A series of anniversary celebrations from the home manufacturers were the biggest draw on day one of the 30th Techno-Classica Essen yesterday.
Visitors to this vast German show were wowed by tributes to 40 years of the BMW M1 – with an early road car and Jim Beam-sponsored Procar – not to mention 50 years of the seminal E3 saloon and E9 coupé, the latter marked by a trio of CSi, CSL and mighty ex-Hans Stuck racer.
There were birthday parties going on across the event, from 20 years of the Audi TT to 50 of the Audi 100, 60 of the NSU Prinz and 30 Years of the VW California.
The campers formed a tiny part of a hugely impressive Volkswagen hall, with its wide portfolio of brands putting on a fascinating display.
The group’s Autostadt display was celebrating alternative power, from electric VW Transporter and DKW Schnellaster van – not to mention the 36V 1931 Bugatti Type 56 – via a fuel cell Audi A2 to a 1919 Stanley Steamer 735B and an early VW Golf diesel.
But it was lowly Skoda that impressed the most, with a fascinating selection of off-roaders to prove the heritage behind its freshly minted Kodiaq and Karoq SUVs.
Alongside the 1975 Buggy – one of five built – and 2005 Yeti cabrio prototype were a 1966-’72 Trekka 1200, which looked for all the world like a baby Land-Rover, and Skoda’s answer to the Austin Champ, a late-’40s 1101 Tudor.
Not to be outdone, parent group Volkswagen displayed a set of Karmann convertible prototypes – from Type 3 and Type 34 Karmann-Ghia to 411, Jetta and Corrado – plus an amazing Pike’s Peak Golf Mk2.
The twin-engined, 653PS monster was built for Klaus-Joachim ‘Jochi’ Kleint and could run via front-, rear- or all-wheel drive.
As ever, the scale of Techno-Classica had to be seen to be believed, with more than 1250 exhibitors and nearly 3000 cars to take in.
As you might expect, there were plenty of fascinating rarities to be found, too. Volvo was celebrating the 1800 series, with a genuine The Saint car, a super-rare Volvoville convertible and the Jan Wilsgaard-styled, Coggiola-built 1968 1800ES sports-estate prototype nicknamed ‘The Rocket’.
Commercial vehicles were a theme throughout the many halls, from a 1976 Volvo Laplander via Tempo Matador to a fantastic early open-top Unimog from Unimog Veteranen Club.
There was a younger cousin in the main Mercedes hall, too, but it was outshone by both an exploded 300SL and a trio of World Champions: the ex-Rudi Caracciola W154, Mika Hakkinen’s MP4-13 and the ex-Lewis Hamilton F1 W05.
Despite all of those, the C&SC team’s favourite Benz was a 1981 W126 500SEL that was converted into a very neat ‘Kombi’ estate car in Japan during the early ’80s.
Le Mans was celebrated by the Ascott Collection, which brought along the wild Howmet turbine car, and the show organizer SIHA’s own breathtaking Le Mans Legends display.
Another fascinating pair of racers was to be found with Christophe Pund’s Galerie des Damiers.
“I found the 1958 car at Beaulieu in 2006 and at first I thought – or dreamed! – it was a Lotus 12,” said Pund, “but Doug Nye identified it as a Smith-Climax, and I’ve since discovered that it was driven in period by Alan Stacey.
"Then I picked up the 1957 car recently, which was campaigned at Goodwood in period. I’ve got the entire Smith collection – Mr and Mrs Smith!”
The strongest British contingent came from Jaguar Land Rover Classic, which displayed the ‘Greatest Hits’ modified XJ6 built for Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain, and more interesting for purists was the last-ever ‘lights behind the grille’ S1 Landie – yours for €100,000!
Sadly, the show dates clashing with Retro Classics Stuttgart meant a depleted clubs turnout, but there were still plenty of gems to be found.
We particularly loved the brilliant tableau of a VW 411 and 412 getting married – complete with bog-roll wedding cake – to mark the model’s 50th birthday.
There was also plenty of attention for the Panther Car Club’s bizarre Brexit tableau, with Boris Johnson in a Rio, Angela Merkel in a Lima and both Trump and May watching on.
There were plenty of classic caravans, too, most notably with IFA Kollectiv Rheinland which brought along a Barkas camper, a Trabant Tramp, plus a Trabant Universal with roof-tent and matching caravan.
Opposite was a Wartbug club display, but it was upstaged by the single car from the Melkus RS1000 Register – a Wartburg-based, gullwing-doored 1970 sports car with three-cylinder, two-stroke Wartburg power.
Tucked away among the extensive set of Citroëns was a fabulous Yacco Oils-sponsored Traction that, having started life as an 11BL, was one of four converted into a dirt-track racer during the 1960s. It features a standard engine, but a stripped and chopped body plus seats from an Allouette helicopter!
As ever, some of the prices among the almost overwhelming dealer halls were breathtaking, but there were some real bargains to be found in the car corrals and among the strong selection in the Coys auction.
Photographs: James Mann