Celebrity Drive: Scorpions Guitarist Rudolf Schenker, His SLS, and a Beetle

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Quick Stats: Rudolf Schenker, guitarist, Scorpions Daily Driver: 2014 SLS AMG GT (Rudolf’s rating: 10 plus on a scale of 1 to 10) Other cars: see below Favorite road trip: Dakar rally Car he learned to drive in: Ford 15M First car bought: 1960s VW Beetle When you’re in a major rock band, especially one that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary, you get to hobnob with the likes of Niki Lauda at F1 races. That happened to the Scorpion’s lead guitarist Rudolf Schenker when the band played in Bahrain. “At the track, he said, ‘Rudolf, if you buy the SLS, buy the GT,’ ” he says. “That’s what I did, and that’s a great thing because this car is now already $30,000 over the new price. In this case he was the right adviser because he knows what’s happening.” Although Schenker’s bandmate Klaus Meine, a fellow Celebrity Drive interviewee, also has an SLS, Schenker bought his first. But as is true within the band that’s been able to perform in harmony for 50 years, there was no competition. “When we are on a musical side, we have a different way of interpreting ourselves, but on the car situation we are very close,” Schenker says. “Mattias (Jabs) is a Porsche guy, but Klaus and me, we call ourselves brothers from a different mother. He is born under Mercury, and I’m also born under Mercury, but he is Gemini and I’m Virgo, but I’m the dark side of Virgo, he’s the sunny side of Virgo.” He says he and Meine have a lot in common. “We are really brothers, and that’s the reason why we were staying so long together and we have this 50 years,” he says. “We’re not fighting against each other; we are combining our best parts and making the right goal to get our service done in the right direction.” Schenker points out that because Meine posed with his SLS for Celebrity Drive, he opted instead to pose with his S Coupe. “That’s the reason why when Klaus was doing the situation with his SLS that I changed and said, ‘OK, I’m driving the S coupe,’ and then there’s no competition,” Schenker says. In fact, after Meine did the interview for Celebrity Drive, other bandmates wanted to do the feature, as well. “It’s fun!” Schenker says. “We are German people. We love cars, motorway, racetracks, and all that stuff!” 2015 Mercedes S-Class AMG Coupe Rating: 10 Schenker gives this 2015 Mercedes a perfect 10 and has been loyal to the brand since his first one in 1970. “This is a car which you can drive, you never have problems with, it always looks good, and you can drive it at high speeds and have everything that you need,” Schenker says. “The coupe, it’s something that makes this car very sporty, as well. This makes the car very, very comfortable and also very sporty. You have two cars in one car, so that’s the great thing.” 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Pictured: A stock Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT convertibleRating: 10 plus Schenker has the 2014 SLS AMG GT convertible for cruising around when he has the time. “When I want to drive sporty, I have the SLS Mercedes AMG GT,” he says. “I like this car. If it can open the roof and cruise also—that’s the great thing about this car, and the other one with the special door, it’s very tight inside. It looks good from the outside, but a little bit uncomfortable. Especially when you have fun weather, you can open the roof.” He says the SLS also has great acceleration. “You can speed it up like crazy, going 330 kph [205 mph],” he says. “It’s fantastic. It’s over 700 ps [690 hp] and it’s fantastic to drive. My girlfriend always tries to make a picture when the needle hits 330, but somehow in the end she found she can’t hold her hand. It’s always shaking. She was so nervous.” 1982 Mercedes 500 SEC Rating: 9 Schenker calls this Mercedes tuned by Brabus a “special” car. “It’s a convertible as well now, but I have also the roof, which is the metal one,” he says. “I can change from convertible to metal. This one is a special one, which makes the Mercedes 500 SEC look very interesting.” He bought the vintage Mercedes during the first Gulf War in 1990. “I got offered to buy this car for 120,000 German marks. But it was too expensive for me, but the war came in and the guy came back to me and said, ‘I’m leaving the country, and I now give you the possibility to buy this car for 850 German marks.’ I said, ‘OK, fine, deal is done.” Schenker has gotten so used to modern driver’s aids, often using cruise control, so when he is in this car, it’s easy to go fast and not realize it. “Lately I was driving it again and immediately got a speeding ticket,” he says, “because you’re driving this car and it feels so slow, but you are already faster than you think. With my SLS and also with my S Coupe, I always do the Tempomat in it. I have more control because I can limit it by the Tempomat.” Car he learned to drive in Schenker learned to drive in his hometown of Sarstedt, Germany in his dad’s Ford 15M. His dad taught him how to drive since it was too expensive to take driving lessons. “First of all, he was putting me in the car and said, ‘Here, drive,’ ” Schenker says. “And I couldn’t find the brake in the first place. It was when I was 12. He was a funny guy; he always tried to challenge me and challenge him that when I can’t make it, in the very last moment, he jumped in and put the foot on the brake. A kind of tension building. Forcing me by do something, but when I can’t do it, he jumps in and then do it for me.” First car bought When Schenker got his license, he bought a used 1960s Volkswagen Beetle, which is the car he got more practice driving in. Pictured: A stock 1968 Volkswagen Beetle“The Beetle was a very easy driving car,” he says. “It had the engine in back, and you could repair it by yourself. There was only a few things to have to know to be ready when something broke down.” Four months later Schenker got rid of the Beetle and bought a VW Transporter to drive his new band, the Scorpions, to gigs. It was white and turquoise, decorated to get attention for the band. “I got the possibility to buy this car because one of the bands which was also in Sarstedt called the Stuntmen, because of ego problems, they stopped playing,” he says. “I was taking the bus off them.” In addition to being the bus driver, Schenker did every job in the band in those very early days. “I was the manager because management wasn’t allowed in Germany,” he says. “I was the driver, I was the singer, and I was also a guitar player.” At first Schenker was apprehensive about driving the Transporter because he preferred the Beetle’s longer hood in case they got into an accident. “In this case, the only thing I was a little bit afraid—if I drive into somebody that I maybe get hit terrible,” he says. “But when I learned to drive this bus, it was a lot of fun. I even was driving on two wheels, on the left wheels. I could drive the bus on two wheels because I was very much into driving then.” The reason he sometimes drove careening around on two wheels was he had to pick up the band members, and he had to get to gigs on time. “I was picking up all the band members; they were always late,” he says. “One more later than the other. That means I had to speeding up so badly that I was driving sometimes around the curves on two wheels. This was good. You know why it was good? Because my band members were so afraid that they came more early. And I drive more carefully then.” Over the van’s door were the words “Nobody is Perfect,” on the side “Scorpions” was written, and in front by one of the headlights, the word “LSD.” “It was more a kind of hippie way of decorating, something to make yourself recognized by the public,” he says. “On one front lamp was written, ‘LSD’ because I was a very big fan of a band called Pretty Things, and I was always singing the song ‘LSD, everybody’s talking about my LSD.’ ” Splurge car Once Schenker made some money in music—but was still the band’s driver—his first true rock ’n’ roll car was a used early 1960s red Porsche 356 SC. He ended up buying a Mercedes 300SEL and sold the Porsche to someone who used it to try to rob a bank. “There was a time where they change the petrol—for making air clean you had to change the petrol, so in the old cars you had to drive very careful and use the old petrol,” he says. “When the police was driving behind him, the car broke down because the wrong petrol was used. I told him, you have to use the right petrol because they’re changing and this is the old petrol you have to use. He didn’t care. Maybe he was buying a car to be fast enough to speed from the police. The car broke down. The police got him.” Dakar Rally Schenker went to the Dakar Rally twice, in 2010 and 2012, to help represent Volkswagen’s pickup truck, Amarok. Although he has a racing license, he didn’t race in Dakar, but he did drive the pickup truck on the route to showcase what it does. Schenker says he was in the Alfa Romeo’s series in 2004 and drove on the Nürburgring. “I tried to be fast, but on the other hand I tried not to interfere with the good guys,” he says. “I was not the last person, and I made midfield.” Favorite road trip Schenker’s favorite road trip was the four days going from Argentina to Chile to Peru at Dakar. “I was not in the competition directly in it, but I was part of the rally to present the new Volkswagen Amarok,” he says. “I was a passenger of the team. That means you are driving next to the main team, going the same way, the same routing, but not in the competition.” Schenker did drive the Amarok himself. “It was fantastic, going up to 3,000 meters in the air, driving into the sand, on the moon scenery, driving there and being a part of it,” he says. “There were a lot of outstanding kind of possibilities, going down the sand, like 300 meters down, straight down. That was unbelievable. And sometimes sticking into the sand and we have to try to find way out of the sand. Even if you’re not included in the race directly, in the competition, but going the same route and really making it, it was really something very special.” The Scorpions 50th anniversary Schenker founded the Scorpions in 1965, and the band’s farewell tour turned into a 50th anniversary tour, chronicled in the documentary “Forever and a Day,” which came out in select U.S. cinemas in October. They also have a new album, “Return to Forever.” The album’s first single is “We Built This House.” “ ‘We built this house on the rock’—this is the philosophy of the Scorpions; that’s the reason why the band is still 50 years together,” he says. “When I first saw the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, my picture was four or five friends traveling around the world and making music.” Schenker knew the connection between members would be important when he set out to choose who would join the band. “When I was picking a musician, first of all you have to be good musician, but also, he must be a guy I can build a friendship with, and that’s the philosophy of the Scorpions,” he says. “The Scorpions is a band with the right chemistry, and when you have the right chemistry, the right people around, you can make it everywhere around the world. That’s the reason why the foundation of the Scorpions are so strong. We’re coming from a small place in Germany, but we made it worldwide. Schenker likens the band’s strength to that of a car. “We are solid like a German car, and we are solid as a rock, and we built this house on a rock, and that’s I think it’s the message of the 50-year anniversary,” he says. The documentary also chronicles the band’s history and career. “It was done because of the farewell tour, then the farewell tour extended to an MTV ‘Unplugged’ because America MTV called us,” he says. “We were the first guys doing MTV ‘Unplugged’ under an open sky in front of 3,500 people in Athens, on the highest mountain in Athens.” The Scorpions changed their farewell tour to a 50th anniversary tour when Schenker found a book his mom created when he started the band in September 1965. He realized it’s been 50 years. “Now we are in the party,” he says. “There’s not a lot of bands which can celebrate 50 years. There’s the Stones, the Who, the Beach Boys, and now this year Pink Floyd, and we are very happy that we could live this dream for so long.” For more information visit www.the-scorpions.com.