With such little weight over the nose it’s unsurprising that the steering is feather-light, aided by narrow 5J wheels and the large steering wheel.
More surprising is the level of feel the Denzel delivers, with almost Alpine A110 directness and just 2.6 turns lock-to-lock; despite being very aware of both the car’s biscuit-tin construction and the rows of olive trees lining each side of the road, it gives you the confidence to press hard into corners.
Beautifully balanced, with an understandable lean towards oversteer, the 1300 seems much more than the sum of its parts.
And while RM Sotheby’s headline-grabbing upper estimate of €450,000 holds us back from really testing its limits (it sold for €314,375 on 21 September 2019), there’s a feeling that the Denzel won’t quickly get you into trouble.
Brisk acceleration, a fantastic soundtrack and lively performance are the hallmarks of the Denzel, and the longer you spend behind the wheel the more capable it becomes.
Driving into the low sun on a balmy summer’s evening, it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like to campaign the roadster in period, and clear to see why the short, lithe sports car proved so effective on tight street circuits and rallies.
Given its competition success, impressive performance and adorable looks, it’s perhaps surprising that you don’t see more in historic motorsport – until you consider just how few left the Vienna workshop.
Precisely how many Denzels were built is a mystery lost to time, with estimates ranging from as many as 350 to just 65.
The latter is more probable given the number of survivors, which is estimated to be around 35, roughly divided between Europe and America. That makes this a true rarity compared with the 356 Speedster, produced in its thousands.
Denzel never achieved the success and global recognition of its Austrian competitor, but it would be wrong to write off the firm as an also-ran.
The cars stood up to scrutiny, proving time and time again that they were capable of taking on and beating the best the competition had to offer.
So convincing was the project that it readily gained backers such as Herédia, supporters who didn’t just place single orders but who had the confidence to become importers.
Ultimately, the project stalled. In part due to the limitations of the Beetle engine having long been reached, but perhaps more importantly as a result of Wolfgang Denzel’s divided attention.