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Techno Classica is Europeans largest Classic Car Trade Show


Essen, 10th - 14th of April, 2019

The Techno Classica is Europeans largest Classic Car Trade Show and behind the Retromobile in Paris probably the most traditional. For 30 years now the TC attracts visitors from all over the world to Essen in April and the 31st edition was visited again by more than 190 thousand classic car enthusiasts. In Essen it is all about the numbers, bigger is better and for many years the limit seemed to be the trade centre in Essen that is much more dated than the new one of the competitor in Stuttgart. A lot of refurbishment was going on over the last two years and so again visitors had to follow new ways to find their favourite places as several of the hall were renumbered, the first floor with the traditional club stands was missing in total due to a recent teardown.

But the overall concept certainly did not change. Although Paris has the tendency to get more commercial as well the Techno Classica never tried to have some esprit but it is more about sales rates. The dealers are filling up their booths to the max and cars are exchanged during the days so that the sold ones can make way to additional stock waiting in the parking to be on display. What might sound rude in the beginning certainly is not intended that way as the success does justice to the model and people clearly know what to expect. Unfortunately this sometimes goes to the costs of the smaller club stands who built up their car related themes with a lot of personal dedication rather than excessive funds, those club stands are more and more banned to the less attractive halls where few people are actually walking by. The major halls are reserved to the companies and large dealers and apparently loyalty is very important to the organizers of the TC. When missing any of the editions one does loose his spot in the most popular halls and has to work his way up again.


Apart from the dealers there are always several manufacturers around and with the automobile now in its second century there are always anniversaries to celebrate, some are more known, some are less. Porsche celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 917 in Stuttgart and Goodwood, in Essen it was the VW-Porsche 914 that shares its age with the Le Mans winner. Certainly not as glamorous as the 12-cylinder the Porsche 914 nevertheless had a big impact on the history of Porsche as it gave Porsche an entry level car beside the legendary 911 and the acceptance of the 914 led to the later transaxle models of the 924 coming up 6 years later.

Also 50 years of age is the Ford Capri and several Capris were on display ranging from the early production models, wild customized examples as well as the racing derivates. The 2600 RS gave works driver Jochen Mass not only the German Championship but also the 1972 European Touring Car Championship. In the end of the 1970s it was the second life of the Ford Capri that gave him the most outstanding results. The Turbo-Capri developed by Zakspeed came to give the shivers to the dominant Porsche 935 and in 1980 finally Klaus Ludwig won the German Championship starting from pole in every of the 13 races winning no less than 10 of them.

Mercedes-Benz as the oldest manufacturer in the world certainly has enough models to celebrate an anniversary every year and this year was the small but spectacular history of the C111. Although the C111 was a sensation right from the beginning with its unique design the super sports car never made it into production. The light glass fibre reinforced plastic lacked the quality of a mass production and the experimental Wankel engines were not perfect either. So Mercedes decided to use the different versions of the C111 as test bed, the most famous record attempts might be the one of the second version with the diesel engine in Nardo. Just as today the diesel engine had not the best reputation but other than today’s pollutions issues the diesel back in the days was basically associated with the taxies rather than sportive cars. So many years before the diesel finally won Le Mans with Audi it was the C111-II that set 13 records for the diesel showing its potential in the years of the oil crises in the 1970s.

The C111- display in the big Mercedes hall was special but the highlight was the unrestored Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing. Already shown in Amelia Island this completely original Gullwing covered with dust of the last decades was without doubt the car of the show as it gave a great contrast to the hordes of Gullwings and Roadsters in better-than-new condition seen on various dealers all over the show. 

But not only single cars celebrate their anniversaries, also some of the major manufacturers are having their centenary theses years as the time after WWI was the peak time of new brands. This year it will be Bentley but for some reasons a special Bentley display was missing in the VAG hall just as Lamborghini was not really represented.

So after looking at the manufacturers it is time to point out the highlights on the show. Formula 1 was celebrating the 1000th GP last weekend and the very first GP was won by Alfa Romeo with the Alfetta in the hands of Giuseppe Farina. Alfa Romeo Storico had the 159 Alfetta of the 1951 season with them that gave Juan Manuel Fangio his first championship. The Alfetta might not be the rarest sight in Essen been there for several years but it is still one of the most advanced single seater dating back to the pre-war years.

Another Alfa was admired by many at the booth of Jack Braam Ruben. The Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GT Touring was built using the Weyman patent to get a light bodywork for the racer entered in the 1933 Mille Miglia resulting in an 17th overall and a class win. This very original car would make a great addition to any Alfa Romeo Collection.

Even more successful was the Lagonda V12 Le Mans from the Louwman museum. Displayed at the booth of the German Motor Klassik this car came third at Le Mans in 1939. Nicknamed “Old Number 5” this was one of the two works entries for Lagonda that year and not few think the cars would have even won if W.O. Bentley was less conservative on strategy. What worked well in the late 1920 (Winning at the lowest possible speed) did not apply 10 years later and so the Lagondas were outpaced by Bugatti and Delage. 

On the complete different end might be the creations of Rainer Buchmann. The tuner from Frankfurt was known for his extroverted creations far from mainstream taste. Today car like the Mercedes 500 SEC “magic top” might look a little bit too much but back in the days they were the taste. 4 cars of Buchmann could be seen in Essen, three cars at Springbock Sportwagen and the most famous at the Fuchsfelgen booth. The silver 911 BB with the rainbow stripes certainly did not miss any of the car quartets of the 1980s.

Every year a jury is picking the best cars of the show and this year the choice was going towards the perfect restoration. At the end it was the Aston Martin DB5 Convertible from Sport Classics winning the Best of Show. Believed to be the 1963 Earls Court Motor Show car the Aston was recently restored to perfection at Aston Martins own works service. 

Last but not least one has to mention the news of this year’s Techno Classica. For the first time ever RM Sotheby´s was holding an auction in Essen and not few were curious how the Canadian auction company would do in Germany, a place that is not known for many high sale auctions. With the 229 car line-up spear-headed by the youngtimer collection RM had a good feeling of what would sell in Essen and the result of 18,7 Million Euros and a sales rate of 86 % gives justice to that. Now it remains the question whether RM will be able to repeat that in the years to come without a 100-cars collection as a platform. But this is still far away... 

Essen certainly is always worth the visit. The city in the Ruhr area might not be as glamorous as Paris but still the show attracts the big collectors every year. Being much bigger one has to look for the gems in the sea of Porsche and Mercedes but one can find them if one looks.

Next year the TC might have changed face again as the reconstruction of the trade centre is still in full swing but situated in Essen itself the lack of development in space might be the limit.

Report & images ... Peter Singhof