I’ll be the first to admit that I’m most nervous about Jason Drives episodes that don’t put me in some tiny, miserable piece of crap that’s likely to kill me. This is one of those episodes. This car, the Runge Frankfurt Flyer 004, while tiny, is about as far from being miserable as you could imagine. It’s rolling art, and a blast to drive. Even in refrigerator-interior temperatures.
We shot this in the winter, when it was about 20 degrees out. The FF004 has no heater, of course. It doesn’t even have padded seats—just a pair of aluminum buckets that spend their leisure time soaking up raw cold just for the joy of transferring the frigidity into your ass.
There’s no roof, so icy wind is cutting into your face at all times. I’m telling you all this because I want the fact that I adored driving this car to be understood in the proper context: frozen nether regions were no match for the joy this machine provides.
Christopher Runge builds these cars by hand in a little garage in Minnesota. The cars are the spiritual successor to some of my favorite sports cars ever—the handmade VW Specials that appeared in Germany after WWII.
These cars, pioneered by people like Petermax Müller, were made from the literal detrius of war, by people who had almost nothing: scrap aircraft aluminum, old Kubelwagens, whatever they could find. These were people trying to put a terrible time behind them, and they built some amazing cars out of nothing.
Chris builds these cars with the same basic parts—hand-hammered and English-wheel’d aluminum bodies, VW suspension and drivetrain parts, sometimes Porsche 356 engines, home-built chassis. The cars are absolutely no-bullshit machines to make you move.
If I had the money, I’d want one of these. I can’t really fathom spending insane amounts of money on some Veyron or Ferrari, but I can see spending money (not supercar money, but money!) on something like a Runge Flyer. If your goal is a car that looks amazing and like nothing else out there, and gives the most visceral, engaged, and enjoyable driving experience possible, you can’t beat this.
All those clichés about becoming part of the machine and cars having souls and all that hack car-writer crap I want to spout after driving this. I’ll stop myself, but just know that that’s the effect Runge’s cars will have on you.
I promise next week to get back into something weird and dangerous.