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2012 Techno Classica
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The Messe in Essen is one of the largest exhibition centres we have ever visited, yet it dozen-plus halls still provide too little space to house all of exhibits of the annual Techno Classica show. In stark contrast with the 'Essen Motor Show' held in the fall, which in recent years struggled to fill all the halls, the Techno Classica also manages to attract many of the major manufacturers. These usually divide their allocated space between cars from their own collections and those supplied by private collections and clubs. Much of the remaining space is shared by dealers, clubs and traders of all kinds of classic car related items, ranging from spare parts to clothing and books. Previously a set fixture on any enthusiast's calendar, the Techno Classica has seen a very serious rival pop up in recent years; the Stuttgart Retro Classics. Held during the same weekend and in the backyard of two of Germany's main manufacturers, this looked like a serious threat. Fortunately the manufacturers have more than enough interesting machines in their collection to spread over two shows and all of the major dealers once again picked the Techno Classica. We also ventured to Essen and worked our way through the packed halls to pick out the highlights that made it into our 140-shot gallery.

60 years of the Mercedes-Benz SL
Traditionally, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is one of the most popular cars during the Techno Classica. This year their presence was stronger still as Mercedes-Benz celebrated the 60th anniversary of the original 300 SL competition car. Already fitted with the legendary Gullwing doors, it brought Mercedes-Benz back into racing and took a debut victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The production version followed in 1954 and it remains one of the most iconic designs. So much so that Mercedes-Benz have patented the design, and on the morning of the opening day announced that, backed by a court order, they had destroyed a replica body. This news had not reached one of the dealers, who had brought a replica to Essen. It remains to be seen, however, how actively the German manufacturer will track down these replicas; perhaps they just wanted to put a marker down. In addition to the early SLs, Mercedes-Benz showed most of the subsequent generations including the recently introduced 'R231' model. Among them was also the SL 500 originally owned by Princess Diana. This was the first foreign car owned by a British Royal, and following public outcry, the dark-red roadster was soon after taking delivery returned to Germany.

The other manufacturers
Among the most impressive displays at this year's Techno Classica was the hall filled by the members of the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG). Porsche marked the 40th anniversary of the 911 Carrera RS 2.7 with a display that included the Targa Florio winning RSR and the spectacular Turbo version that was such an extreme development that it had to be raced in the prototype class. The centre of the hall was reserved for a selection from the 'Autostadt' museum in Wolfsburg. These not only included products from VAG subsidiaries but also design classics like the Cisitalia 202 and a lovely 1928 Franklin that was in an early stage of restoration. Other interesting machines on display in this hall ranged from an early Bugatti Type 23 Brescia to the Lamborghini Countach prototype. On the other side of the Messe, BMW marked the company's return to the popular DTM series by displaying several classic touring cars alongside the new M3 DTM. Other manufacturer celebrations included the 50th anniversary of the Volvo Amazon estate and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

Further highlights
Every year, event organiser SIHA also creates a very special display. This edition certainly was no exception as they managed to bring together nearly two dozen Pegaso Z102s. Represented were models clothed in-house but also many bodied by the likes of Touring and Saoutchick. This must certainly have been one of the biggest collections of Pegasos shown in one spot ever. In the same hall, RM Auctions provided a preview of the upcoming Monaco sale, which promises to be one of the best of the year. Ferraris featured strongly with a very early 166 SC, a lovely ex-Maranello Concessionaires 206 S and the unique 375 MM powered boat all shown on the Canadian company's stand. English dealer Hall & Hall brought one of the shows most unusual machines; a 1954 Ruggeri. Designed by a college professor, this mid-engined machine was built to the contemporary Grand Prix regulations and shared quite a few similarities with the Bugatti Type 251. Sadly, funds dried up before the car was completed and today only a rolling chassis with a spare engine exists. Across the isle Peter Schmitz displayed the equally unusual 'Rohr 8' from 1932. Shown at the 1933 shows in Berlin, Paris and Geneva, the car was engineered by Ferdinand Porsche and sports a remarkable streamlined body. It is in the only running example in existence.

Final thoughts
Even more than in recent years, many of the private exhibitors excelled in filling every square inch of floor space, creating what can only be described as parking lots instead of interesting displays. Fortunately there were still enough manufacturers and traders, who did understand that a bit of space is required to fully appreciate the cars shown. Considering the added competition from the Stuttgart Retro Classics, the Techno Classica could certainly benefit from a slightly better balance between quantity and quality. There were, nevertheless, still enough interesting and unusual cars on display to make this year's edition well worth the visit.

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Report by Wouter Melissen and images by Wouter Melissen and Pieter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com