The ultimate European automotive events calendar for 2019
A few years ago, I started compiling my automotive bucket list as a sort of a new year’s resolution, and to enumerate all the automotive events that I regularly attend or I would like to see one day. These events include classic and international car shows, races of all kind (classic and contemporary, with as many wheels as it takes) without the one-off events such as featured expos in car Museums. The outcome is this calendar that I regularly revisit when I plan my next journeys, and it also helps me to keep track of what events I should visit. For practical reason, I decided to split it into two parts, mainly because a single post would become too big to manage, but also as some of the events crystalize rather late in the year.
InterClassics – 10-13 January 2019, Maastricht, the Netherlands
The Interclassics Maastricht is one of the first car events of the calendar, and it is a well-known and important classic car event. Please note that teleporting is quite a useful skill in the region at this time of the year, as a number of major classic and international car shows take place in a short time-span of the first and second quarter. The InterClassics has evolved considerably throughout the years into a very comprehensive exhibition and trade show, with a spin-off event in Brussels, that proved to be another memorable experience. However, in the past years, my tolerance levels also rose, and after exhaustive full-day walks in Frankfurt or at the Retromobile and the Techno Classica, any show has to deliver a significant wow actor to remain on my list.
Last year, the main theme was the 25th anniversary of Interclassics, but unfortunately, I could not attend. I still recall the highlights of the 2015 show, where the organized secured support from the treasure chest of the 100-year-old BMW’s archives, and I hope to return sometimes.
NEC Autosport International / Performance & Tuning Car Show – 10-13 January 2019, Birmingham, UK
Another early bird, this time from the UK, incorporating two trade-only days with two public days.
From Karting to Formula 1, visitors can get up close to iconic racecar displays and a host of motorsport stars. Show highlights include the UK’s largest indoor racing track – the Live Action Arena where thrill seekers can enjoy exhilarating precision driving, live wheel-to-wheel racing, and stunt drivers – the F1 Racing Display where fans can see modern F1 cars up close – and the renowned Autosport Stage where the stars of motorsport are interviewed.
Brussels Motor Show – 19-27 January 2018- Brussels, Belgium
The Brussels Motor Show is listed among the official international car shows, yet is seldom surrounded by spectacular press coverage, as other major European car shows in Paris, Frankfurt and in Geneva. However, in recent years it has sported a fairly high standard. As it has been staged every year, it has remained a stable point in my calendar, while serious car shows are being cancelled (notably Amsterdam AutoRAI, and Bologna).
While the Brussels Car show is held annually, the timing of this event is quite challenging: it is held almost back-to-back to the famous Detroit Car show and short before Geneva, which probably makes it difficult to fetch world premiers. An important difference for visitors is that the event is primarily a trade show.
The exhibition is less for journalists, but for potential clients seriously interested in buying a new car. In turn, the exhibition focuses on an aesthetic and pleasant negotiating environment for potential buyers with serious intentions.
Although the main purpose of the exhibition was to sell new cars, it also has a lot to offer for the fans and the general public. My Motto for the 2017 automotive experience roundup was that everything used to be better (at least compared to the year before).
In 2018, the Brussels car show was the first major car event that actually raised the stakes. While it is still smaller than the gigantic IAA and is not as posh as Geneva, the Brussels Car Show provides an excellent opportunity to see a quality international car show in January, and in my 2018 top list, it actually took the highest position of all car shows.
Retromobile – 6-10. February 2019 – Paris, France
I described the Paris Retromobile exhibition as the queen of classic car events. There is always a room to claim to be the largest classic car event, but the sheer quality of Retromobile is what puts it on my A-list. It is not a question that this event is the arena of the real players, where the major classic car collectors face off and chase the world record of auctions.
Aspiring events and major national museum rent space at the vent just to put themselves to the map (the early timing of the event also helps). The Swiss Concours, Schloss Dyck, the Peter Auto Series or the British Motor Museum in Beaulieu are all present to advertise themselves.
I was already introduced to a number of regional events by the time I saw Retromobile for the first time, but the level of quality always surprises me, and remained impressive even after a number of car shows. What puts the few A-listers above others in my eyes, is the presence of factory collections. In Paris, the French manufacturers bring out the best of their collections, such as Citroen showcased half a dozen presidential limos last year, but 2019 shall mark their 100th anniversary.
The London Classic Car Show, 14-17 February 2018, London, UK
It’s a relatively fresh event, but it seems truly promising (I found their Icon Award particularly impressive, as the nominees of this achievement award also some with their cars, and they nominate legends such as Nigel Mansell and Jacky Ickx).
The main event has been reinforced with additional programs such as the Gala with the F1 and rally legends, the historic racing event (Historic Motorsport International), the meeting of car clubs, and the Beaulieu Museum’s Autojumble.
Antwerp Classics – 1–3 March, Antwerp, Belgium
The Antwerp Classics was the very first classic car show I attended some five years ago, and it made such a great impression on me, that basically lasted ever since. Nevertheless, I’ve seen a lot of great events since then, that just raised the bar by an incredible magnitude: factory museum shows that are matched the standards of international car shows and legendary race cars revisiting their best forms at classic race tracks like at Spa.
The greatest strength of this event lies in the active participation of car clubs, showcasing a couple of really impressive stages of avid owners’ clubs, showcasing nice dioramas and interesting classics. The current thematic, the 100th anniversary of Lancia and the 60th anniversary of the Mini give ample occasion to showcase brilliant classics.
Retro Classics Stuttgart, 7-10 March 2019, Stuttgart, Germany
Again, an exhibition, which is claims to be the largest in Europe. Given its established status, I actually wonder how I managed to avoid it.
One possible explanation is that the organisers could work really on their timing. I hardly recall any Retro Classic event that did not coincide with an A or B list classic car event. This year the period seems clear, apart from the Geneva Car Show : ) . Thus I am more determined than ever to pay a visit this year.
89th Geneva International Motor Show – 7-17 March 2019, Geneva, Switzerland
This show is undoubtedly one of the flagship automotive events of the continent, and would surely take a spot on my podium of events, if I ever manage to see it.
In my case, the main reason for passing on the Geneva Car Show is timing. At the beginning of March, the weather usually scares me away, while the agenda is already quite busy at this time of the year…
AMTS – Automobile and Tuning Show – 22-24 March, Budapest, Hungary
I put this one in out of curiosity, this event makes a similar impression as the Essen Motor Show covering motorsport and tuning with an emphasis on entertainment, and a stronger focus on hostesses than any other show this year. The organisers boast with hundreds of hostesses and offer a Miss AMTS feature.
International Amsterdam Motor Show, 4-7 April, Amsterdam, Netherlands
I visited the AutoRAI in 2016, that left a lovely impression as a national event very close to an international car show (halfway between Brussels Car Show and Essen Motor Show). It was however discontinued, and with a new car show event launched last year.
The second edition of the Amsterdam Motor Show will focus on cars that make the hearts beat faster. All vehicles for the car enthusiast, often cars that can only be admired for the IAMS for the general public.
Essen Techno Classica, 10-14 April 2018, Essen, Germany
The Techno Classica is also one of the most important automotive events in the continent, and that means pretty much the world. The exhibition claims to be the number 1 of classic car fairs, but this does not mean much, as about half a dozen car shows have made a similarly bold announcement. But this show also delivers.
The size of the Techno Classica is truly impressive. 1250 exhibitors from over 30 countries are showcasing their very best, and the exhibition can hardly be covered on foot in a single day: 21 halls and their open air surrounding on 120,000 square meters offer plenty of sights. To give an idea, it takes a full day to walk through without really dropping the anchor anywhere. Even if there are plenty of reasons to stop…
Apart from the show’s sheer size, the real value added is the factory presence that makes the top-tier events (such as Retromobile, Goodwood Revival, Stuttgart’s Retro Classics and Maastricht Interclassics) reach far beyond the traditional second-hand car fairs. The flagship contributions encompass factory museums and historical parts divisions, often supported by current models. Factory stands not only enhance the reputation among collectors but also attract the general public, beyond the connoisseurs of classic cars.
Considering the nearly 200.000 visitors, manufacturers increasingly recognize the advertising potential of top-tier classic car shows. Essentially, Techno Classica resembles now a lot to the Frankfurt Motor Show but with classic cars taking center stage. The event secured a podium finish in my best of list of the past years.
Spa Classics 2018 – 17-19 May, Spa, Belgium
The Spa event is part of the classic racing series run by the French Peter Auto. This year’s calendar comprised of eight diverse events (races and tours), and while the flagship event seemed to be the bi-annual Le Mans Classics, the roaring circus visits Spa every year. Since 2016, I try to squeeze in a classic car race, and the Spa Classics has a lot to vouch for.
The Peter Auto series brings up a comprehensive spectrum of epochs and classes, from entry level open wheel to high-end group C race cars and multi-million dollar collectors’ dream cars. Among the locations visited by the series, Spa Classics proved to be as immersive such an experience can be, compared to mainstream events. Spectators are allowed to visit and see things no visitor would ever get to see on a crowded F1 weekend, like the Sky Bar on top of the Pits, let alone the pits themselves. Unless the doors are deliberately closed, we can enter the boxes, where some of the crew even stops to pose or to move out of the view to allow a good shot.
London Motor & Tech Show – 16-20 May, London, UK
This appears to be another variety show, with lots of tech, action and every possible aspect of the automotive world, like built in Britain crazy speed record chasers and motorhomes.
This year, Drivetribe jumped in as lead sponsor, so I expect pretty good media coverage.
Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, 24-25 May, Cernobbio, Italy
The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is one of the most well-known beauty contests of Historic Cars. It is undoubtedly the most traditional event and was held for the first time in 1929. Since its revival in the 1990s, the Concorso has developed into a benchmark of European Concours events.
Nürburgring Classics – June 15-17, Nürburgring, Germany
Last year the organizers were preparing for Nürburgring’s 90th birthday, with an impressive program to take on the flagship role with the absence of Le Mans Classics this year.
Spa Summer Classics, June 27-30, Spa, Belgium
This event is held annually at Spa-Francorchamps, and although Spa Summer Classics is not so clear cut as the one before, it is still worth visiting.
Concours d’Elégance Suisse, June 21-23, Chateau de Coppet, Switzerland,
It is a real dark horse this event, on its official page I did not find pictures of previous events, but the shore of Lake Geneva is a promising venue, and the organisers proved a serious effort to hire exhibition space at the Retromobile.
It is time now to take a rhetorical break. The second semester will be covered in another article in a few months.