Start your engines, please: Classic cars come to Pezinok

When František Hotový bought a 1934 Czech 'Praga Baby' car in 1999, his neighbours thought he was out of his mind. It was rusted out and didn't run. They called it a "terrible wreck". But Hotový, 59, a lifelong collector of motorcycles, hunted for the parts he needed and spent countless hours in his garage.
Today, Hotový's Praga Baby sits in that same garage with three other classic cars (a Volkswagen Beetle 1300, Fiat Topolino and Simca 1501), all of them repaired and running. The neighbours no longer scoff.
"When I drive my Praga Baby down the street they all turn their heads to watch," he said.


Car club founder Bohuslav Bula's 1963 Škoda Felicia Kabriolet leading a parade of cars at last year's Posledné tankovanie (Last Tank Up).
photo: Courtesy Veterán Car Club Pezinok

When František Hotový bought a 1934 Czech 'Praga Baby' car in 1999, his neighbours thought he was out of his mind. It was rusted out and didn't run. They called it a "terrible wreck". But Hotový, 59, a lifelong collector of motorcycles, hunted for the parts he needed and spent countless hours in his garage.

Today, Hotový's Praga Baby sits in that same garage with three other classic cars (a Volkswagen Beetle 1300, Fiat Topolino and Simca 1501), all of them repaired and running. The neighbours no longer scoff.

"When I drive my Praga Baby down the street they all turn their heads to watch," he said.

Hotový will join more than 100 other classic car enthusiasts from Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic next weekend in western Slovakia's Pezinok for the Posledné tankovanie (Last Tank-Up) car show. The events will start with a 'beauty contest' at Pezinok castle's courtyard at 8:00, followed by a procession through the town beginning at 11:00, ending an hour later at a site (Kameňolom) on a nearby hill (Pezinská Baba), where some drivers will race eachother over an obstacle-course.

For Hotový and others, Last Tank-Up is like a family reunion.

"It's a meeting of the classic-car-owning family," he said. "We share expertise, exchange parts and talk up our darlings."


Classic car collector František Hotový posing with his Volkswagen Beetle 1300.
photo: Zuzana Habšudová

The festival is organised by Veterán Car Club Pezinok, which, with 63 members, is the largest of 21 classic car clubs in Slovakia. It was founded in 1992 by Hotový and Bohuslav Bula, the 1975 European motorcycle-race champion and owner of several classic cars, including a luxurious 1963 Škoda Felicia Kabriolet.

Classic cars have made a comeback in Slovakia since the 1989 communist revolution, Bula says, with open borders making it easier to bring in and get hold of cars and parts. He added that his club and the Last Fill Up festival, now in its second year, aim to get the cars back on the roads where people can see them.

"This hobby is a reminiscence of our youth," he said. "We lived during a time when these cars ruled the roads. People really want to see these vehicles."

Bula and Hotový are invited to more shows than they can attend, but Pezinok locals have other opportunities to see their cars. Hotový, who is the director of the Pezinok business academy, says his students often convince him to bring his vehicles to the academy's parking lot.

Bula and Hotový would never sell their vehicles, they said, as they tuned the motor of a 1963 Škoda pick-up 1202. Later they proudly compared pictures of hunks of junk on wheels with beautifully repaired classic cars sitting in their garages.

With its financial and time demands, their labour of love does have one big drawback - unhappy wives.

Hotový's wife threatened her husband with divorce if he bought any more classic cars, and Bula's wife made her husband stop racing. Mr Bula finally did stop, and Mrs Bula eventually adjusted to her husband's hobby - today she even drives her husband's cars.

The neighbours must be envious.

What: Posledné tankovanie (Last Tank-Up) car show
Where: Pezinok town centre. Pezinok is 20 kilometres north-east of Bratislava .
When: September 30
How much: participants - 150 Sk, spectators - free
How to get there: By car, highway 502 north from Bratislava; buses, trains leave regularly from Bratislava.

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