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Classic Velocity Blog

Rometsch Roadster

Classic Velocity

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Friedrich Rometsch was a German coachbuilder based in the Halensee section of Berlin. The company was founded in the 1920s when classic coachbuilding was still in its heyday. The basic idea was to select a chassis (usually complete with drivetrain), and then marry it to a custom made body from your  selected coachbuilder. Of course, only the well heeled client could afford this process, but the end result was a unique vehicle (or one of few).   

Fast forward to the postwar period, and Rometsch joined many others in using the Volkswagen Beetle chassis and drivetrain as a platform. VW happily sold this platform to a variety of coachbuilders such as Karmann, Beutler, Porsche, Reutter, and Hebmuller. It was a simple and sturdy chassis with a great flexibility to increase overhangs and power. Rometsch was perhaps the first though, to introduce a production model rather than true one-off customs. They produced a four door sedan that was popular as a taxi, but they also produced a handsome cabriolet called the Beeskow. Romaine Beeskow was chief designer for Rometsch in the late 1940s, after making a name for himself developing cabriolets for Austro-Daimler, Maybach, and Erdmann&Rossi. The cabriolet body was mostly his own design pitched to Rometsch in 1949, so when it finally got approved for production, his name became the model designation. 

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Production versions of the roadster first went on sale in 1951, had many distinctive features for the time. Among those features were aluminum body panels for light weight, "eyebrow" accents over the fenders later seen on Mercedes cars, and extensive use of chrome trim (at least for a European car).  The Beeskow was very well received, and went on to win the prestigious Golden Rose of Geneva at the show in 1953. This success had not escaped the attention of VW CEO Heinz Nordhoff, who promptly prohibited the sale of the chassis to Rometsch. Rometsch purchased them independently, and VW countered by prohibiting that as well. Rometsch then converted customer purchased cars, and even exported some to the sole US dealership in Hollywood, California where a few made their way into the hands of Hollywood stars. However, purchasing full cars only to strip them down to the chassis was not cost effective, and so began a decline.

The ultimate damage however, was done by the introduction of the VW Karmann Ghia. Here was a good looking coupe on a longer VW chassis with Italian styling, and all the benefits of a factory production model. And at a good price. Karmann then executed the coup de grace by hiring Beeskow away from Rometsch in 1956. He helped them design the cabriolet version of the Karmann Ghia. The Rometsch Beeskow ended production the same year. It is estimated that only 170 cars were produced in total, making them pretty rare.