Driving is freedom

For 87 years the Frauscher shipyard in Austria has been building boats to meet some of the highest requirements. Managing director Stefan Frauscher explains what constitutes a real water enthusiast and why the Touareg is his perfect vehicle.

Text Jochen Förster Photos Bernhard Huber

The cast-iron saw from 1927 is a reminder that boat building at Lake Traunsee means more than just craftsmanship.

There’s history here, even in the tools, including a cast-iron band saw outside the executive office.

Stefan’s grandfather purchased the band saw when he founded the company in Vienna in 1927, eventually moving to Lake Traunsee where he started a small shipyard. There, the band saw worked until 2011. Now it has a place of honor on the executive floor of the state-of-the-art shipyard near Ohlsdorf.

The success story of the upper Austrian Frauscher shipyard is one of quality and passion. Stefan and his family, from Lake Traunsee, are considered special requirements builders, a distinction even among the handful of European boat manufacturers who cater to the high end of the market. All their boats are handmade, commissioned works; their customers include people from business, politics, and society. But above all, the family epitomizes the passion of boating, and this turns a good boat builder into an exceptional one.

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"We get the teak wood and stainless-steel applications from the neighboring village." - Stefan Frauscher
“We get the teak wood and stainless-steel applications from the neighboring village.” – Stefan Frauscher

It’s a typical work day in autumn. Some 40 employees are working on approximately 20 boat hulls in the 39-foot-high and 32,000-square-foot hangar built just a few years ago. This is where panels are screwed together, seams laminated, and cables are connected. Most employees are carpenters by trade. They fit parts together and anyone here could, in principle, build each boat by himself. Regional craftsmen exclusively do the preliminary work.

“We get the teak wood and stainless steel applications from the neighboring village and the fiberglass components from South Tyrol,” explains Stefan Frauscher, who manages the company together with his brother Michael and his cousin Andrea. The Frauscher shipyard is a genuine factory: Everything here is assembled by hand. By the best people. Using the best components — which explains the high quality.

 

Stefan Frauscher is a true water lover. Since he got his sailing license at age 6, hardly a day goes by without him being out on the water. Like his father before him, Stefan became a world champion boater, too.

The 48-year-old has been running the family business with Michael and Andrea since 1998. The annual budget stands at around 10 million euros (over 11 million U.S. dollars), and the Frauscher shipyard recently opened a branch in Mallorca, Spain. Although Stefan is passionate about sailing, the majority of the 80 or so boats sold every year are motorboats, many with electric motors.

The 858 Fantom awaits us at the Gmunden pier around noon. Stefan Frauscher gets the 430-horsepower motorboat ready to go. He is completely hands-on, and years of experience make the motions come naturally to him.

I step on the gas, and within a few seconds we are racing — no, flying — at over a mile a minute across the surface of the lake. The engine sounds full and energetic; it pushes the nose a little bit more out of the water, which increases the feeling of flight and saves fuel. The clouds disperse, revealing the contours of the sensational alpine panorama.

“I have two great loves,” says Stefan Frauscher, father of two daughters. “My family. And boating. Whether on the lake or at sea — when I am behind the wheel, everyday life just gets blown away. Driving is freedom for me.”

Next to the design workmanship, special features of the Frauscher boat include the coalescence of sportiness and classicality. Teak wood elements complement the dynamic contours and modern materials.

“We appeal to customers who enjoy life to the fullest,” Frauscher says. The price of his new models starts at 40,000 euros ($46,000) for electric boats, or 80,000 euros ($90,000) for motorboats. Depending on equipment, a boat can run up to 400,000 euros ($460,000).

Stefan Frauscher delivers his customizations himself if possible. He also regularly takes his boats to trade fairs all over Europe and just returned from Saint-Tropez, France, and Düsseldorf, Germany. He drove a Phaeton for many years, but the Touareg is his workhorse of choice now.

“I value the flexible all-wheel drive because I am able to climb mountains in steep terrain,” Frauscher says. “Sporty, powerful, reliable — these are attributes I really appreciate.”

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It is now afternoon as we set off on a test drive with the Touareg. We choose a steep terrain and put a Frauscher 858 Fantom on the trailer to provide more demanding test conditions. Warm temperatures equal an Indian summer, and car and driver get acquainted immediately.

On the interior, the Touareg’s leather seating surfaces and decor immediately catch our eye. The engine masters the way up to the Lainaubrücke almost playfully. When we reach the top, the magnificent alpine panorama opens up again with a view of Lake Traunsee, Traunstein, and the Feuerkogel mountain. We get out. Stefan Frauscher says: “A boat, a car, the water and
the mountains. What more does anyone need?”

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