Getting the kafer on track

Getting the kafer on track

It was never fast or strong, but the rear end could overtake you sooner than you would have liked: the VW kafer may have been the favorite car of the germans in the post-war period – but it was also a tail-slinger. Ten spacers, ten longer wheel bolts, a simple idea that richard kermas came up with to get rid of the volkswagen’s heimtucke: it made it possible to widen the track of the rear axle by 40 millimeters on the kafer without any rough edges. This small kit was bought mainly by people who liked to move the kafer in a more sporty way – and there were more of them than you might think.
Richard kermas and his colleagues had no idea that this idea would one day give rise to the wheel manufacturer ATS when, almost 50 years ago in mannheim, they were discussing the not uncritical driving characteristics of the rear-engined car with its swing axle.
Kermas now lives in bad staffelstein, was employed by the moll company before he retired (and married elisabeth moll, a daughter of peter moll, the founder of the company). ATS is now part of the uniwheels group, which includes four different wheel manufacturers.
ATS – for many people, the name is still associated with gunter schmid, who built up the company at the end of the 1960s and became a pioneer in the production of rough-series aluminum rims. He earned a lot of money with it – and had, among other things, two formula 1 teams. Schmid died in 2005. The term ATS was an idea of kermas and his well-known dr. Kurt bruch, with whom he bought his small chassis kit through the company "kermas autotechnik" distribution. The screws and hulsen were purchased from suppliers, packed and shipped from a basement room, later they moved into a former dairy store. At 26 marks, the offer was favorable, the two had a lot to do and later also employed helpers. As the company grew, a catchy name was sought – and so the two came up with the name "autotechnische spezialerzeugnisse", ATS for short. "We were enthusiastic about motorsports and often went to hockenheim, where there were races every weekend", the 75-year-old remembers. During one of these races a jaguar crashed – and from the wreck kermas got his hands on a magnesium rim. "We had to build something like that for a road vehicle, we thought to ourselves." Aluminum was quickly found to be a more suitable material – and a foundry that produced a sample was also found. But the project was pushing the limits – getting such a part ready for mass production required tuv testing and had to overcome other approval hurdles. "I was at the end of my studies and had already been accepted for a job with an american company." So kermas sold his share, gunter schmid got in and in the following years built up a business that was to become the world market leader in aluminum bicycles in the 1980s.


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