My Car Quest

March 3, 2024

Fiction: The Sound of Thunder

by Wallace Wyss –

Feliz Von Hoschek was glad they still let him drive in their car events. Not in the vintage races but in the less strenuous point-to-point tours. He was, after all, 95 friggin’ years old.

But he was a crowd favorite–they liked seeing his old white Mercedes SSKL, nicknamed the “Blitzin’ Benz,” and especially liked seeing him, a white haired bearded and mustachioed old man in leather cap, goggles and duster, bent over the wheel, keeping up with men young enough to be his grandchildren.

Mercedes SSKL

He had already gained some renown back in Deutschland, for racing the same car before the war. Once he joined the Luftwaffe, racing was over. After Russia, he managed to get leave, go home and hide the car. He had borrowed a tractor, excavated a hole under his family barn in Unterturkheim, and rolled the car down a makeshift ramp, then built a roof over it and covered the rooftop with dirt to make a new barn floor.

It wasn’t until ’47 that he was able to disinter it, but the Merc came through with only a few dents. He had changed the battery, oil, spark plugs, gas tank and fuel filter and was immensely relieved when it started right up.

When he emigrated to America with his son, Klaus, back in ’55, he brought the car along but it stayed in the barn in Montpelier 20 years until he could find mechanics and enough parts to get it going.

He began taking it to vintage events in the ’70s. So now here he was in the Apple Cider rally in Stowe, Vermont, in the year 2020 cruising along at 70 mph when it stalled. He knew what it was–fuel pump failure–bit since he was only a mile from the finish, he decided to coast all the way, taking care to keep well out of the way of the fast boys.

It was ironic, he mused, here he was, once a feared racer in Deutschland, now settling for a genteel coast to the finish, but he told himself that, after all, he was here not for the trophy or checkered flag but for the gemuchlichkeit, nicht wahr?

Then he heard a terrifying sound, one he recognized all too well, one he had grown to fear to his core in the last days of the war. A deafening roar, a scream of agony as twelve cylinders pumped up and down at a furious pace threatening to tear the heart out of a mechanical beast. Now he remembered with startling clarity where he’d first heard that sound that Geräusch eines ausbrechenden Vulkans.

It was back in April, ’45 when flying a defensive sortie over his base in a ME 262 Schwalbe fighter. Par for the course, it had run dry after only 15 minutes in flight. He was gliding toward a dead landing in a field when he heard that same roar fill his brain -and glanced behind him to see a P51 Mustang–an American plane with a red tail–closing in to administer the Coup de grâce. Schweinhunts!

The sound grew deafening and then, for a dizzying moment, he couldn’t tell if the sound filling his brain, was a flashback of that afternoon in ’45 or something happening right now, this day, this minute for Chrissake, in Stowe Vermont in the Year of Our Lord 2020. He cringed, waiting for the P51’s six .50 caliber (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns to start firing bullets ripping through his craft’s fuselage. What was that dummkopf waiting for? Couldn’t that Yankee see he was kaput already!

And then there was an air horn, he shook his head in time to refocus on something schnell und schwartz blow by him and he sighed with relief as he recognized Jay Leno in his Merlin-powered Rolls Royce roadster, twelve open exhausts belching fire and that sound that had so un-nerved him. Jay waved and he feebly waved back. God, if Jay only knew what a scare he’d given him!

He managed to smile as he coasted into the parking lot and the crowd was cheering and laughing at the way that Jokester Jay had literally scared him off the course.

Tears flowed down his cheeks. But the crowd didn’t know that they were tears of joy. And he waved to the crowd as he stood up proud, grinning ear to ear, simultaneously peeling off his helmet, driving gloves and duster. It was time, meinen freund, to get some schnapps, nicht war?

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is an auto historian but has attended air shows too, and one of the most memorable ones was when he had the privilege of meeting some of the Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd Fighter Group and the 477th Bombardment Group.


Fiction: The Sound of Thunder
Article Name
Fiction: The Sound of Thunder
The sound grew deafening and then, for a dizzying moment, he couldn't tell if the sound filling his brain, was a flashback of that afternoon in '45 or something happening right now.


  1. imwithstoopid says

    Thanks, a good fireside story that ties the past to the present in a wonderful way. It also shows how warriors never forget the sounds of our / their past no matter how old you get,

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