It might even be more than a hundred photos, as this was really something of a marathon. Saddle up!
Both of these huge shows claim to be largest in Europe, and both are right: Techno Classica in Essen measures by visitors, Retro Classics in Stuttgart by square meters. Usually they are a few weeks apart in the calendar, but this year the Essen Exhibition Center had to schedule several weeks earlier, so the clash between the two had been known for many months – and I knew my answer to it: Visit both in one grand marathon. Should this clash ever occur again (which both shows will try to avoid) I can truly recommend doing the double as I had a blast. Here are my observations:
You have to be able to enjoy your Mercedes-Benz’es at the Techno Classica, as at times it felt like they occupy a quarter of the halls. As an allround enthusiast (and now on my second classic Mercedes-Benz) I don’t have a problem with that, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their almost complete program represented – even including the original “Patentwagen”.
You can’t really argue against Mercedes-Benz’ achievements over time and when they decide to show off, they really have something to show. However, I soon encountered the strange effect of having had quite enough of gullwings and other SL’s, and I instead found best pleasure in the celebration of the Geländewagen – it turns 40. Really?! Yes, really – amazing how time flies. The G is apparantly a fully flegded classic car, which is rather sensational as it also manages to be rather current at the same time.
Please note that the G is also a classic car that is eminently useable as well as somehow affordable – as are of course several other Merc’s. Thereby the marque manages to be not only huge, important and truly grand, but also a very fine representative for the lower echelons of our hobby, which is (viewed with my misty classic car lover-eyes) perhaps their finest feature of all.
Enough Mercedes, now – there’s also Porsche. Ah, yes – some say the 911 is overexposed or even hyped in the classic car world. Only one should never forget why: They are terrific cars and quite simply the textbook example of what is classic car is – answering all why, where, when and how-questions competently and with weight behinds its words. Catered for by the factory and numerous specialists whether buying, selling, servicing, racing or restoring the 911 has earned its reputation the hard way. Compared to an E-type they’re even good value! Its presence all and everywhere is in fact its only weak side – and not even all would call that a weak side.
My percentage estimations above don’t quite tell the truth, but let me say this: If you like Porsche 911, the Techno Classica was worth a visit for those alone. It hugely outnumbered any other models from the marque, but I’d still say there was a Porsche for everyone. Even those who apparantly don’t like them. Yes, I am talking about modified cars here: The business of either reskinning a newer 911 or stuffing a classic one with modern internals has grown to an extent I simply don’t understand.
If this continues there will very soon be more modified 911’s than originals out there, I guess.
Amazingly, many of the modified cars were actually rather well made, and most likeable for that if for nothing else. Also, some of them were very tastefully done, some even so discreet that only true aficionados would ever know. I’m split on this matter – which is highly hypothetical anyway as I would only be able to stretch towards a lowly standard car anyway. I’m not sure that would be a problem, though: For years I’ve maintained than any 911 is better than no 911. Heck, I might even expand that to “any Porsche is better than no Porsche”. Which made me look long and hard at a few 914’s and 924’s as well – lovely cars, those.
And of course there are lots and lots of lovely cars at such a huge show: British, Italian, French and most others were of course represented as well – even my all time favourite classic car ever was present. Yes, the Maserati A6G 2000 Zagato. In grey. Perfection has never been more explicit. The same display also featured a Ferrari 250 SWB – it looked rather clumsy besides the Maserati. Honest.
I heard a figure of more than 3 million Euros would be required to take the Maserati home. The car was one out of 3 ever built and in some perverse blindness to huge figures it actually seemed reasonable compared to the herds of 1-million Euros Mercedes gullwings.
For a sound contrast the two cheapest cars I encountered at the Techno Classica was a Ford Fiesta (facelift version) and an Opel Ascona Mk3: Conditionwise they were not up to the standard of the Maserati, of course – but then what can you expect for 2,500 and 3,500 respectively?
That said they both actually seemed in pretty good nick. And it was in fact very possible to find nice cars at a price level where many enthusiasts could join the game – the Renault 16 below was simply terrific.
I spent one and a half day at Techno Classica, examining some cars in much further details than others. I felt this amount of time was only just sufficient, and not possible without maintaining good speed through the halls at most times. As well as almost ignoring the stands that I recall from elsewhere or on my last visit here. For first time visitors I would definately recommend two full days or even an extra half day – simply to avoid sensory overload and general numbness to cars that would otherwise deserve your utmost attention.
Or overlooking that amazing piece of automobilia which you did not even know you needed? Yes, you could spend half a day looking at everything else than cars as well. The gallery below should hopefully give you a decent impression of Techno Classica. And below that we continue…
The luxury of an extra half day I didn’t have, as I headed for Retro Classics already Thursday afternoon, some five hours drive further south. Tough job, but someone’s gotta do it, as they say. So here goes:
Arriving at the Messe Stuttgart you immediately sense the extra square meters over Techno Classica: There’s a more airy feel to the exhibition center, which is also much more orderly laid out and quite simply more modern and easier to navigate than the labyrinth of Essen. Even so, all those square meters filled up over the weekend: Friday was okay, but Saturday you could no longer move around freely. I will recommend anyone to come on the workdays if at all possible – and this goes for both shows, really.
Of course it must be said – again: Being in Stuttgart, the Retro Classics is effectively next to Porsche and their factories and museum, and yes the marque is strongly represented. It should be, as this year they celebrate their 70th birthday of that very first Porsche. Indeed there was a special exhibition for that occasion, featuring some fine specimens of the family.
I felt the Porsche 961, the race-going version of the road supercar 959, was probably the pinnacle of that exhibition, but was otherwise not hugely impressed. Maybe I was over-stimulated at this point as for example the presence of a 904 GTS should always arouse the enthusiast. Or maybe they were simply holding something back, as the actual birthday is not until June? That would even give me time to acquire one my self. I wish!
BMW was of course also here and deserve most honorable mention: The lovely E9-coupé celebrates its 50th anniversary and the spectacular M1 it’s 40th. The latter was a real show as both road cars, PROCARs and Group 5-versions were prominently featured as to thoroughly remind everyone just how great cars both of them were and still are.
Prices for both have gone through the roof lately, and a decent M1 is now half a million Euros. That of course makes the E9 at a tenth of that seem a comparative bargain – although I am not quite sure of that anyway. The M1 with its homologations special status, the honour of being the first car out of BMW Motorsport GmbH, its racing history, and quite simply its unique place in BMW history, I most confess: It’s deservedly at the pinnacle of BMW-history and naturally priced accordingly.
And I was also reminded that I myself do need another classic BMW: Best bet nowadays seems to be an early 5-series, and Retro Classics featured several examples in very good condition for reasonable money.
But what with the horrendous prices we have all read about? Sure there were examples of those as well. Especially two Datsun Z’s stood out in this category, and as they were parked next the each other one could suspect that they had agreed upon their ridiculously high prices.
Both were fine cars, absolutely – but at 59,950 Euros it should not just be painted gold, but plated. The other one was a cool 100.000 Euros which was even more outrageous. The sign said “Racing”, but with just 200 bhp and an almost full interior it wouldn’t be much good at that either.
Being so far south, the Retro Classics attracts a lot of Italian and French dealers as well, and following last year’s succes with a separate area for Italian Flair the special exhibition this year occupied one large hall on its own. This was again a success as Italy has so much to offer: Not surprisingly this hall also had the best coffee.
The new area for “Neo Classics” was in a press release from the organizers also deemed a success. The area was dedicated newer classics – or even new cars destined to become classic cars. Or something. I was not familiar with the term Neo Classics before Retro Classics announced they would dedicate an area for these – and to my eyes it seemed they did not quite know what it was all about themselves. I found the end effect was that of an area which mostly resembled the forecourt of a used car dealership. With fine cars, but anyway – I was expected something more.
But this was in fact the sole disappointment at the Retro Classics: Otherwise the show was convincingly well organised and presented, and the spectrum of cars at least as wide as at Techno Classica. Or rather, it was actually even better at the lower end of the price scale, and I know of at least one happy ViaRETRO-reader who came away one handsome six-cylinder Seventies supercoupé better off. Several things tempted me too – not least a Mazda RX-7 in lovely two-tone paint – the below 1985-car was for sale at 9,000 Euro.
I could go on and on – and in fact I will supplement with several side stories at a later stage. Not least the auctions, of which both exhibitions had one. Results are not released yet, but we’ll get back to those. In short: There are so many things to be seen that I’d warmly recommend a visit to any of the two shows. My warmest recommendations go to Retro Classics in Stuttgart: The exhibition center is right next to the airport so you can fly in, easily dedicate two full days, and enjoy what I believe is the best classic car show in Europe.
But for now I’ll leave you with a gallery from Retro Classics, attempting the impossible task of representing the whole event in a few choice photos: