A Concours To Die For: Masterpieces At Schloss Dyck
Photography by Máté Boér
The Masterpieces Concours d’Élégance looks like a garden party thrown by a count and his closest petrolhead friends, only a few visitors and guests invited. That’s not too far from the truth, except that the organizer of this gathering is not a count, but rather a group of enthusiasts who’ve put it together to support the charitable foundation of Dyck Castle, which is also home to the Classic Days event we’ve long been fans of as well. It is arguably the world’s most luxurious concours with location and exclusivity in support of that claim, and so much so that it’s principally a meeting of the collectors; visitor tickets are sold in limited numbers only in advance. We’re not here to celebrate exclusivity for the sake of it though, and the cars were, as usual, the reason to care.
The 4th edition was held on the last weekend of June, and for the first time it started with a rallye, the “Connoisseur-Tour” on Thursday. We joined the small pack of classic cars, some of them also concours participants along with a few others that joined the afternoon tour of a more leisurely variety. During the 160 kilometer-long trip, we visited Castle Lörsfeld and Castle Rurich, both of which were surrounded by carefully maintained parks and well-paved if narrow roads; among the list of ideal settings for a classic car event most would say.
The concours for the 65 preselected bunch started early on Friday morning after the owners drove their aptly named masterpieces to the Dyck Castle’s orangery-peninsula and the group of international experts began their judging. The event had a strong focus on well-preserved, possibly completely untouched cars, and there were many of those in the field to the delight of those who enjoy originality with a few scuffs of life rather than restored and erased history.
It would be hard to name a favorite or most significant car in the group, but both Alfa Romeo RLs made a big impression on me. The RL played a significant role in the brand’s history, as it was its first sporting model after WWI. The 1924 race car here was restored from a few remaining pieces which were found in a yard just waiting to be forgotten or scrapped. The other RL’s chassis was also produced in the same year, and the famous coachbuilder J. Farré finished the unique Coupé de Ville body on it in 1925 in Barcelona. This one-of-one Alfa lived most of its life on Mallorca, still wears its first numberplate, and has never been restored. Two years ago it won the award for the most original car at Concorso d´Eleganza Villa d´Este.
An other ex-Villa d’Este star, also born in Northern Italy and also a unique example, Count “Johnny” Lurani’s 1935 Nibbio I race car also showed up at Dyck Castle. It’s a 500cc Moto Guzzi-powered record car, which wears a Riva body. It broke a dozen of small displacement speed records in the ‘30s, and it was the first 500cc car that exceeded 100mph. It’s pure lunacy on those skinny tires, let alone to think at 100mph.
On the opposite side of the size spectrum, it’s always a treat to see a Bugatti T57, and on the peninsula stood six in a row. Each of them different with their own story to tell. Lucky visitors could hear the owners of the 1937 T57 Atalante passionately telling stories about their beloved car and its first owner, Marcel Doret, a famous French aviator. After Doret the beautiful coupé only had three owners, and looking at the condition of the leather and wood interior it seems all of them took good care of the car while they had it. Next to this one stood a T57 Atalanta SC, one of the 17 low-chassis coupés, and the only one with a supercharged engine. It wears a lovely bit of patina in places, stole the heart of the judges, and won the well-deserved Best of Show award.
The 1934 BMW KR 6 Kompressor-Rennwagen continued the line of the one-off cars. This is the only BMW race car powered with a supercharged engine, and it was rediscovered just about a year ago. The red car was delivered without a body to a young race driver Eugen Stösser, who finished it with a custom body and made changes to the engine; the power plant was a 1,186cc unit to start, but it was reduced to 1,098cc to fit into the 1.1-liter category. A Zoller supercharger was then mounted to the tiny straight-six, giving it an output of 75hp. After a few races and class victories, the second owner converted the BMW to a street car in 1937. This helped it to survive longer than a race car might, although it was forgotten soon afterwards until the current owner bought it in the US and rediscovered its extensive history. He also succeeded in purchasing a matching supercharger, which waits to be installed were it belongs on this special Bimmer.
A Fleetwood-bodied Mercedes-Benz is a rare sight, the 680 S arrived from Florida to amaze everyone with its polished steel hood, bronze windshield-frame, and alligator leather trim. Not that sophisticated of design compared to what we are used to from Stuttgart, rather it looks like a steampunk’s interpretation of a 1929 classic. Another great Benz was the Nürburg 500, the 1931 Geneva show car. Later in its long life the Nürburg served in Zürich as a firetruck, equipped with everything you need to put out a blaze: ladder, pump, and a trailer attached behind. Fortunately all the basic components remained untouched so it could be brought back to its original glory. The big Mercedes is not a trailer queen either; it was driven from Basel to Dyck Castle and won the special award of the Ladies Judges.
In the “Horsepowers Future” class, two Isderas stole the show from the BMW M1 and the RUF RTC. The Isdera Commendatore 112i was one of the top cars in Need for Speed 2 for those that grew up with games like that, and I have to admit it looks as good in person as it did on the screen so many years ago. Gullwing doors, mid-mounted six-liter V12, and a six-speed manual, a recipe for a supercar in 1993 that still stands up today. Its predecessor, the Imperator 108i is basically the Mercedes-Benz CW311 concept in street-legal form. The dark green example is a 1992 face-lifted model, fitted with a 6.0 V8 from Mercedes-Benz.
The colorful list of the participating cars, most of them from the high-end side of classic collections, shows what great groups organizers can bring together in such a short history, and we’re curious and excited for the continued evolution of Masterpieces. It’s not exactly a secret, but among the great concours events it plans to stay somewhat under the radar. Less crowds, but no skimping on the excellent cars. Not a bad recipe.