Remembering Hubert Kinzler
By Harrison McCaughey
I learned recently that a good friend, Porsche master mechanic and racing buddy has passed away. Very few people who entered my life have had as much positive impact as he did. And yet I wonder if he understood how much he touched so many in such important and long-lasting ways. He was one of a kind.
I first met Hubert during a period that I must confess, was one of the low points in my life, sometime during the later months of 1969. I had been attached to a Navy attack squadron the previous year and it was during this period I traded a 1966 VW bug for a 1962 Porsche 356B S-90. As would soon be pointed out to me, I had made a significant blunder by making such a “deal”.
I confess that I hadn't any idea of what to look for in a used Porsche (rust you say?) or how well it would handle (I just sold a VW bug and we all know how they handle). The engine looked a lot like a VW. I needed advice, and based at a naval air station in north central Florida the obvious place to look for advice on my “new" Porsche was in the big city to the east, Jacksonville. At the time I knew nothing about Porsche history or that the dealer there, Brumos, would play such a large part in Porsche history in the USA.
Crossing the St. Johns river and on to the Arlington Expressway, I immediately noted to my right a small "un-dealer" garage with a lot of great-looking 911s (the late1960s models that we now pay a mint for) seeming to suggest that I should not look further. Pulling into the parking area amongst so many perfect 911s was at best humbling. Immediately I was greeted by what seemed to be, dressed as he was, a mechanic (much later I was to learn he was in fact a principle of the business as well as a master mechanic) and did I detect a German accent ? Things were looking up. Jacksonville, Forida, March 1975. Franz Foreign Car Service. Where it all began.
He sized up my new acquisition, walking around the car with ease and a sharp eye. I could tell that this “sizing up” was not going to be pretty. This person clearly knew his business. Directly he made some statements (blunt and not in German) that I not only had a dud on my hands, but for the “trade” I made for my beetle, I could have had a real nice 356 of which he pointed out several examples around the immediate premises. Some of the very earthy language he used only further captured my attention. How could you be offended by the truth, and by someone so impressive?
And thus began a very close and enduring friendship which lasted for over four decades. In the ensuing years during the balance of my service and beyond there would be SCCA racing; Franz Foreign Car, as it was called, would campaign a Speedster in “E” production from Savannah to Gainesville, West Palm to Lakeland and more. Hubert would drive and I along with his wife Janice and other close friends would serve as his pit crew. A few bent fenders and a quick replacement of a fried wiring harness over many seasons made for some great fun. And what wonderful locations, eateries and mostly, live entertainment provided by Hubert.
Hubert and Janice Kinzler, their 912. Coconut Grove, Florida. October, 1972
Time moved on and so did I. Released from the service, return to Miami to finish school, jobs, Tallahassee, back to Jacksonville, then to New England. Distance and time began to grow and take their tolls. But every now and then I would return to visit and have as always a great time with the Kinzlers. Hubert with his un-German-like well developed sense of humor (he could bust your chops until you cried for mercy), these fantastic stories he would tell, part fiction, part factual, mixing it all together like some Cajun gumbo. You were always amused and impressed with his wide ranging knowledge and accomplishments throughout his life.
One of the last times I spent time with him and his wife was during Rennsport Reunion III at Daytona. My wife and I had flown down from Rhode Island to attend Rennsport and more importantly, to spent time with Hubert and Janice. At the time we owned a 1988 911 and had attended Rennsport Reunion I at Limerock (to my mind the best of the Rennsports).
During Rennsport Hubert was interviewed by Gordon Maltby for an article in 356 Registry magazine about his life. I was lucky to have been present during the interview and preserved it on tape. His story paralleled perfectly with the genesis of Porsche and its rise to a dominate player in the world of road racing. All of us that admire the Porsche story and have had the pleasure of ownership would be awed by the life that Hubert lived. We are the sightseers; he lived it. June 1976, Gainesville, Florida. Hubert and his Speedster
It took a concerted effort by his wife Janice, and many other close friends to convince Hubert to take the step to be interviewed by anyone, let alone publish for public consumption the facts and follies of his life. His modesty and aversion to boast of any of his many accomplishments and experiences kept him from doing so for many years. Another trait we all admired about him.
With all of this, there was one great truth that he always told me many times over the years: to explain how some people live long, healthy, happy and successful lives he would suggest, “sometimes you just have to be lucky in life”. He will always be remembered by the many people he touched, both close friends and casual as being the luckiest of all. Thanks, Hubert.