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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:

Mercedes-Benz were massively represented, not only by the factory taking up one complete hall but also by numerous dealers specialising in the marque. Very skillfully I composed this shot avoiding any gullwings…

…but fear not as the gullwings and their roadster variants were out in force: I didn’t count but would guesstimate around 25 of them being on display. Mine should definately have the fabric upholstery, thank you.

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”.

As an SLC-owner I was content with seeing relatively few of these grand coupés up for sale, whether inside the halls or in the large outside areas…

…while as a former E24-owner I now think time has finally come for BMW’s answer to the SLC. Ditch these wheels immediately, though. Please.

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.

SL’s were there literally by the truckload..

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.

If Mercedes felt like 25% of the Techno Classica, Porsche felt like another 25%. Every variant of the 911 was there, most were for sale and the only real problem with that is that I can’t afford one.

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.

One of these two cars is a perfectly restored original car with 180 bhp and for sale at around 180.000 Euros…

…the other a backdated Nineties 964 modified for even more power and carrying a 220.000 Euro price tag.

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.

The perfect colour for Renault 16. Price around 7.000 Euro and the car seemed fine.

They weren’t all for sale, though: The club displays were also worth a visit and this TR6 Shooting Brake happens to be one of my favourites – yet anoher great colour as well.

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.

If you already own a classic car, you should not forget to but something to complement it, such as my two travel companions did. Brochures, models, keyhangers, spare parts. You name it, it was there.

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.

A nice feature at Retro Classics is the upper floor in Hall 1, featuring mostly private sellers and therefore somewhat realistic cars.

The upper floor is brilliantly laid out and several cars cought my eye: The variety is huge, the quality mostly better than back home in Denmark.

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.

Porsche 961 was an impressive race car, not least considering its close relation to the road car.

The 914-6 was almost as numerous as the 4-cylinder versions, as were wide bodywork.

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!

As already said: I think it’s time to buy a 6-series.

Especially considering that it is clearly too late to buy an E9.

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.

Metallic green would suit me fine, thanks.

Especially with a matching interior.

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.

It was nice…

…but not 59.950 Euro-nice.

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.

This Moretti Sportiva was priced around the same as the cheapest if the Z’s above – but even with only 850 cc you could forgive it almost everything: The shape and proportions are so spot on that the diminutive Fiat looks like a proper super sports car.

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.

The Neo Classics area was unfocused.

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.

Don’t know exactly which shade of brown you prefer? This could be your solution!

Variety? I’ll show you variety! Big 4WD or one-cylinder roadster?

Incredibly, both the Jeep and the Brutsh were about 25,000 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:

11 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk

    @ce Claus, what a terrific report! My bucket list of events to visit has just increased. Interesting that despite taking place at almost the same time, both shows nevertheless managed to attract huge selections of cars; further proof of just how big the interest in classic cars is. As you say, no surprise that MB and Porsche hold such strong positions in the classic car world, especially in Germany. I still dream of a 1972 911E, T or especially S, now all long out of reach. There’re many good reasons why these two manufacturers are held in such high esteem, yet it’s still possible to buy into their world for reasonable (sub EUR 20k) money.

    Lots of other cars in your report also attract the eye, and I especially liked the Moretti, with it’s strong hints of Fiat Dino (one of my favourite non-German classics). The Alfa Montreal and lovely pale blue Lancia Montecarlo also stand out for me (yes, Italy is my second-favourite classic car country). Reports like this again get me day-dreaming about just how many classics I would buy if I could – imagine walking around the halls as if they were the car equivalent of a giant confectionery pick-and-mix…

  2. Claus Ebberfeld

    Thanks, @tony-wawryk .

    And yes, both events have now issued press releases stating that in spite of the clash they are rather satisfied (with their own event!), and I can support that: Even after walking around – all ears – for four days, I did not detect anything other than a healthy hobby attracting a huge amount of interest. Of course the downside to this is the prices of certain cars.

    The dates next year will be March 7-10 for the Retro Classics and April 10-14 for the Techno Classica, by the way.

  3. Anders Bilidt

    Excellent report Claus!
    Seeing as I wasn’t able to attend either show this year, I’m needless to say rather jealous about your marathon…
    For several years I attended Techno Classica religiously, but I haven’t been since 2012. I was thinking that I really should take this up again, but having read your report, maybe it should be Retro Classics which I pencil into my calendar for 2019 – especially as I have never been before.

    From your pictures, it’s the orange Montreal and of course the Sunbeam Stiletto which stand out for me from Techno Classica.
    From the Retro Classics, that turquoise BMW E9 is just stunning, while the little Moretti Sportiva is just so deliciously Italian it almost hurts! Hmmmm… I only wish you had treated us to a full picture of that beige Landcruiser with fabulously 80s white/orange/red stripes splattered along its flanks! I sooooo wish I had one…

  4. Dave Leadbetter

    Claus, using your shoe leather so we don’t have to, surely you fulfil a fine public service.

    The thought of 25 Mercedes Gullwings and Roadsters is remarkable and triggers my inner reverse snobbery so I’ll take the lime green Fiat X1/9 instead please. Predictably, the two-tone brown RX-7 appeals to me and looks like good value. Nice to see the Mk3 Ascona too, it just needs a pair of period rectangular fog lamps under the bumper to set it off. But wait, is that an Opel Omega Lotus touring car parked next to an Ascona 400? I would have lingered there for a while I think.

    I don’t really understand the “Neo Classics” thing though as it just looks like an extension of the car park…

  5. Claus Ebberfeld

    I’d do it again, @dave-leadbetter – my pleasure, really.

    The Fiat X1/9 was absolutely lovely, one of the best I’ve ever seen. In fact only the similarly coloured one (also an early 1300 version, my preference anyway) from last year’s Retro Classics was up there!

    The Omega is a 3000, used in the DTM. The Lotus-version was never built in sufficient numbers to be homologated. The 3000 was on the Irmscher-stand which was indeed very interesting – there’s a separate story from here coming up as well. Incredible, isn’t it? I came away from these shows really inspired which is why I recommend going so warmly.

  6. Anders Bilidt

    The Stiletto solely for me? And an individual Landcruiser article coming up?
    Claus, I don’t care what they all say about you – you’re just all heart…!! ;-)

    And yes, that two-tone RX-7 is simply awesome!! Bronze metallic is well cool. Brown equally so. Combine the two and it’s almost too good to comprehend…

  7. Claus Ebberfeld

    Don’t make me regret the RX-7, you two! My travel companion actually asked if we should place a bid. The car seemed to be in very fine fettle as far as we could judge from the outside. And I MUST have an RX-7 soon. I just know that.

  8. Anders Bilidt

    Sorry to be the one to break it to you Claus, but you really should regret that!
    Show me a RX-7 in that same colour combo, in equally good condition, but RHD, and I’ll make sure that I don’t make the same grave mistake that you just made… ;-)


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