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Interview with Aleš Hinner

We have already reconfirmed the fact that vintage cars are of interest also to young people. A large percentage of them have mentioned to us that they bring this passion from home. The same is the case with the crew from the Czech Republic, who in 2023 started with the number 63 on a 1947 Tatra 87. The Hinner family follow the rule “It’s never too early to do the 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH”, having completed the race with their almost one year old daughter. Of course, that’s not the only interesting thing about this crew. Mr. Aleš Hinner is part of the family company Ecorra, which deals, among other things, with the restoration of vintage cars or the production of prototypes. Even a few of their clients have raced in the 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH. There is nothing more beautiful than when work and hobby go hand in hand.

Mr. Hinner, a huge chapeau to you for completing the entire course of the 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH race with your daughter, who was not even a year old at the time. Is the love of vintage cars hereditary in your family? How do you remember your first experiences with vintage cars from your childhood?

First of all, I would like to comment on “It’s never too early for 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH”, that the first time we did this beautiful race was in 2022 with the starting number 32. My wife was seven months pregnant. At the end of August, we had our baby Evička. That’s why this year’s challenge was to install a baby car seat in our car made in 1947. In the end, it was done and we were able to do the whole route together. Of course, the whole race we had a “BABY CAR” with my parents as background in case of technical complications with the car, or that Evička was less able to handle the ride in the T87. However, the car and my daughter passed the whole race without any problems.

As far as the relationship with vintage cars is concerned, there is a certain heredity that can be said to be partly responsible. Both my grandfathers worked in Tatra. One was “Head of Tatra’s Technological Institute” and the other was “Production Deputy of Tatra’s Auto Repair Plant”, but they weren’t vintage cars at that time yet 😊.

You graduated in construction and production of motor vehicles in Kopřivnice. Was it because you followed in your father’s footsteps and wanted to be part of the family business Ecorra?

Dad started the renovations with a bunch of enthusiasts in free time. However, they all gradually left their original jobs, so you could say that it was Dad who built our company about 30 years ago. I was a second grader in elementary school at the time, and I didn’t notice at all that my father had left Tatra and started doing renovations and construction. At that age and even later I played quite a bit of sports (handball, baseball, squash). Training during the week and tournaments on weekends. I didn’t have too much time to drive around with my dad to car events because the timing conflicted. However, my parents liked that my sports hobbies also clashed with hanging out and making up “mischief” 😊. But whenever it worked out time-wise, my grandpa or dad would take me along. Over the summer holidays I did some odd jobs at the company, various non-professional jobs like cleaning, degreasing, dry cleaning the original paint from the bodywork, etc. Studying at the local tech-school was the obvious choice. Firstly because of the industrial history of our region and accessibility from home, and the second reason was handball. Kopřivnice played in the top league and I was often nominated for the Men’s “A” team despite my adolescent age. And thirdly my stubbornness, at 15 I was the smartest in the universe and my parents “knew nothing” which was good for me😊. After graduation, still with my head in the clouds, I had a rather wild time. One year in London, a couple of years in Prague. I’m actually only in my tenth year at Ecorra.

Among other things, Ecorra is involved in the restoration of vintage cars. What is the most interesting model you have personally worked on?

All projects are interesting. They are either historical gems or they are interesting because of how people have treated their cars over the years. I will admit, some of the handy man interventions are very tricky to get back into original shape, or at least a shape to make it work. But it was such a time, people meant well, they just wanted to extend the car’s life. They just couldn’t even think that in 40-50 years some idiots would renovate it 😊. A very interesting project was the Wikov 40 car, for which we had a chassis, an engine and three photos of it standing in front of Mr. Wichterle’s villa. That was definitely more development and research than restoration. This project took us 8 years and was very challenging in every aspect, but when the result left the gates of our workshop this year, it was a great feeling.

It is well known that you are a fan of Tatra, after all, you raced a Tatra car. What makes it special?

Tatra is exceptional mainly because it is the best car😊. Actually, it is exceptional in its construction, but also in design. Imagine yourself in 1938 riding in a horse-drawn carriage or a square box on wheels with steering wheel at 40-60km/h and a Tatra whizzing past at 150km/h. That’s an exaggeration of course, the roads weren’t suitable for that speed at the time, but the car could do it. And as the saying goes: “The blacksmith’s mare walks barefoot”, the same is true here. For both editions of the 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH we had Tatra 87 cars on loan from our customers, for which we are incredibly grateful! Even from a different owner each time.

Your clients are from all over the world, where can we see your work on public display? Are there also clients of yours that you have met at 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH?

Our projects can be seen in Europe, the USA and Canada. One even participated in the Paris-Beijing rally. However, I don’t know how publicly they are displayed, they are mostly in the hands of private owners.

Well, and with those clients at events like 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH it is so double-edged. It’s all very well to meet them, exchange a few words, but then comes the stage when the cars go out on the stage and we have the nerve to make sure they all arrive at the finish without any problems or technical faults. We stand by our work, but still, some of the pieces are 80,90 or even 100 years old. As with people, you replace a joint with an artificial one, but it has to work all together. You never know what doesn’t get along or terminates the service. Unfortunately, or fortunately? Historic cars can’t be hooked up to diagnostics that within seconds identify, say, an ignition fault on the third cylinder, so you swap the wires or plugs and away you go. With these cars, it’s trial and error. Even though nearly a hundred Tatra 87 have passed through our workshops, we’re still learning and discovering new things.

Back to the race though, there are a number of married couples among the competitors and also complaints that the wives are less than ideal navigators. How about you, are you happy with your wife?

About the crew, I will put it popularly. My wife took care of my daughter’s comfort and needs and a colleague from work navigated. And even though he’s not my wife, the communication and navigation were occasionally glitchy, but only minimally so. It wasn’t for getting the navigator out of the car mid-stage😊. Otherwise, I’m very happy with my wife (I have to be) 😊. Please don’t put that parenthesis in there, although my wife is a jolly lot and is getting a bit used to my humor😊.

Which stage did you like the most in 2023 and which was the most challenging? Did you get to know anything new from Slovakia?

The stages were all beautiful. Thanks to the whole race we visited places we had no idea about. From the Košice underground, through the GRAND BARI in Tokaj (which I thought was just an area in Hungary) to the peaks of the Low Tatras. As for the difficulty, this year was a very difficult test of regularity in the uphill ride, where the average speed of 30km/h had to be maintained, and that’s not exactly the ideal speed for the engine of an air-cooled Tatra

Are you planning to race in the upcoming edition, in which 500KM SLOVENSKÝCH becomes FIVA WORLD RALLY SLOVAKIA 2024? What are your ambitions? Would you find a place at home for the winner’s trophy? 😊 😊

We would like to participate in the 2024 edition. We just have to find some fool who will lend us his car this year😊. If someone like that is found, we have ambitions to come to the finish line and meet the other participants, who I hope will also come without technical or other problems. And I take that as the biggest victory when we all meet at the finish line. There would definitely be room for a trophy. We are currently living a bit of a “nomadic life”, so I guess I wouldn’t be able to decide whether to place the trophy with my wife in Prague or with me in Kopřivnice. But if not even there, I would surely talk to my father and we would lovingly take care of the trophy in the Ecorra office😊.