The Techno Classica is another traditional home turf for the German brands, whose headquarters with a factory vault is just a few hundred kilometres away. Their factory stages render the Classica genuinely comparable with the Frankfurt Motor Show, only with more classic cars. In recent years, however, I witnessed a tendency that Germans always excel at national automotive exhibitions, while import brands get frustrated over their more limited possibilities to render a good show (given the smaller budget based on economies of scale), and increasingly stay away.
Since last year, in response to recent economic and political uncertainties, the Germans are starting to return this favour. This could be well observed in relation to Paris Vs Frankfurt, but the same alarming trend is noticeable at classic shows, Mercedes abstained from the 2018 Rétromobile, while this year even Porsche failed to show up (at the same time, BMW came back though). Import brands delivered quite a show this year in Essen, and some import brands ensured a proper presence, although I hoped to see a jaw-dropping exposition from the 100 years old Citroen, like in Paris.
Mercedes celebrated my favourite concept car of all time and enough spectacle to fill an entire hall
Mercedes-Benz Classic is usually responsible for the most impressive stage in Essen, filling almost an entire hall. Its flagship stage hosts treasures from the factory museum, accompanied by the brightest pieces of its classics division and a few selected Mercedes specialists (e.g. Brabus, HK Engineering) along with a few high-end collectors (like my favourites from Paris, Hödlmayr and Lukas Hüni).
2019 Merc stage is arguably the best of the Techno Classica showcasing a complete set of legends with the family of C 111 experimental and record-breaking vehicles along with all of its variants.
This concept car is my personal favourite, one of the best concept cars of all time. It was one of my favourite toys as a child some 35 years ago, and I keep bumping into them at the brilliant Mercedes Museum.
It is not just about the style, mended by a great Italian car designer Bruno Sacco, who defined Mercedes’ design language for several decades. The C111 also introduced then revolutionary Wankel technology and broke several records.
Mercedes-Benz officially presented the C 111 50 years ago at the Frankfurt Motor Show (IAA). Mercedes unveiled an elegant, futuristic high-performance sports car in a compact wedge shape with a three-rotor Wankel engine painted in the bright orange metallic.
In addition to this car, Mercedes brought a silver SLX concept car from 1966 to Essen to illustrate the revolutionary sketches of Sacco to revitalise the Mercedes-Benz design language for the presentation of the C 111 three years later.
The two gullwing-door sports cars from 1966 and 1969 were presented at the Techno Classica together with their successors.
A few years later a thoroughly updated C 111-II was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1970, equipped with a four-rotor Wankel engine, suitable for everyday use. Once again, it fuelled demand for this new super sports car from the Stuttgart brand which many enthusiasts regarded as a possible successor to the 300 SL (W 198) from the 1950s. The spectacular Wankel-engined sports car remained a research vehicle and did not enter series production, which given the experience with later Wankel engines from NSU RO80 to Mazda Renesis engine, was probably a wise decision.
The C111 segment concludes with a spectacular silver arrow that kept breaking records for the Stuttgart brand, that diverted its efforts to the test tracks, instead of going for a series production, breeding a series of highly successful record-breaking vehicles built from 1976 onwards.
The first was the C 111-II D, powered by a 3-litre, five-cylinder engine fitted with an exhaust gas turbocharger and a charge air cooler. With effect from 12 June 1976, Mercedes-Benz set a total of 16 world records with this vehicle on the test track in Nardò (Italy).
The aerodynamically perfected, record-breaking C 111-III (turbo diesel, 1978) and C 111-IV (V8 petrol engine, 1979) are based on this design. Both vehicles were used by Mercedes-Benz to once again set spectacular records in Nardò, where the C 111-III set a new diesel record in April 1978 at 321.9 km/h over the 500-kilometre stretch, while the C 111-IV followed in May 1979 with a new circuit world record of 403.978 km/h.
The other centre stage features a century of innovation, following Mercedes’ tradition to showcase bloodlines of cars that follow the same concept or appeal the same audience throughout the decades.
This year’s theme is undoubtedly innovation, making the comparison between the 40 PS Mercedes-Simplex from 1903 and the current EQC unveiled in Paris last year.
The Mercedes-Simplex was one of the first modern cars to shape the future of the automobile more than 120 years ago. The Mercedes-Benz EQC is the first Mercedes-Benz model from the new EQ product line.
Another podium is awarded to the 300 SL Gullwing bearing the chassis number 43, that was kept in its barn find condition as it was found in a garage at the end of 2018. The dream sports car was shipped to Miami in 1954 and then registered for just ten years.
The car is kept in the same state, except for the preparation for a new paint job, to illustrate the durability of the vehicle, with the original body, glass components, grey leather interior, powertrain, wheels and the original tyres.
As another remarkable highlight for avid fans of Mercedes classics, the Mercedes-Benz Classic Service & Parts team was presenting spare parts straight out from the 3D printer (if you have a spare hour to wait) and an engineer stood by to explain the possibilities and limits of the process.
This year, the All Time Stars classics division bunked together with the HQ in Hall 1, trading places with Classic Remise that moved to Hall 3.
They showcased a wide range of classics from replicas of 120 years old models to modern day young timers.
Porsche’s birthday boy was the Porsche we all try to forget
Porsche traditionally resides in the VW Hall (nr 4), and usually occupies almost half of the exhibitor surface with the most important stage of the group.
This year’s theme was “50 years of Porsche 914”, and Porsche Classic showcased the birthday boy, that was initially presented in 1969 as VW-Porsche 914 (with four-cylinder mid-engine) and as Porsche 914/6 (with six-cylinder midengine). The Essen stage featured a Porsche 914/6, and as one of two produced Porsche 914/8 (with eight-cylinder racing engine).
As usual, Porsche showcased a few project cars, in this case, a 356A and a 911, and dished up a wide variety of material for customisation along with a modern day 992 generation 911, not from the essential kind…
The stage followed the established layout and presented a selection of about ten classic Porsche cars from worldwide Porsche Classic partners and factory restoration vehicles.
Each vehicle was delegated by the centre that restored it, and the models offered a nice mix, even if this year’s selection took back a bit.
As in previous years, the Porsche clubs are allocated in Hall 3.
They presented a wide variety of models from Porsche Diesel tractors through every generation of series production models to unique racing versions.
The cars exposed were again impressive ranging from endless fields of 911s to historic police cars to hopeless project cars.
Audi brought us on a journey through space and time
Time travel can be taken for granted at every stage of the Techno Classica, but Audi adds the notion of space to plan. Under the working title “Space Miracle – from the Schnellaster to the Avant” Audi was celebrating 70 years since the Ingolstadt plant was founded following the fall of Auto Union’s establishments in the east and a new West-German Audi was created.
At the end of the Second World War, Auto Union’s resources were confiscated by the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the company was re-established in 1949 in a former military compound in the Upper-Bavarian city of Ingolstadt to lay the foundations to what is Audi today.
The first products from 1949 were the DKW Schnellaster and the DKW RT 125 W motorcycle, exhibited in Essen.
The DKW Schnellaster F89 L was the first automobile ever to be produced in Ingolstadt. The cab-over-engine layout proved to be competitive with different body versions, ranging from platform or panel vans to livestock transporters, despite its pre-war technology with front-wheel drive and a two-cylinder, two-stroke engine.
The new DKW RT 125 W motorcycle was identical to the pre-war model with its trapezoidal forks, rubber-band springs, two-stroke engine delivering 4.75 hp, but it made a significant contribution to consolidate Auto Union.
Another child of the post-war period was the DKW Meisterklasse Universal, F89 S model from 1951. For reasons technical feasibility, DKW was the only one to be brought back to life with its robust and straightforward two-stroke engines. The first DKW passenger car from the post-war period was a combination of DKW F 8 technology from 1939 and the streamlined bodywork of the three-cylinder DKW F 9 initially planned for 1940. This composition was also the reason why the vehicle bears the designation DKW F 89.
Worth noting that a similar car was also produced in East Germany, the IFA F9 was also based on DKW designs, but communist management methods quickly eroded the engineering competence. I recommend having a look at the brilliant PS Speicher museum, that illustrates these east-west parallel developments.
Besides the Audi 80 Variant from 1967 and a 1978 Audi 100 Avant GLS Audi showcased two exotic vehicles. The blue DKW Imosa F 1000 D was a small van of which more than 110,000 units were built in Spain between 1960 and 1975. The Audi version, on the other hand, was only available in the USA. The exhibited vehicle from 1978 is based on the first Audi 80 With body components of the VW Passat.
BMW celebrated the 90th anniversary of its first production car at the Techno Classica
When you live long enough, every day is worth celebrating, and that is also true to car companies. My first encounter with BMW Museum was at the Techno Classica 2016, where the Bavarian car brand celebrated its 100th birthday, and they left quite an impressions at every show ever since.
This year’s stage was focussing on the history of the BMW Group (i.e. 90 years of BMW automobiles, 60 years of MINI), but the stage seemed considerably lighter, as for the first time, moved into the refurbished Hall 6 that they also shared with other brands.
The Bavarians tried to make the most of this situation and erected a similar stage as in Paris. From the early years, the Museum was showcasing successful motor-sport vehicles on both two and four wheels and presented a broad bandwidth of sporting triumphs, reflected in the choice of vehicles.
The supercharged machine that Georg “Schorsch” Meier rode to victory at the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man in 1939 is presented alongside the BMW S 1000 RR which Michael Dunlop from Northern Ireland rode to achieve the same masterpiece precisely 75 years later.
BMW Group Classic recalls the success of the BMW V12 LMR in the 24 Hour Race of Le Mans in 1999. Pierluigi Martini, Joachim Winkelhock and Yannick Dalmas steered the projectile propelled by a twelve-cylinder engine to overall victory in this legendary endurance race 20 years ago.
BMW started manufacturing automobiles 90 years ago, and on 22 March 1929, the first BMW 3/15 PS left the works premises, marking the start of BMW’s history as an automobile manufacturer.
At the Techno Classica 2019, members of the BMW Club honoured the brand with 18 models from nine decades.
Volkswagen came with records, anniversaries and apprentices
Volkswagen laid out its World of Volkswagen Classics show in three stages, themed Classic, Commercial Vehicles and Classic Parts. One of the key topics covered world records from Volkswagen with six cars that had set benchmarks or records with their speed, endurance or economy. The theme was complemented by a 68-page colour booklet available for free.
The most recent record-breaking car is a black thoroughbred racer that stole the show at the stage: the Volkswagen W12 set ten international records at the high-speed circuit in Nardò (Italy) in 2001, and in 2002, set a new 24-hour world record with an average speed of 322.89 km/h. The W12 Nardo’s records still stand to this day.
Back in 2000, the Lupo 3L TDI “80 Days” set out to set an economy record: under the motto “Around the World in 80 Days”, two Lupo 3L TDI covered exactly 33,333 kilometres on their journey through 22 countries. The average consumption of just 2.38 litres per 100 kilometres earned the car its place in the Guinness Book of Records – as the most economical production car in the world.
In 1988, two pilot-series Corrado G60 set six class records at the Volkswagen test facility in Ehra-Lessien. Visitors to Essen can see one of the 162-kW (220-PS) sports coupés from 1987.
A three-wheel prototype generating 0.2 kW (0.272 PS) set a consumption world record in 1982: the SMVW (Volkswagen Ecomobile) completed a 1,491-kilometre route on just one litre of diesel.
Built in 1974, the Golf I “Alaska-Tierra del Fuego” is one of the oldest production Golf. In October 1974, together with another bright-yellow Golf I, this car undertook what is probably the longest test drive by a new model: 30,517 kilometres, from Fairbanks (Alaska) to Ushuaia (Argentina).
On 17 February 1972, the Beetle became the most-built car in the world. To mark this production record, Volkswagen released its first special edition: the Beetle 1302 S “World Champion”.
On the classics side, the stage celebrated 70 years of the Beetle Cabriolet with a Summer Forever theme and showcased a series of Bully minivans, including the first Blitzer-Bulli marking 60 years of mobile radar measurement (sniff-sniff 🙁 ).
Under the apprentices topic, young technicians finalised a restoration project at the VW stage (a 1968 VW 1600 TL).
Ford threw a birthday party for the 50 Years old Ford Capri
Ford traditionally presents itself and its history in cooperation with the most important German Ford clubs at the Techno Classica.
This year the focus was on the 50th birthday of the Ford Capri. With around 14 Capri models – including some unusual rarities – from club members and from the Ford Classic Car collection, Ford conveys the fascination of the anniversary up close.
The Capri show is surrounded by other Ford classics, and more modern descendants.
Opel with club support
Like last year, a German Opel association holding up the flag of Adam Opel AG at the Techno-Classica. Under the theme “Caravans of the 1960s and 1970s” Opel enthusiasts presented an Opel Rekord C Caravan, a Kadett B Caravan and an Opel Blitz fire engine crew van.
The highlight of the stage was an Opel Diplomat 2.8 E, that car was considered lost between the end of 1990 and 2016. At the Alt-Opel stand, the Vogt Diplomat was presented to the public for the first time after a thorough restoration.
50th anniversary of Melkus, the supercar of the eastern bloc
If you are not comfy with the flamboyant racing technologies of the eastern bloc, and feeling completely lost with the Melkus brand, here is your chance to catch up with the Le Mans style race car powered by a two-stroke Wartburg engine.
Originally, the company was in operation from 1959 to 1986, with cars initially using two-stroke engines from Wartburgs and components came from Wartburgs and Trabants of that time.
There was also a road legal model, the Melkus RS 1000, and the company produced over 100 cars between 1959 and 1986. It was a high-end sports car looking thing with gullwing doors, yet powered by a mid-mounted Wartburg three-cylinder two-stroke engine, with tuning from the company to get the most (well anything…) out of its 992 cc (though the luckier ones had 1200 cc ).
The first MELKUS RS1000 was publicly presented 50 years ago. Thus the Melkus family (the son and grandson of the founder Heinz Melkus) and the enthusiasts of their cars (the MELKUS RS1000 Register as well as the EDWFC Wartburg Club) celebrated this birthday in an absolutely spectacular stage in Essen.
There were half a dozen race cars with various colours, specs, and technology. Unfortunately, I could not attend when Mr Melkus presented the cars exposed, it may have been a trip down memory lane.