What is F.A.T. Mankei?
The venue on the legendary Grossglockner Alpine pass that’s a home from home for Porsche
People and Porsche cars outside F.A.T. Mankei, Grossglockner Pass, Austria
Over 2200m up Austria’s highest mountain is an all-new version of a venue that’s been serving motorists driving up one of the world’s greatest roads for decades
There are few places where a Porsche sportscar comes more alive than in the mountains. Where the bond between car and driver feels keener than ever. A place where, as you make your way through tight curves, straights and hairpins, you truly feel at one with your car. Where the view and the air is unparalleled.This is no coincidence when it comes to Porsche. For it was in the roads of the high Austrian Alps that not only the very first Porsche, the 356, was tested but many a Porsche since. And the most revered mountain pass of them all is the Grossglockner High Alpine Road.
View out of Porsche 911 onto road of Grossglockner Pass, Austria
With 36 hairpins, the Grossglockner Pass is acknowledged as one of the world’s great driving roads
The Grossglockner is not just Austria’s highest mountain, but to reach its summit by car means taking one of the all-time great driving roads. And it’s also where you’ll come across a new place of pilgrimage for sportscar owners the world over. Because it’s the home to F.A.T. Mankei, a small mountain venue with a huge, beating Porsche heart.What is the Grossglockner High Alpine Road?It’s late May 2023 and the weather in the western Austrian Alps is more like you’d expect in early March. Temperatures towards the top of the Grossglockner are hovering around zero degrees Celsius and the threat of more snow to add to the already wintry Alpine scene is very real. But it’s not enough to stop a mighty celebration of all things Porsche, taking place across several days, at the reopening of the newly rebuilt F.A.T. Mankei restaurant and coffee stop (the name ‘Mankei’ is the local word for the furry marmots who make this mountain their home). It’s also a chance to pay homage to the Grossglockner High Alpine Road itself too, which other five days plays host to some of the most beautiful, rare and fast Porsche sportscars and race cars in history. Porsche fans, the Porsche family and friends are in healthy attendance too.
Ferdi Porsche sat on bonnet of Porsche 911, Großglockner Pass, Austria
Ferdi Porsche, of the Porsche family, is founder of F.A.T. International, who run the Mankei venue on the Grossglockner High Alpine Road
Such is the ferocity of the weather up here in winter, the pass is only open to drivers from May to November. But in a ceremonial event at the end of each winter, snowploughs from the region of Prinzau and those of Carinthia – one each from either side of the Grossglockner – meet after clearing their respective paths up the mountain. This is when the driving season begins.The idea to build a pass up the Grossglockner was first dreamt up in 1924 but it wasn’t until August 1930 that construction work began. Yet in early August 1935 – less than five years later – the first car made its way up the Grossglockner in earnest. Today, if you search for the world’s great driving roads, you will find the Grossglockner High Alpine Road high on most lists. Its 48km-long stretch, featuring 36 hairpin bends and a succession of tunnels and bridges, was a phenomenal feat of engineering back in the 1930s. Driving it now, it still has the power to astound you. What is F.A.T. Mankei?No journey up the High Alpine Road is complete without popping into F.A.T. Mankei to take in its formidable views and grab a reviving espresso. Across the Alps, you’ll find hundreds of huts dedicated to providing warmth, food and shelter for hikers, skiers, climbers and motorists. But there can be few more accommodating and beautifully located as the new F.A.T. Mankei.
Line-up of Porsche cars at Mankei café, Grossglockner Pass, Austria
The newly rebuilt F.A.T. Mankei is the perfect Cars and Coffee venue
It’s somewhere with undeniable Porsche heritage – not least as the rebuilt venue is the brainchild of Ferdi Porsche, grandson of Porsche founder, Ferry. Ferdi’s company F.A.T. International – which also founded the legendary Porsche Ice Race in nearby Zell-am-See – have created a traditional-looking Alpine restaurant and café along with a strikingly modern glass pavilion adjoining it. There was a hut on the site for many years until the 1980s. F.A.T. International bought the site when it came on the market after the original wooden Mankei burnt down (“I don’t think the firefighters drove a 911,” said Ferdi Porsche at the launch event, to the laughs of those visiting, “so they were not quick enough to save it!”). The new, sparkling F.A.T. Mankei you can visit today is a very different entity to its earliest predecessor.Ferdi Porsche on Mankei and the Grossglockner High Alpine RoadFor Ferdi and the Porsche family, the Grossglockner and the winding road that leads up to and from its summit is a place they hold very dear. “These curves are super special,” says Ferdi of the pass. “It’s the best driving road in Europe, I would say. It’s been around for such a long time. People have been testing cars here for years. That is what my grandfather did – and it’s still happening to this day.”
View inside Mankei café, Grossglockner Pass, Austria
Inside, the compact Mankei is a place to meet, keep warm and share stories. Oh and the coffee is great too…
Ferdi explains, with a gesture of his hand in a southerly direction, how the first-ever Porsche sportscars were developed and built just over the other side of the Grossglockner – in Gmünd, in the Austrian region of Carinthia – in the late 1940s. “My grandfather would drive up the Grossglockner to test the car. You can basically say that the reason it handled so great is because this was such a great road. You could test the brakes, you could test if the engines would overheat, you can test its handling, etc.”As you might expect, it is, Ferdi explains, rather difficult to build a new restaurant from scratch over 2200m up a mountain in the Alps – especially as much of the building work had to take place in the kind of inhospitable conditions you get up the Grossglockner. “We wanted to build something that serves all of our needs,” says Ferdi. “One that feels like a home to the automotive community. And obviously we’re opening with a big bang.”
Mankei café, Grossglockner Pass, Austria, with mountains in background
The new F.A.T. Mankei is set to be a go-to venue for car lovers driving up the Grossglockner High Alpine Road
The array of great cars driven up the mountain for the opening weekend certainly proves that, from the beautiful 918 Spyder that Ferdi himself arrived in on the first day of the event to a breathtaking 917 K racecar in Salzburg colours as well as just about every Porsche car imaginable in between. There may not be quite the same depth of automotive luminaries on show when you visit, but such is the history behind F.A.T. Mankei it’s sure to become a meeting place for not just the Porsche community but car fans in general.Designer Sean Wotherspoon talks about the drive to MankeiTalking of Porsche fans, one of the visitors to the venue’s grand opening was designer Sean Wotherspoon, who brought along his eye-catching Taycan 4 Cross Turismo art car. It was not just Sean’s first time at the Grossglockner, but it was his first time in Austria. It’s fair to say that the drive up to F.A.T. Mankei blew him away.
Artist Sean Wotherspoon and Taycan art car at Mankei café
Artist and designer Sean Wotherspoon at Mankei, along with the Taycan 4 Cross Turismo art car that he helped design
“I’ve found myself taking pictures of pretty much everything,” says Sean. “There’s so much design inspiration. I get a lot of inspiration from colours, especially in nature. There was a beautiful blue sky yesterday. It feels like every colour I see is so highlighted. I’ve saved a few colours in my memory bank that I can use down the road, that’s for sure. It’s been a great experience. Seeing the cars with this kind of backdrop? It’s pretty wild.”Porsche fans on visiting F.A.T. Mankei As Ferdi Porsche says, F.A.T. Mankei will become a place where car fans gather to share their passion for Porsche and all things automotive. In fact, there were plenty of Porsche fans who made the pilgrimage to the opening of the new restaurant. People like Julian, who hails from close to the Porsche factory near Stuttgart. He turned up at F.A.T. Mankei in his 911 Turbo (type 964) in Midnight Blue Metallic. Bought only a few months before his trip up the Grossglockner, it’s his first-ever Porsche. As Julian talks emotionally about his young daughter’s excited reaction when he brought the car home and showed her it, it’s fair to say that we’ve met exactly the kind of passionate Porsche fan that Ferdi hopes to attract to F.A.T. Mankei.
Man with red Porsche 924S; man with blue Porsche 964
F.A.T. Mankei is set to be must-visit venue for Porsche fans – just like early adopters Lorenzo (left) with his 924S and Julian and his 964 Turbo
“Driving up today was so much fun,” he says, wearing a wide grin that’s infectious. “It was one of the best drives I’ve ever had. Behind me was a blue 918, then a whole team of Boxsters. In front was a new GT3 RS. And there I am with this old 911 and there’s nothing in front of me on the road – it was perfect. I got to really know the car, how it reacts and how best I should treat it. Just coming up here, with the view, all the snow on the mountains is so great. As well as all of these cars…”They include cars like that owned by photographer Lorenzo Kikisch from Munich. He’s turned up in his 924S in Guards Red, which he bought with his father three years ago. He’s already become a regular at Porsche events and is a rousing advocate for the global community that has built up around Porsche. The new F.A.T. Mankei, he says, is a place that he’s always dreamed of. “You have mountain roads all over the world, but there’s no other place like this,” Lorenzo says of the venue. “It’s a place where you can stop by, have a coffee and just talk to people about their cars.”“I’ve made so many friends through driving this car,” he adds, as he jumps in his car and takes a quick blast up the mountain from Mankei, through the Mittertörltunnel – where the engine of the 924S sounds even more glorious – towards the Grossglockner’s summit. “People just want to come up and talk about it because they’re such special cars. Wherever you are in the world, be it the US, Germany or Austria, there’s always a connection.”You can now add F.A.T. Mankei to the list. A home from home for anyone with a love of Porsche.
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