GALLERY: Icons And Oddballs From Around The World Congregated At Retro Classics In Stuttgart
Photography by Máté Boér
Retro Classics Stuttgart offered an impressive variety of classic cars over its 140,000 square meters of space divided into nine massive halls. I spent two full days wandering around the endless rows of cars—according to my phone I covered 27 kilometers on foot over the weekend, and it still wasn’t enough to see everything in full detail.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary Porsche 917, and the 10th birthday of the Porsche Museum. To celebrate these important jubilees, Porsche occupied a corner in the main hall and presented a preview of the forthcoming “Colours of Speed—50 Years of the 917” exhibition. Chassis 917-001 was on display in the same condition as it debuted at the 1969 Geneva Motor Show, this time joined by a 917-10 and a 910/8 “Bergspyder.” After hiding in the factory storage for over half a century, the ’67 and ’68 European Hill Climb Champion 910/8 Bergspyder came to light again in a well-preserved condition, proud of its patina.
A lovely section of the Porsche stand showed a slice of the museum archives, showcasing original documents from the sixties, old scale models built for wind tunnel testing, and overalls and helmets from recent World Endurance Championship seasons. A 1970 works test car, a short-tailed 917K version, appeared in the other corner of the same hall and it was offered for sale by Arthur Bechtel, a well-known Mercedes-Benz specialist, who also had a W109 SEL 6.8 AMG “Rote Sau” replica in his portfolio.
Mercedes itself brought along three significant race cars from its history in the spotlight, among them the Streamlined W196 R. The shape of this particularly special Silver Arrow is still more interesting than a modern supercar full of carbon canards. As for originality, the beautiful lines of this legendary Mercedes race car were partially restored by the Drescher Karosseriebau, a small, but significant workshop hiding out in the Black Forest. Folks from Drescher were also present in Stuttgart, and asked the Mercedes Museum to let them show the 1937 Typ 320 “Autobahnkurier” on their stage, seeing as the wooden-framed car was completely rebuilt by them.
Porsche and Merc weren’t the only Germans to have a strong presence in Stuttgart, as BMW didn’t come empty handed. The Bavarian prewar coupés looked magnificent, the one-of-two 1937 328 “Fachsenfeld” Coupé in blue, and the 1939 328 Touring Coupé in white represented BMW’s first venture into streamlining.
But there were much more than just the factory displays at Retro Classics, and for the rest of this article I’ve collected a few of my favorite cars to touch on. Right away I fell in love with one of the latest purchases of the Mazda Classic Museum: a 1969 Mazda Porter Cab. The kei truck is powered by a 360cc two-stroke engine. Staying on the Japanese line, Kulturschock and JDM Classics brought along an AE86 Levine, a Nissan Sunny GTI-R, a Mitsubishi Sapporo, and a Hakosuka to Stuttgart—all rare sights on this part of the globe.
Not far from the Mazda, another special transporter gained attention, painted in the striking blue and yellow colors of Lufthansa was a very rare Goliath GV 800A waiting for its next owner. According to the paper clipped behind its wiper, there are only two of these left. Its entire roof is covered in soft vinyl, and the Goliath’s smiling front recalls the DKW Schnellaster, a small van produced between 1949 and 1962, a few examples of which were present too.
I also saw a US-market Fiat 500 for the first time in person, and I loved how it looked with its prominent headlamps shown above to comply with US regulations. These weird export models have become collectible items in recent years—grass is always greener, right?
Italian blood runs in the veins of the red O.M. Tipo 469 S too, according to its label this example is the only running four-cylinder O.M. in the world. It would be a solid choice for Mille Miglia participation, since the brand’s later model, a Tipo 665 Superba, won the first event in 1927—the Tipo 469 S wore a few participation stickers too.
The door setup on the Lancia Appia pictured above is always a lovely sight, with the front doors opening in the usual way and the rears opening suicide-style without a central pillar—a rather luxurious solution for a small limousine like this.
The Saab 96 de Luxe was the Swedish manufacturer’s third model and the last one to have a round nose, a signature of the airplane engineering roots of the company. This lovely 1960 example has a 38bhp three-cylinder two-stroke paired with a three-speed gearbox with a freewheel, and quirky but well-engineered machines like this remind me that the world is a little less off without Saab in it.
Gallery Aaldering offered around thirty beautiful machines for purchase, among them an Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 SS and a 6C 1750 GT Compressore, a Ferrari F40 “Neuser Lightweight” prepared for racing by Michelotto, just to name a few stars. Hiding between those desirable Italians, a slightly dingy blue thing caught my attention: a 1954 Panhard X86 Dolomites Pichon & Parat, which took part in that year’s Tour de France. A real motorsport delicacy because Pichon & Parat only converted a few Panhard Dyna Juniors for racing.
I have a sweet spot for NSUs since two of my friends are big enthusiasts of the defunct brand, and I quite often co-drive in a 1000C. The TT, a TTS and a Wankel-powered Spider were all present in Stuttgart, but I found the most interesting NSU-related machine among the motorcycles, a Münch4 1200 TTS. Its name reveals the trick: this mammoth wears the NSU TTS’s four-cylinder 100hp engine under the saddle. Roughly 500 pieces were hand assembled before production stopped.
The most surprising item in the auction hall was the Bell Aurens Longnose V8. This hotrod is based on a 1967 Series III Land Rover, and under the extended hood a 4.6L V8 powers is crazy thing, which is already registered in Germany and has a valid technical approval if you’re tempted.
For those who got in the mood to hunt for treasures at a huge event like this the good news is that an even bigger expo, Techno Classica, will open its gates in Essen in the middle of April. It is surprising to have two such grandiose classic car shows within six weeks in Germany, but I don’t think anyone will be complaining about the extra serving.