The annual Techno Classica show in Essen is the world's largest trade fair for classic cars and accessories. Each year the vast Messe Essen exhibition centre is filled to capacity; there are actually even cars on display on the parking lots surrounding the dozen halls. The 2010 edition featured 1,100 exhibitors from over 30 countries. These ranged from major manufacturers to specialists in obscure parts like trafficators. Over a four-day period a staggering 170,000 visitors flocked to the German city. We spent an afternoon at the Messe Essen with this 100-shot gallery
as the result.
Much of the first hall was filled by Mercedes-Benz and associated dealers and clubs. The German manufacturer used the occasion to celebrate 100 years of Mercedes(-Benz) sports cars. The centre piece of the vast display was the company's latest sports car, the SLS AMG. It was surrounded by an impressive circle of older examples that included a very rare SSK, a 300 SL 'Gullwing' and a CLK-GTR road car. In addition to the production sports cars, Mercedes-Benz also brought several concept cars, like the C111 built in 1969 and fitted with a rotary engine and the C112 of 1991 vintage, which was the company's first serious attempt to build a supercar.
At the other end of the complex BMW and MINI were also very well represented. The two manufacturers marked the introduction of the latest generation 5-Series and Clubman respectively with several past models. The main theme was the 70th anniversary of the win in the 1940 Brescia Grand Prix, which replaced the Mille Miglia that year. The victorious 328 MM Touring Berlinetta and the fifth placed 328 MM Roadster were proudly displayed. In addition BMW brought a 'regular' 328 and a perfect replica of the legendary 'Buegelfalte' (Trouser Crease) roadster that had won its class in the Mille Miglia a few years earlier. Our eye was also firmly caught by the brightly liveried 320 Turbo Group 5 car, which used in the 1979 season.
Volkswagen and its subsidiaries also brought enough cars to fill a whole hall. Audi marked the 30th anniversary of the 'quattro' with a display of road, racing and rally cars that had successfully employed the all-wheel drive system. Across the isle there was a very interesting display of early Volkswagen Beetles and Porsche 356s with custom coachwork. Proudly featured on turntables were a Coupe and Cabriolet version of the very rare Volkswagen based Rometsch Beeskow. Bugatti brought a Veyron and a Type 57 S Atalante in the same black and yellow colour scheme as well as a bright yellow EB 110 SS.
Celebrating the company's centenary, Alfa Romeo brought some of the finest machines from their 'Museo Storico' to Techno Classica. Tucked away in the corner were two examples of the 1951 Formula 1 World Championship winning 159 'Alfettas'. One was fully clothed while the other had all panels removed to enable the visitors to really appreciate the intricate and complicated design that had its origins nearly 15 years before the cars last won a race. Also present was one of the hugely sophisticated 155 DTM cars that had so beautifully outrun the German manufacturers in their national championship.
Meanwhile at the dealers
The majority of the 100,000 square metres (1,076,391 square feet) was reserved for second hand car dealers. What they had on offer ranged from mere wrecks to pristine classics and hugely sophisticated Formula 1 cars. Some decided to make the most of their allocated space by squeezing as much cars on the stands as possible, while others opted for quality over quantity.
Swiss broker Lukas Huni certainly falls in that latter category with his tasteful display of cars. Quite a few of these would have been familiar to those that had also visited the Retromobile show in Paris back in January. Among the 'newcomers' was an immaculate Ferrari 250 GT 'Tour de France' that had been delivered new to noted Hollywood film director John Sturgis. In the silver Ferrari he proved as capable behind the wheel as he was behind the camera, scoring numerous victories in 1958 and 1959 at legendary tracks like Laguna Seca and Road America.
For their first appearance at the show, British restorers and traders Hall & Hall pulled out all the stops. Actually we would have been disappointed if they had not. Rightfully placed on a slight pedestal was 'Sokol' Grand Prix car built by former Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz engineers for the son of Joseph Stalin immediately after the War. The car has been often wrongly dubbed the Auto Union E-Type but especially the engine and rear suspension showed clear Mercedes-Benz input. What also does not help is the 'Auto Union' label on the nose, which the Hall & Hall people had not had time for to remove. Very rare Formula 1 cars were also prominently displayed and included the unique BRM P115 'H16', a Lotus 33 Climax and the 'tea-tray' March 711 Cosworth.
Although strictly speaking not a dealer, RM Auctions also displayed their wares at Techno Classica. Among them were several of the most exciting lots to be sold at the upcoming Monaco sale. The star attraction was the very same 328 'Buegelfalte' Roadster, which BMW had made an exact replica of. With an estimate of 5-7 million euro, it is the most highly valued car in the auction.
Further cars of note lined up the dealer jungle were the Benetton B188 Ford, Matra MS120C and Porsche 911 GT1 all brought by newly established company Art & Revs 'The Fine Automobiles Gallery'. American dealer Hyman brought what we presume is a very late Duesenberg but unfortunately no further information was available on the stand. The same hall also housed the Movendi stand, which sported two beautiful OSCAs; an MT4 that came 10th in the 1954 Mille Miglia and a later Zagato bodied 1600 GT.
There were years that the Techno Classica was all quantity at the expense of the quality. That certainly was not the case in 2010. While the much smaller Retromobile show often provides something special around every corner, this year's Techno Classica had at least a handful of spectacular cars in every hall. This was due in part to the remarkably strong manufacturer presence and some very impressive dealer displays. Although it requires sturdy walking shoes, the Techno Classica is well worth the visit.