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Last week, 190,000 visitors from 46 different nations as well as  your roving reporter all agreed: Techno Classica 2019 was a thoroughly well-balanced world fair.

“World Fair” is the organizers’ own words and is, of course, an expression of how all the major European classic car exhibitions are trying to position themselves according to their counterparts. Retro Classics in Stuttgart is physically bigger, Rétromobile in Paris is more elitist and well… actually more international – but Techno Classica is indeed quite well-balanced as an exhibition, and while the “world” in this context primarily means Europe, that’s probably alright too seeing they’re positioned in Europe, most of their visitors are European, and so am I. The big German trade fair even made it clear that this year, they had a Kuwaiti Mercedes-Benz club exhibiting, and that does say a great deal about the reach of Techno Classica. Or do the three world premieres on new cars actually say more?

How to spot a nerd. The FCA (terrible name, isn’t it?)-display featured two lovely Alfa Romeo Grand Prix-cars as well as one modern road car in colours so terrible that I can’t possibly allow it to disgrace the pages of ViaRETRO.

No less than twenty (current) car manufacturers exhibited at Techno Classica, three of those premiering brand new cars. I accidentally participated in an interview asking what I thought about the new ones and could only answer “Nothing, really”. I couldn’t think of any other reasonable answer, as I came to see the classic cars just as I am assuming that the 190,000 other guests did too. But that the manufacturers are there anyway still says something about how they see a connection between the new and the old. And that’s probably a good thing, I think.

I can’t quite recall if ViaRETRO has ever mentioned that you should remember to buy your T-5R before it is too late? Volvo was one of the marques featuring a premiere of a brand new car – but otherwise their stand was lovely and very Scandinavian too.

In any case, I was more than happy with Mercedes-Benz going the full mile to display a wide array of their different models through time, accompanied by nothing less than all variants of their C111 prototypes taking centre stage. Their special exhibit in Paris was – although smaller – much broader in terms of time and type, but the C111 has always been something special to me. This model series, if you can call it that at all, encompasses almost the whole package of what interests me in cars: Design, technique, speed records – although not motorsports as such, which then just emphasises that you just can’t have everything, can you?

A sight to make a grown man (of a certain age) cry. With all of my heart: Thank you, Mercedes-Benz!

If you can, it will usually be hugely expensive. Now Techno Classica is of course a trade fair, so we will have to talk about prices, and the organisers also did so in their press release. Their conclusion was that the market had stabilised after some rather turbulent years and that buyers had become more critical.

However, the right cars at the right prices could still be sold. For instance, the dealer Gallery Aaldering, stated that by Saturday they had already sold 9 of their 30 exhibited cars. Even if you take that statement with a grain of salt and look at the auctions instead, it invariably seems like it could be correct.

An incredibly well kept Mitsubishi Starion with only 9,300 miles from the much publicised Youngtimer Collection sold for 19,550 Euro including fees.

Whereas this restored and at least traditionally more sought after and thus more expensive, rarer and classier Maserati Mistral did NOT find a new owner.

I was present at RM Sotheby’s auctions both days, and while there were periods of time when the bids fell sluggishly and below the lowest estimates on the Thursday, that all changed on the Friday which saw repeated applause as new record prices for several cars were achieved. As in Paris, one of the most expensive was also one of the oldest, a Mercedes-Benz 540 K at 2.25 million Euros. One of the most surprising cars was (again) a youngtimer – but which one: Lancia Delta S4 is the Group B icon to rule them all and RM Sotheby’s 2,200 mile example went for 1.04 million Euros. If any ViaRETRO readers followed my advice back in 2016 and actually went ahead and acquired one such S4, then I would really like to try it. Please.

First a Lancia Rallye 037 sold well at 770,000 Euros including fees…

…then the Delta S4 broke all records!

As ever, if that all seems terribly out of reach, then one should not despair. Our hobby still has room for everyone. Whether you already have a 037 or a S4 in your garage, you would obviously also need a suitable service vehicle for it. Or maybe you just happen to fancy other and simpler Italian cars of the rare sort you don’t see too often anymore. Or maybe you absolutely and positively want a classic estate – something we at the ViaRETRO editorial office are still entirely convinced will become a much bigger trend – perhaps, almost a movement – within the classic car scene.

In which case, the second auction of the exhibition from Coys had precisely what you desire; namely a pale grey FIAT 124 Familiare from 1970 with a rich red interior. Just like we quite fancy classic estates, we equally value those brave day-to-day heroes of yesteryear which are all but extinct now. This FIAT was even claimed to have been barely broken in, as it was apparently parked up with a mere 6,000 miles on the clock. Which nicely matched the auction house’s estimate of where the hammer would fall. What the end result was, I can’t say, as Coys’ auction was on the Saturday and I left already Friday evening – and Coys are notoriously slow with publishing their auction results. But rest assured this was an absolutely magnificent classic estate car.

1970 FIAT 124 with a claimed 6,000 miles and in a most charming pale grey colour.

Of course, it was not auctions all of it, but the ordinary trades are always a little harder to get a decent overview of. When I left the exhibition on the Friday, there were a number of “Verkauft” signs on various classic cars, but at what price they sold was of course much more difficult to ascertain. As usual, there was also the other end of the spectrum present at Techno Classica: Cars with prices that seemed grossly optimistic – or maybe I just didn’t understand them?

This Citroën BX GTi was indeed really nice. But 35,000 Euro?

I have heard many enthusiasts over the years complain that this is typical of Techno Classica, but I honestly don’t feel it is the norm: I encountered a lovely Manta, Kadett, Jeep, Golf GTi and several Mercedes-Benz at reasonable prices. How about Porsche 911 then? Yes, I think they too can (again) be found at reasonable money. Well, in this case “reasonable” still equals “a lot” – but surely everyone understands that one of the world’s best, most loved, coveted and sought after sports cars must cost money.

This Mercedes-Benz SL R107 was as near perfection as anyone could ask for. But then again – Mercedes were asking 50,000 Euro for the courtesy.

As such, with the broad variety of classics on offer, that’s where it occurred to me that Techno Classica was indeed quite well-balanced: Retro Classics in Stuttgart sometimes manages to give the visitor a distinct overdose of both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz at the same time, but this was not the case in Essen. Have they introduced the quotas which I once suggested German exhibitions should have? In any case, there was a fine range in not just marques but also prices. And even though the youngtimer cars did not occupy as much space and literally bandwidth as they have done in Stuttgart in recent years, they were certainly present at Essen as well. The gamble with the huge Youngtimer Collection sale by Sotheby’s seems to have paid off nicely.

So all in all, I think this Techno Classica was stronger and better than last year’s event. From that, I think it’s fair to take away that our hobby is continuing to flourish and the market seems to have stabilised again after having a bit of a wobble over the past few years. Enjoy this selection of impressions from Essen – and please share your thoughts too, whether you were there or not…


7 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk

    Thanks for this report on what looks like quite a show, Claus.

    I have to say that this trend of manufacturers showing their current range at classic shows is not one I like – I can visit their local showrooms to see them. I’d like to believe they do this out of a sense of history, but I’m more inclined to think that they do it because they know classic car owners generally need a daily driver as well as their classic…seeing it more and more at local shows too, except it’s the manufacturer’s dealers there.

    Love the display of C111’s – I’ve only ever seen one, at MB’s own museum (a superb collection ) – to see so many of the only 16 built in one place…breathtaking! A shame it never saw full production.

    Claus, have you become so used to the beauty of the BMW 507 that you only took a photo of part of one? ;)

    One last thing – what is the metallic grey coupe in the photo next to the red rally-prepared Mercedes?

  2. Claus Ebberfeld

    Regarding the modern cars it was generally done rather inconspicuously – except for the horrible livery on the Alfa Romeo which almost ruined their stand in my opinion. Being next to two lovely Grand Prix cars made it look like a travesty. Which, ironically, is exactly right – although probably not what Alfa intended.

    Well spotted with the silver grey car, @tony-wawryk : It’s a very rare Ghia 450 SS that sold at the Sotheby’s auction for 110,000 Euro. There’s more about the specific car here:

  3. Tony Wawryk

    @claus-ebberfeld thanks for that info on the Ghia; having seen the front, I like it less…the rear looks elegant and refined, the front is mismatched to my eyes, too bulky and aggressive. It also seems that Toyota must have been more than a little “inspired” by this car when they designed the first generation Celica GT…

  4. yrhmblhst

    I noticed the Ghia 450 in the photos too…lovely car in my not-so-humble-and-always-correct-opinion , plus good ol Mopar driveline and other parts make it a strong runner that can be maintained easily by nearly anyone. Not that it will need much fettling.
    Show looks great – we simply dont have anything similar over here to the best of my knowledge and we are the poorer for it. On one hand I agree with the esteemed Mr Wawryk about shoving new cars in with the good stuff, but on the other it shows – allegedly at least – that the manufacturer cares about the old stuff and their adherents. Maybe good reactions from events like this will register and keep parts coming or keep idiot stylists in check, reminding them of prior success and the fact that their new car buyers are NOT all – or even a majority – 14 yr old japanese boys who read comic books… [you listening gm?]

  5. Claus Ebberfeld

    Well, the Ghia just happen to be right up my ally, a hybrid in exactly the right way and for all the right reasons, not least the one mentioned by @yrhmblhst: Here’s an exotic you could use without being scared every time you turned the engine over for a cold start. With around fifty cars built you won’t meet another around the corner either.

    Actually the design works better in real life than in photos – and I think you’re right, @tony-wawryk : The Celica could well have taken some cues from the Ghia.

    I am pretty sure that manufacturers indeed try to underline what @yrhmblhst suggest: that “the manufacturer cares about the old stuff and their adherents”. But some of them should certainly prepare better for a show like this when trying to make that point: Again at FCA Heritage it was pretty obvious that they knew way too little about their own history compared to the keen pundit visiting a show like this. Mercedes were way better at this, for example – and have of course also been in the game of caring for their classics for many more years where FCA just recently joined the party.

  6. Anders Bilidt

    Ouuuu… there’s just waaaay too much yumminess for me to even grasp where to begin… But I suppose the obvious place would be that immense display of C111 history. Simply astonishing!! But then I spotted that bright blue Alfa Romeo 2600 SZ. WAUW! And the Rainbow B&B 911 Turbo Targa. Fab!

    Oh, and @claus-ebberfeld, you say that everyone ought to buy a 850 T5-R now before it’s too late. But wouldn’t it be smarter still to buy the period C70 T5? The same mechanical components just wrapped in a much more elegant and altogether timeless design. Besides, surely the C70 has to be the only example of a stylish coupé costing less than the equivalent boxy saloon, so the C70 must surely be regarded as immense value for money. I can’t possibly last…
    Anyone who agrees with that might want to contact me as my own C70 T5 will soon be up for sale! ;-)

  7. Claus Ebberfeld

    Sure I was rather satisfied – absolutely, @anders-bilidt . A drive in my 1147 cc Spitfire calmed me down again.

    Regarding the 850 T-5R versus the C70 T5: I see it a bit like a question of – what is Volvo? The answer obviously is “Estates”, isn’t it?

    Which of course should not put anybody off buying a great coupé with the great engine of a great estate :-)


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