The old adage goes: ‘If you’re good at something, never do it for free.’ For Lars Eise, that something is creating road trips in classic cars. ‘I had been doing this as a hobby for years,’ he explains. ‘We would take five or six days, starting in Frankfurt, going down to the Alps and Dolomites. That’s basically how it started.’
It was while working in investment banking and private equity in Frankfurt that he discovered his passion for designing such tours. He would organise trips for friends and colleagues as a way to unwind from their high-pressure jobs.
‘The first tour I did with friends was in 2002. When the next tour came around, we had guys calling in from the US and Spain saying, “Hey, we’d love to do the tour but we don’t have a car, can you get us one?” So I started looking around and I couldn’t find anyone who was renting out classic Porsches or Ferraris.’ In the summer of 2009, when Eise was between jobs at two private equity funds, he created a plan and worked through the numbers to see if a business could be made of his hobby. The figures looked good so he took a leap of faith.
In September 2009, upon turning 40, he founded Passo Tourismo. ‘It’s not that I was unhappy with what I was doing. I just had this idea that this is what the first half of my life looked like, so let’s see what the second half could look like – and maybe it can be a little more fun.’
He ran the business remotely for three years, continuing to work in private equity, before committing to Passo Tourismo full time in 2012.
Offering package tours from one to five days in 1980s air-cooled Porsche 911s, Passo Tourismo provides clients with a road book, mapping out the route, which explores the mountainous regions of Germany, Austria and Italy. Also included are luxury hotels and dinners in fine restaurants, hand-selected by Eise and his team.
Beyond the need for sound financial planning, Eise says, the worlds of tour organisation and of private equity couldn’t be further apart. ‘There’s very little skills crossover between the two careers. Now I sell free time; I sell fun. I sell something people don’t realise they need until they’ve done it.’
Eise explains, however, that it is about so much more than just tearing around beautiful mountain roads in powerful German sports cars. The driving and navigation on these compact trips require such focus and attention that he refers to them as a ‘recharge’ rather than a form of relaxation. ‘You can’t be on your smartphone when you’re doing a tour. You’re kidnapped from normal life and immersed in a world of pleasure, luxury and activity.’
Eise has his eyes on expansion, and aims to offer three new locations in the next five years, and even hints at a new fleet to offer customers: ‘There may be a great market for a classic Italian or classic English vehicle.’ But he knows what it is that sets his business apart. ‘The Porsche is the pull factor, to be honest with you,’ he explains. ‘It’s an icon.’ Lars himself has been a Porsche 911 aficionado for 20 years, and it shows. ‘We allow you to drive these cars the way they were meant to be driven on the roads they were built for, and this is the only way you can do that.’
Tours start from €569 (£512) for two, including vehicle and insurance; passo-tourismo.com