The in Graz, Austria is home to strange vehicles, including this: the mighty 1991-1993 Treser Cabrio, based on the facelifted version of the second-generation Volkswagen Polo. Talk about making a lifestyle choice!
Roughly 290 of these strange hardtop coupés were built at the Graz factory in the early nineties, which is impressive considering that Walter Treser Automobilbau went bankrupt in 1988. If you're not familiar with the company or the man, don't feel bad. We've only mentioned Treser's company once on these pages, which is borderline shameful in the light of the guy's achievements.
Walter Treser started out by racing DKWs and Alpina BMWs before landing as a development driver at Pirelli. He moved to Audi in 1976, where he became one of the , including Audi's rally efforts. But once the Ur-Quattro started winning, his engineer mind figured that there was more in that platform than what Ingolstadt could harvest. As the equally ambitious Roland Gumpert took over his position at Audi Sport, Treser went on to set up his own company.
Walter Treser Automobilbau made its mark by creating the world's most expensive Audi, a Quattro with a full leather interior, a tuned suspension, and 250 turbocharged horses. Treser applied the same recipe to the Audi 100, then went all in with his Quattro Roadster.
A Quattro with a folding hardtop might have been an AMG-shaming proposition, but Treser knew that some people are looking for the same levels of off-road capability and ruggedness that Michèle Mouton and Hannu Mikkola enjoyed on the WRC stages. And so, the company introduced the Hunter, specially designed with .
The off-roader Quattros and the luxurious Roadsters were all great, but Treser also realized that in order to turn into a respectable luxury brand by the end of the 1980s, Audi needed more wheelbase. The answer was the extended Treser Largo, which also came with the Walter-standard all-wheel drive and a 250-horsepower five-cylinder.
The Largo debuted after Treser Automobilbau gave up on its highly practical luxury wagon, the Liner, which tuned out to be just too expensive for an Audi Avant. Despite this minor setback, Treser's real problems came in the form of a light, mid-engined package.
Creating a rear-engined, rear-wheel drive hardtop roadster powered by a transversely-mounted Golf GTI engine turned out to be Walter Treser's most challenging project. The T1 was supposed to be an affordable sports car, but once Treser teamed up with Hydro Aluminum to produce a pioneering aluminum-composite honeycomb floorpan for it, development costs went through the (removable) roof.
The at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and by next year, Treser managed to set up a one-make cup for it as a support race of the DTM season, using what were now known as TR1s. One of the Treser drivers was young Tom Kristensen, but exciting racing wasn't enough to save the company from insolvency.
In the early nineties, the Treser brand made a comeback, tuning Volkswagens Polos, Golfs and Corrados. At the same time, Walter Treser got back into motorsport, first leading the development of Opel's four-wheel drive DTM Calibras, and then the brand's prototype department. He retired in 2003, but still keeps in touch with his fans.
Hat tip to the excellent , , and !