Car Chases, Thousand-Horsepower Fireballs, And Motorsport Heroes Converge At Classic Days
Photography by Máté Boér
Joined by a few friends on my recent 750-mile trip to the Classic Days at Schloss Dyck, I tell them the time cooped up in the car is well worth what we’re about to see. After attending last year I loved it so much that I not only wanted to share it with everyone reading Petrolicious, I made it a point to fill up my free seats for the next drive to Germany.
I’ve only been twice now since the event began more than a decade ago, but the basic components of Classic Days seem to be stable—the various sections of the huge park around the castle served mostly the same function as last year anyways, and the choreography of the day’s action was also familiar, and the better for it. The unusually hot and dry weather was the only arguable downside to what was an otherwise ideal weekend among cars. Due to the heat and dryness the cars were covered by a thin layer of dust throughout most of the day, and maybe a little more Alter (the regional style of beer) was consumed than last year.
The Classic Days began on Friday morning with a check-in day, and this time is the best opportunity for photographs in my opinion; when the majority of participants are arriving but there isn’t a large crowd of spectators in the way yet, the best opportunity to take “clean” shots. On Friday the cars go through a brief technical inspection to receive the permission for the next two days’ demonstration runs on the temporary course set up for the event. This is a great opportunity to take a seat and watch the cars go by in succession while you learn a bit more about them from the hosts’ narration while the equipment inspections are taking place.
I particularly loved seeing Derek Bell’s Broadspeed Jaguar XJ-C 12 touring car rumbling down the alley and playing V12 music through its quad-exit side exhaust. It’s for sure among the best sounding V12 engines I’ve been around, and everyone else to for that matter, seeing as they all ran over to it whenever it was switched on. The widebody V12 Jags joined the European Championship for Touring Cars in 1976, and only four examples were built in two years by Broadspeed before British Leyland stopped the project because of its financial situation. Touring cars were one of this year’s themes, and 12 of them gathered on the track from different eras, from the 1974 Ford Capri RS to a modern Audi RS5 DTM car. Multiple-time DTM/Le Mans/Daytona/Nürburgring-champion Mike “Rocky” Rockenfeller signed the tarmac by his Audi’s rubber marks.
Another highlight of the 13th Classic Days were the American LaFrance cars, which look like normal cars from the early ages of the automobile, except one thing: they are one or two sizes larger than normally proportioned relatives. The American company that initially produced firetrucks decided to build passenger cars on shortened chassis either with the 9.4-liter four-cylinder engine, or with 14.5-liter six-cylinder. It was awesome to see more than a dozen of these giants together, and thanks to the PS.Speicher Museum. I got to experience a ride in their 1919 four-seater model.
Another unbelievable moment was joining the show of the movie cars, presented by Chrome Cars. They took out cars from Bullitt’s famous scene from their collection to recreate the chase between McQueen’s Mustang and the Charger. The Mustang is a recreation, but their black Charger R/T is apparently one of the two original cars used in the film. During my road trip in the US a few years ago, I’d visited many locations from the 1968 film in San Francisco, but never thought I’d see an original car all the way in Germany, nor riding in as the rear end let loose! A few weeks ago the recently publicized original Mustang from the film joined the Charger at the Goodwood Festival of Speed for an even more accurate throwback.
For the first time ever, Brooklands’ holy grail, the 1933 Napier-Railton record car was brought to and fired up at a German classic car event. It’s huge, bare aluminum body shone blindingly bright in the sunshine when the aero-engined racer was pushed out to start. The sound of the 24-litre engine was the type that you feel as much as you hear—this is the same car that’s seen flying along the banked corners of Brooklands in that famous photograph. Between 1933 and 1947 it achieved 47 speed records in Monthléry, Bonneville, and Brooklands.
Next to the Napier-Railton stood two similar looking machines from the collection of Bentley Boy Chris Williams, otherwise known as the guy who built the black, 42-liter V12 Packard-Bentley “Mavis” on a 1930 Bentley chassis using a boat engine. This crazy “car” delivers 1,495 horsepower and 2,700Nm of torque to its rear wheels, and it’s not advised to be close to it when comes alive unless you want to be cooked on an open flame.
Great German speed pioneers from the same era as the Napier-Railton were racing drivers Hans Stuck and Bernd Rosemeyer. Their spirit were recalled at Classic Days by the Auto Union Grand Prix Type C race car, and the Horch 853 Stromlinien Coupé, which stood in the concours section of the event. This car was built to Rosemeyer’s specifications in 1937 by the coachbuilder Erdmann & Rossi. He later named his beautiful, one-off coupé Manuela.
Stuck’s son, Hans-Joachim, was one of the stars on the guest list and drove the cars of the Jägermeister Porsche collection with his “classmates” Walter Röhrl, Klaus Ludwig, and so on. Seeing such great drivers behind the wheel of their old friends is always a treat. The orange-colored Porsches arrived from the ’72 Stagpower collection, which aims to have the most important Jägermeister cars together. A collection to keep an eye on, in other words.
The Italian carmakers were very well represented too of course, with Scuderia Bizzarrini arriving with a period-correct transporter, three race cars, and a service van. On the opposite side of the paddock Alfa Romeo and Fiat showed up with interesting and important cars with the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 TT 12 as the king among them. The original, “Dijon 1000 km” winning car met its real cowboy, the always funny and personable Arturo Merzario, who wasn’t afraid to push the pedal down in the car in which he became world champion in 1975.
For me these were the highlights of the 2018 Classic Days, but there would be so many more to say. This is the most insane garden party I’ve been to, and while maybe not the biggest classic car event out there, it has the essential elements and then some. With the attention to the smallest details, the team behind this great and exceptionally well-organized event creates a wonderland for us who simply have to show up. It’s a special place where historic campers share space with some of the most significant cars in history. I look at it as I looked at my model railroad layout as a child, a piece of the world created in a bubble away from the rest of it.