The Story Behind The Best Bob Lutz Photo Ever

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

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.

Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Jack Baruth Jack Baruth on Oct 04, 2010

    I do these in my Town Car about five times a week... no faster than about 40-45mph tho.

  • Ronnie Schreiber Ronnie Schreiber on Oct 04, 2010

    I could be wrong but I think it was Paddy Hopkirk who discovered the joys of doing a handbrake turn in a front wheel drive car when he rally raced Mini Coopers in the early 60s. A FWD car really pivots when you stop the back wheels and crank the steering wheel. I think eventually they rigged up a differential handbrake control (or maybe it worked hydraulically) that could brake just one back wheel for even quicker turns.

  • Fred As a British Car Fan I liked them, but then I sat in one and changed my mind. I like the unique looks of the newer ones.
  • FreedMike Not much to look at, but these were sweet to drive.
  • EBFlex Ford finally making a good decision although they should shut down their EV operations and investment all together. Why lose that money too?
  • Mike Lol. This is the king of suvs. And its made by GM.Why is everyone trashing it?Top of its its class for a quarter century.
  • Frank Drove past there last week, plant has a huge poster of a bronco on the outside. I was thinking "Is that where they build the new broncos?" I know they use to make the Edge and that other mundane SUV there but I believe both have been canned.
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