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German Auto Racing History and the Return of #45


The year was 1984. Nintendo had just released the NES in North America, Phil Collins’ “One More Night” was on the radio and the guys at German Auto Service were about to go racing. The racing organization IMSA had created the Champion Spark Plug Challenge series for production-based vehicles that would compete on the same courses as the more powerful GT cars. This was the predecessor to the American Le-Mans Series. It seemed an ideal venue for a group of scrappy privateers from Grand Rapids Michigan. The owners of German Auto Service Dan’l Dixon and Dan Conklin along with a group of friends and clients had been competing locally as “Team Deutsche” but decided to step into professional racing and brought a few modified Volkswagen Rabbits to compete with the big boys.

The #45 Rabbit driven by Dan’l was sourced from Parts Place on the east side of the state. When they got it, the car was just a bare shell with no windows, engine, suspension, or electronics. Apparently, it was used by Volkswagen as a paint test body and had never been assembled or driven on the road. The car didn’t even have a VIN. This made it an ideal base for a race car project. Once back in the German Auto workshop the car was assembled with care and prepared for racing. The roll cage was built by none-other than Johnny Benson Sr. A matching car (#46) was built for Charlie Dunn. With cars built and racing licenses acquired they were off to the track.

Over the next couple of years, the team from German Auto had the time of their lives traveling around the mid-west to compete in the IMSA events. This meant closing the shop on Friday night, driving hours to their destination, racing all weekend, and making it back home to open on Monday morning again. In addition to being a ton of fun, the racing proved to be an excellent way to hone their skills as technicians and drivers. As memorable as these long weekends were, the guys decided to retire from racing after a few years and #45 was sold off to another local enthusiast.

The car sat unused over the ensuing decades and changed hands a few times until finding its way to Dan and Michele Carlson in 2016. The husband-and-wife team assembled the car from a bare shell to a running and driving race car once again. The car was campaigned with the Midwest Council and Sports Car Club of Rockford. Michele was able to rack up an impressive series of wins including back to back championships in GT4.

The long history of this car and its relationship to our shop was too much to pass up so we purchased it in early 2023. We haven’t decided exactly what we’ll do with the car but it’s good to have it “home” after all these years. Look for #45 at a track near you.


On track during the IMSA years:



During the Carlson's ownership:

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#45 now:


Passing the torch:


Dan'l re-unites with his old pal: