This was only the third iteration of the InterClassics in Brussels, but the Belgian show is getting stronger every year: 2017 saw around 23,000 visitors and I for one thoroughly enjoyed what was put on show.
Show-goers have progressively gained the possibility of visiting classic motor shows all year round. It is incredible that the at times seemingly small world of classic cars can house all of this business, competing for the same market – or is it?
I did not hear much Danish spoken at the Brussels show, and not even that much English or German either. But as an avid show-goer myself I find it rather convenient that apparantly every weekend offers something interesting – and for this weekend I chose InterClassics Brussels.
You find the name sounds familiar? It is: InterClassics also arrange the show of the same name in Maastricht, and this Dutch venue is traditionally on as the first annual major European classic show – in 2018 it will be January 11-14. Three years ago InterClassics expanded into Belgium and has grown from there. This year they called themselves the prime classic car show of Belgium, vying for that title with the (much older) Classic Salon in Antwerpen. The latter claims 30,000 visitors so InterClassics are clearly not comparing on sheer size.
And arguably they don’t need to: Size is, as we all know, not all that matters, and for a car show a large number of visitors can even be detrimental to the show-goer on a mission. I quite clearly recall the human traffic jams at Retromobile earlier this year – even worse than those out on the roads, in fact.
InterClassics was comfortably free for traffic jams, as the footpaths through the exhibition halls are broad, the halls themselves spacious and everything simply well laid out. I guess the experience from 25 years of InterClassics at Masstricht pays off here, and makes the show in Brussels a pleasant, airy and comfortable place to be. (By that logic you could argue that the even older Retromobile in Paris should then be even better, but here one must remember that Retromobile is French – so it isn’t).
Don’t worry, there were plenty of cars too! As always I ultimately determine the quality of a show based on its cars, and I must say I was rather impressed. The overall theme was “The Big Five”, a presentation of the five leading motormuseums in Europe – supposedly. These were presented in a designated area and each had pulled out some interesting cars form their collection. For me at least, the Louwman Collection took the prize for most spectacular car, bringing a Talbot-Lago “teardrop” coupé. Mouthwatering would merely begin to describe it, but words do not do it justice anyway, so here it is in all its glory and beauty:
However the display of the Big Five somehow maneged to be a tad too sober and just too plainly presented, and ended up being the only rather disappointing aspect of the show. Not because of the cars, mind – and the theme worked to the extent that I left with the clear impression that it would be much better to visit the museums themselves. And regarding the Autoworld Museum in Brussels we did just that after the exhibition – but that’s another story.
Elsewhere there were plenty of goodies to be tasted: I was definately not there with buying intentions and neither was my travel companion – or so he told me in advance. But two hours into the show we stopped at a stunningly presented Mercedes 420 SEL of the tender vintage 1991. Showing only 110.000 kilometers, which seemed entirely believable as the car was an absolute peach – if you can call a long wheelbase ‘Benz that. A blue one. But it was! Impeccable velour trim and blue paintwork and the complete list of extras checked off by the original owner. Even electric rear seat adjustment. 12,900 Euro and my companion asked repeatedly whether we should go half and half and on it. Neither of us had any practical use whatsoever for a car like that, so we left it at that – convinced that it was a lost opportunity. It was sold a few hours later.
In the meantime I had found something much more suitable for my garage, a Renault 5 Alpine Turbo from 1983. It was three years older than my 5 GT Turbo – and three times the price. This clearly did NOT make any sense – so in an out-of-body experience I heard myself ask the salesman to take my 5 GT Turbo in part exhange. Luckily for me he declined.
Indeed I was very much in favour of the Renaults on show and my favourite was undoubtedly the brown 5 Turbo 2. This was again five times the price of the FWD-version, and as such not really a realistic option for me and my budget – but luckily easily dismissable because of the large Webasto-type retrofitted non-original sunroof. Saved by the bell!
The colour, though – is there any better for a 5 Turbo?
Another car which I did actually try on for size was the Datsun 240Z: An old favourite of mine, and sat behind the wheel – doors closed – I tried to imagine whether this was a car I could actually live with. The answer was a thundering YES. Damn! One more to the already long list.
The Datsun was parked next to a two-owner 1982 Toyota Hilux, incredibly well presented, and claimed to still wear its original paint. Stunning, and considering the legend of the Hilux, I could not help but think that anyone buying this would never have to purchase another car in his life.
One last car seriously tempted me: In my dream garage the Alfa Romeo Montreal has always been in and out of favour in regular cycles – and recently was seriously out as all for sale seemed to be priced at 80.000 Euro or more. Well, here in Brussels was a very distinctive one in its original green hue of “pastel green” (so the sign said, but surely the colour name sounds much better in proper Italian?), just serviced, recently repainted and nicely presented – for 63.000 Euros. Well, maybe there is still hope?
Speaking of colours: A Citroën SM in orange? Clearly that could not be right. And even if it was right, it certainly did not LOOK right. Apparently, the story goes that one man within Citroën had his company car-SM painted that hue of orange in period, and this restored car was an homage to him. Well – errhhm. It certainly was not an homage to Robert Opron who penned the shape.
More on colours: Everyone knows that you should never combine red paintwork with a red interior. A Ferrari Testarossa at the exhibition failed to succed at this as so many other before it – but somehow a Volvo 164 managed to pull it off: Dark red and even darker burgundy leather was the trick – as well as a simply stunning restatoration, and we quickly agreed that we had never seen a better 164. It was even the desireable chrome bumper version – lovely indeed.
A last word on colours – or rather, the application of it: I did not quite understand what had happened during the respray of an AC Aceca with the lovely Bristol-engine. For one thing, someone had decided on orange. And for another, the respray did not include the engine bay. The only reasonable explanation to the latter would be that someone in the process had grasped that this was really an out-of-place colour, and that the respray would be best stopped right there.
Among the many lovely cars, one especially caught my eye and was by the way not for sale: In the Club Area, the Volkswagen Club had a brilliant display of cars from the rear-engined era, but had generally chosen something a bit out of the ordinary. You don’t see a Fiberfab every day, do you? But behind the Fiberfab I found my personal favourite of the show:
It’s called the Neretti and was very appropiately designed and built in Belgium. D’Ieteren was the Belgian VW and Porsche-importer, and according to myth he designed the Neretti himself. It was glassfibre like so many others, but to my eyes showing a remarkably resolved design for what is a very, very rare car. The Neretti could be fitted with either VW or Porsche parts, but it was really the design that did it for me: So distinct and far away from the Type 3 on which it is based.
Which brings me to a prime reason for visiting a classic car show far away from your usual playgrounds: One might actually see and maybe even learn something new. I did with the Neretti as well as with others.
Of course I also saw a lot of more familiar cars as well, mostly in very good order. However, I did not see a single Alpine Renault A310, Rover 3500 SD1, nor a Reliant Scimitar GTE. With that in mind, I enjoyed returning to my home garage satisfied that even at the “prime show of Belgium”, they did not have what I have. As a bonus, it spares me from making comparisons on condition as well, and made the show thoroughly enjoyable – without giving me a bad conscience.
So Interclassics Brussels comes highly recommended: A good, orderly show of a decent size and with a great turn out of cars. It also made me think whether I should visit the InterClassics in Maastricht as well in January 2018, just to make the comparison.
Here are some mixed impressions from this past weekend in Brussels: