, who wrote the following:
Here’s the story in short form:
In 1968 or 69 (Bob believes it’s 1965 but the car shown in the picture is a 1967 Model. This can be recognized by the two slots over the front bumper and the non leaf spring setup on the rear. And also George Gallion was present. But he joined Opel in 1968) there was a big test day at the Opel proving ground in Dudenhofen. The engineers and Managers where all there to compare the Opel products with the competitors from Ford, VW etc.
At noon they all sat together to have lunch and Bob rushed in to call Hans Mersheimer (technical director): “Hans, someone in the US told me the Kadett is not safe. It can easily flip over when performing the J-Test.” “No, that’s impossible” replied Hans, “the Americans are always on the road with insufficient tire pressure. Our car is safe”.
“I’ll show you, but someone has to explain me what to do on the J-Test” said Lutz.
The J-Test is driving straight ahead with around 50 mph then applying the hand brake and turning the steering wheel to one side extremely. The car should not flip over in this situation.
Five minutes later Bob sat in that poor little Kadett speeding to 50, applying the hand brake and turning the steering wheel to the left. The Opel showed heavy roll and eventually flipped over.
Bob climbed out of the wreck, lighted up a cigar and waited triumphantly sitting on the Kadett for the engineers and managers to come back from lunch. Mersheimer was very embarrassed because Lutz had proved him wrong in front of nearly every important engineer of the company.