Retro Classics Cologne Ended Yesterday: Here’s What You Missed
Photography by Laura Kukuk
This past weekend, Retro Classics came to the city of Cologne for the first time. For years the organizers behind the show have been hosting some of the largest and highest-quality vintage car displays in Europe. Perhaps fitting for the name, the latest Retro Classics exhibition brought more than 1,500 vehicles together in the city where the world’s first auto engine factory was located.
It is a city rooted in the early and formative years of the automobile, and some of its greatest innovators have done their work in this city, icons like Wilhelm Maybach, Ettore Bugatti, and Nicolaus August Otto. Retro Classics is a celebration of those early pioneers of road and race cars, but the event is a celebration of just about every definable idea of what a classic car is—the beginning to the modern classics, Unimogs parked next to Gullwings, Kremer K3s sharing atmosphere with 330 Americas.
The indoor grid of halls positively teemed with history, from the motorsport icons to the undiscovered oddballs that live in the shadows of those giants—I immediately had the sense that one could have divvied up the group here into quite a few standalone shows, and in a way that’s what was happening here with the different sections and thoughtful grouping of Retro Classics’ exhibitors.
One such section, and one of the highlights of my weekend in Cologne, was the tour through the city’s automotive history, with a special focus on Michael Schumacher in its more modern era. The most notable event in terms of historical significance though occurred all the way back in the early 1860s when the revolutionary Otto engine—mentioned above, and known as the combustion engine today—was invented by Nicolaus August Otto in Cologne.
Then, right before 19th century became the 20th, manufacturer Horch (one of the four rings of Auto Union) called Cologne its home in 1899. Ford also had a significant presence, and has conducted a host of racing and other automotive operations in this city. They shared one of the biggest stands at the show, and displayed everything from the Capri to Fiesta. To me, the most special part of this exhibition is the “private collection” of Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher. This included his trophies, personal remembrances, a Kart from his early childhood, and the Benetton-Ford B194 which led to his first world championship in 1994.
There was plenty more to hold my attention though, and even though it ran for three days I am sure that Retro Classics had far more than a single weekend’s worth of things to see.
For a city with a rich and integral role in the ascent of the automobile, the show is a welcome continuation of Cologne’s connection to cars. For the first time happening, sure, there are always things that can be improved, but all in all it was a spectacular show; here are just a few of my favorites from the past few days.