Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist

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The man in Birkenstock mountain pines who bought Unicat

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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What is the long-haired eco doing in front of the huge expedition vehicle? He is the owner of the Unicat company, which makes these vehicles.

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-waas

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It all started when the physicist Thomas Waas had sold his company and wanted to fulfill his great dream of a trip around the world. The right vehicle he ordered from Unicat, but the company went bankrupt.

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-unicat

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So Waas bought Unicat and made sure that his expedition vehicle was built.

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-unicat

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Unicat produces around ten vehicles per year, the cheapest cost at least 350,000 euros.

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-bought

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The delivery time of the chassis takes around three months, plus nine months for the assembly and conversion of the living space and the chassis – plus a waiting period of one year.

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-thomas

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During his numerous trips around the world, Waas swears by the expedition vehicles of his company Unicat, and he describes himself as the "toughest tester". Yet …

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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… he swears by a much smaller vehicle in everyday life: an electric smart. “There is nothing better for short distances,” says Thomas Waas.

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Thomas Waas wanted to go on a trip around the world. And ordered a special vehicle from the market leader of the hardcore off-road expedition scene Unicat. But Unicat went bankrupt. The beginning of a success story.

Grough beard, long, white hair. Birkenstock slippers are on their feet. A sweater hangs casually over the shoulders. At first glance, Thomas Waas looks like an eco, a dropout who has little to do with this world. But that’s wrong. Completly wrong.

The 55-year-old is not only a physicist, but also the owner of Unicat. The company near Heidelberg has specialized in the expansion of high-quality expedition vehicles and is considered the market leader in the hardcore off-road expedition scene.

Although Thomas Waas came to Unicat like a virgin to a child, he has been enthusiastic about technology and cars since he was young. He screws and welds himself on his VW 1200 Beetle, as well as on his Mercedes / 8. He also builds out his first mobile home himself. In the mid-1980s he toured Europe in the Mercedes 407 D and lived in the bus for months.

The love for Ford’s giant station wagon

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-thomas

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The 33-year-old Matthias Krause has already owned his Ford Granada for almost half his life. Separation excluded.

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-bought

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In 1972 the Granada tournament was considered the largest station wagon in Europe. The trunk has about three times the loading volume of today’s small car. The Jever box looks pretty losten, but then there is still enough space …

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-unicat

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… to lie down. If necessary, you can spend the night on the loading area, which is more than two meters long, without twisting it.

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-thomas

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Lush is an understatement about this car.

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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The sporty TRX tire system ensures more driving comfort, and the simple basic equipment has been upgraded with an interior from the luxury version Ghia.

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-bought

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The cockpit is now also presented in the elegant Ghia design with imitation wood. The sports steering wheel rounds off the mini-tuning.

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-waas

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Matthias Krause loves the little things. In 1984 the car was sold to its first owner in a Wickeder car dealership. The leather key still hangs on his keylmappchen, …

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-waas

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… and the four-cylinder in-line engine, which is not quite so typical of the Granada, is flanked by two small details: the test label for the cooling water is an original, and the nIn the eumodical battery, Krause gave it its original look with an old sticker.

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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The design of the Cologne giant is simple and calm. “I’ll just never get enough of it!” – Matthias Krause is convinced of that even after 16 years.

Source: Janet Schurmeyer

There he is studying physics at the Technical University of Munich and is writing his diploma thesis on a Sinclair QL computer. “The bus was probably the only motorhome in Europe with a hanging file,” says Waas. After graduating, he started at a research institute, developing programs for simulating memory chips.

In 1989 he founded a company specializing in lithography simulation and expanded it. At the end of the 1990s he had 30 employees, drove a BMW 750i (E38) and traveled a lot, especially to the USA. “It’s like being a businessman: It was a strenuous, but also a great time,” says Waas. In 2000 he sold his company to an American start-up company and worked for his old company for another four years. Then he gets out. At least he tries.

“Since my youth I always wanted to go on a trip around the world. After the company was sold, it was the right time, ”he says. He considers his old motorhome based on a Mercedes Sprinter to be unsuitable for this. "The thing was always overloaded and had no four-wheel drive," says Waas.

Suddenly the car was bankruptcy

He is looking for a suitable expedition vehicle, informs himself, visits several companies. Until he ends up at Unicat. “When, during my first visit, I saw the electrician devotedly weaving a new cable harness, so precisely, so beautiful, so perfect and putting so much work into a component that nobody would see afterwards, it was clear to me: It would be a Car from this company. "

He meets with the managing director at the time, discusses his own plans – and realizes that he himself has no idea about car manufacturing. "The boss first explained to me what makes a solid, high-quality vehicle," says Waas.

As a basis, he ordered a MAN 18.280 in 2005, a construction site vehicle frame with all-wheel drive, 18 tons payload and 280 hp. Waas makes the truck driver’s license especially for this. In 2006 his expedition vehicle with the 5.10 meter long living room should be ready. "But then I got a call from the manager who confessed to me that the company was bankrupt," he says. His car is in the bankruptcy estate and can no longer be built. A shock.

The ten coolest Lamborghini models of all time

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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Lamborghini 350 GT: There is often something destructive to a dispute, but something special emerged between the tractor manufacturer Ferruccio Lamborghini and Ferrari boss Enzo Ferraris emerged. Lamborghini had bought a Ferrari – and was dissatisfied. The brand boss reacted so arrogantly to his criticism that Lamborghini decided to show Ferrari how to build a good sports car. The first Lamborghini came onto the market in the mid-1960s – the 350 GT.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-waas

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Lamborghini Miura: In March 1966, the pioneering Lamborghini Miura P 400 with a transversely installed twelve-cylinder mid-engine made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show – a bang! Suddenly the front-engined 275 Ferrari didn’t look that fresh anymore. The original version of the Miura had the designation P 400, it had the characteristic black borders of the exposed pop-up headlights, which became known as "eyebrows".

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-thomas

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Lamborghini hired some of the best in the industry: the Miura was designed by Marcello Gandini, developed by Giotto Bizzarini (previously at Ferrari and Iso) and Gian Paolo Dallara (also Ferrari). There were also young talent Paolo Stanzani and test driver legend Bob Wallace, whom Lamborghini had poached from Maserati. The front hood as well as the rear cover with the scale-like engine cover could each be completely folded up, which guaranteed the Miura owner additional attention when refueling. The space-saving, transversely installed four-liter V12 produced 350 hp.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-bought

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Lamborghini Marzal: The team in Sant’Agata Bolognese presented a sensation with the Marzal at the Geneva Motor Show in 1967: a four-seater sports car with glass wing doors. M.arzal was the name of the futuristic and lavishly glazed vehicle with which the Monegasque royal couple did a lap of honor before the start of the 1967 Monaco Grand Prix.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-waas

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Trade fair visitors and the press were enthusiastic. There was talk of “perhaps the most extravagant piece of virtuoso design that has been seen in Europe since the war”. Ferruccio Lamborghini, on the other hand, is said not to have been so taken with the revelation on four wheels. A lady’s legs could be seen by anyone.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-bought

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The halved 175 hp V12 engine of the Miura was housed behind the two rear seats. This made the Marzal the only Lamborghini with a rear engine to date. A few weeksThe glazed gullwing was used at the trade fair in Geneva: car enthusiast Prince Rainier of Monaco opened the Monaco Grand Prix in the Italian prototype with his wife Gracia Patricia in the passenger seat.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-bought

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Lamborghini Espada: Although the extravagant Marzal did not go into series production, the Espada emerged from the prototype in 1968. Double headlights in the strictly vertical radiator grill and the unmistakable NACA air inlets on the bonnet gave the design, again drawn by Gandini, an aura of stylishly interpreted details. The V12 engine was also a matter of honor in the Espada, here the engine initially mobilized 325 hp.

Source: National Motor Museum

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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Lamborghini Countach: Shortly before the turning point caused by the energy crisis at the end of 1973, there was another Lamborghini model, the Countach, which Ferrari stole the show. Marcello Gandini hAtte was completely reoriented in the shape of the Lamborghini flagship, which now comes with a longitudinally installed V12.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-unicat

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With its angular, reduced design, this Lamborghini looked like a fighter jet. The start was also spectacular: the two scissor doors pushed up, supported by oil damperst, forward and up. However, the first oil crisis and the manufacturer’s financial problems delayed the start of production.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-bought

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When the first cars with 375 hp (later it had up to 748 hp) were finally delivered in April 1974, the experts celebrated a party of speed frenzy: 295 to 300 km/ h top speed promised the factory specifications, in some test drives even speed 315 should have been reached. A new superlative in the sports car scene and a declaration of war on Ferrari.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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Lamborghini Urraco: In 1972 Ferruccio Lamborghini was already a fixture in the sports car business. With the Urraco, he wanted to offer a cheaper 2 + 2 coupe. For the design, mal again Bertone designer Marcello Gandini responsible. The engine used was a newly developed V8, which initially had a displacement of 2.5 liters and was enlarged to three liters in 1974.

Source: picture alliance / All Canada Ph

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-thomas

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Lamborghini Espada: In 1968 Lamborghini showed that you could build more than just wedge-shaped supercars. With the Espada, a veritable four-seater came into the range in 1968. The 3.9 Liter V12 engine developed 350 hp, power was transmitted via a manual five-speed gearbox.

Source: picture alliance / All Canada Ph

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-unicat

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Lamborghini LM002: At the beginning of the 1970s, the oil crisis almost brought the Lamborghini Countach super sports car business to a standstill. Lamborghini urgently needed responserogue. When the US Army needed a new off-road vehicle, the Italians therefore applied for the order and developed the LM002 – a wrong decision. In 1977 the vehicle, code-named Cheetah, was tested by the US military in the California desert. The dress rehearsal turned into a disaster, the car failed miserably and did not survive the desert test.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-waas

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Lamborghini Diablo: Typically Lamborghini, the model name Diablo initially stood for a devilish kick in the back with every speed command. The sprint to 100 km / h succeeded 492 PS strong V12 in exactly 4.09 seconds and the top speed was specified as 325.2 km / h. Every place after the decimal point counted, after all, in 1990 the dramatically designed Diablo brought the coveted title of "Fastest production sports car in the world" back to Sant’Agata Bolognese.

Source: Lamborghini

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-off-road

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Lamborghini Veneno: Just in time for the 50th anniversary in 2013, Lamborghini presented its fastest road model of all time at the Geneva Motor Show. The oversportwagen Veneno has an output of 750 hp with an unladen weight of less than 1.5 tons. Only three vehicles were built. The price: three million euros plus VAT.

Source: Lamborghini

What does someone do who is very close to his lifelong dream and realizes that it is in danger of bursting? He deals. Waas meets with the insolvency administrator, MAN buys the chassis. And then he buys the whole company. At least the name and the material, he founds a new GmbH. He takes over part of the workforce.

With them he will screw together his dream truck over the next few months, but he was mainly responsible for the realignment of the company. But he doesn’t want to run a company again, he prefers to stick to his plan and travel the world.

So he calls his friend Bernhard Sollner and asks him to take over the management. He currently lives in Munich, is a management consultant and doesn’t know exactly where Dettenheim is. But he agrees.

"I am our toughest tester"

His hair was still cut short when Thomas Waas started his first test drives with his girlfriend at the time in December 2006. After five months they finish the experiment together. The second time he leaves with dog and cat in October 2007, travels through Greece, Turkey, Iran to Dubai.

He stays there for half a year, enjoys life – and continues to work online for his company. “Even if I was mentally far away from the company in the first few years, I couldn’t really let go. I always have to be busy, ”he says. The physicist continues to work on controls, sensors and other components for the company, develops and writes programs for remote monitoring of electronic components in order to be able to measure fill levels, temperatures and air pressures.

His MAN truck serves as a mobile test laboratory. "I’m our toughest tester, I was probably the longest and most of the time with a Unicat," says the perfectionist. The experiences flow into new vehicles and new concepts. Just like the solar cells on the roofs of the cars, water filters with short lines or the complete remote diagnosis from all parts of the world.

The Hollywood Observatory

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-unicat

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A treasure chest is hidden behind an inconspicuous brick facade in Glendale, California. The workshop is called Mercedes Motoring because it specializes in it, …

Source: Royce Rumsey

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-thomas

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…. To revamp Mercedes classics. Owner J.G. Francis came into contact with an old Daimler by chance 13 years ago, and now he’s doing research all over the United Stateshub for his screwdrivers. When they’re done with a car, …

Source: Royce Rumsey

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… not only does it look like new, it smells like it too. In this dash eight, all seats have been reupholstered.

Source: Royce Rumsey

Unicat: Why Thomas Waas bought the off-road specialist-thomas

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The business has little in common with a traditional workshop. The premises look, …

Source: Royce Rumsey

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… as if a set designer from Hollywood, only a few kilometers away, had prepared them for filming. Real jewelry …

Source: Royce Rumsey

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… are the badges that once adorned the grille of vehicles around the world. That’s why at Mercedes Motoring …

Source: Royce Rumsey

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… not just cars a feast for the eyes. If you will, it’s the garage in Glendale …

Source: Royce Rumsey

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… about the most beautiful observatory in California.

Source: Royce Rumsey

From the Emirates he travels to Africa: Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. There he met the woman of his life and traveled with her to southern Africa for several years. He’s been on tour for eight years and only flies to Germany for Christmas. She will not return to Germany until 2014. Time to take more care of your company.

The company’s 30 employees today build around ten vehicles a year, the cheapest one costs at least 350,000 euros. The delivery time of the chassis takes around three months, plus nine months for the assembly and conversion of the living space and the chassis – plus a waiting period of one year.

What fascinates him about traveling? The nature, the landscapes and above all the encounters with other people. “There are regions that are so beautiful that happiness flows through your body,” he says. This also includes the noise in the bush or the silence in the desert. And the many experiences that one collects in the course of the trip.

An electric smart in everyday life

"If you know that you won’t meet anyone for the next hundred kilometers, then you suddenly feel lonely," says Waas. Then of course it is important that the vehicle does not stop.

So far he’s been lucky: in eight years he only had to change a tire twice, tighten a few screws – nothing else. If something had happened, one of the two flying mechanics at his company would have helped him. They can repair the cars all over the world.

That can’t happen to him in Dettenheim. An electric smart is an everyday car, albeit a Brabus with 225 rear tires. “There is nothing better for short distances, this thing really works,” he says. There is also a BMW Z8 in the garage for longer journeys.

“I gave it to myself for my 40th birthday. It’s still a great car that I like to drive, ”says Waas. Just not on a trip around the world. His next travel destination has not yet been determined. Either China or South America. But definitely with his MAN motorhome – his self-built one.

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