IAV lets a VW Golf do gymnastics

On February 22, 1992, an incredible bet took place on the Saturday night game show Wetten, dass..? stuntman Johann Redl claimed that he could do somersaults and handstands on a high bar with a VW Rabbit Diesel (Golf 3). And the Austrian was right! What only a few initiated viewers in front of the screen knew at the time: IAV made it possible! The project manager of this secret action was Michael Znamiec (now Gifhorn site manager) in the context of #IAV40, he travels back in time… 

Volkswagen commissioned IAV to convert a VW Rabbit so that it could perform a high bar routine – without any external changes. In terms of time, it was a ride on a razor’s edge. Within just ten days, a concept had to be drawn up, the parts procured, the car converted and finally brought to Austria. Because before Redl was allowed to appear on “Wetten, dass..?” in Emden in February 1992, there still had to be a demonstration at the ORF, which was responsible for Austria, on January 8. “There were some sleepless nights until then,” reveals Michael Znamiec, adding, “Volkswagen was an enormously strong partner in the project, without which it wouldn’t have been possible.” 

But what does it take for a Rabbit to do somersaults and handstands on the high bar? Not a different engine and transmission. “The simple swirl-chamber diesel was enough. All that was needed was an impulse at the right time to make the car swing up. The only thing it had to be was a diesel, because a gasoline engine would not have worked in all positions due to the carburetor,” explains Michael Znamiec. It didn’t matter whether the car was overhead, in a normal position or at an angle – the engine always had to run. A difficult undertaking. “Oil and fuel have the natural property of always flowing downward. If the car is upside down, that’s conceivably unfavorable,” says the former project manager.  

The engine oil problem was solved with a dry sump lubrication with two hydraulic pumps from the agricultural machinery trade. And a cylinder was used as the fuel tank with a hose that always dropped down automatically in the cylinder. “We copied both solutions from aerobatics,” says Michael Znamiec proudly. And because it is difficult to apply the throttle by foot overhead, the IAV workshop converted the Rabbit to a hand throttle lever like on a motorcycle.  

The front brake system was also not standard. “A double caliper brake from the Audi S8,” reveals Michael Znamiec. It was the largest brake used in the Volkswagen Group at the time. And it was necessary, after all, incredible torques acted on the high bar during gymnastics and had to be managed. To keep the mass to be braked as low as possible, everything that was not needed was removed from the Rabbit. 

The dress rehearsal in Austria succeeded with flying colors, and so on February 22, 1992, live on ZDF, it was: “Top, the bet is on.” The live performance was also a success, with Johann Redl managing both the somersaults and the handstand. “An absolute team effort from IAV. Everyone was able to contribute their ideas and strengths,” says Michael Znamiec, looking back with pride. 

And IAV had once again proven that it can successfully bring special projects to the finish line in a customer- and solution-oriented manner, even in the shortest of times and with a great deal of creativity and know-how.  

The team that made the VW Rabbit do gymnastics