Lovers of oldtimers in South Germany know it’s time to take their cars out of the depths of the garages where they’ve been hiding all winter when the Retro Classics show opens its gates at the beginning of March. A grand opening for the season of driving in style, no less: the organisers claim this is the greatest event of its kind in Europe.
Of course, Padova or Essen to name just a few are also hosting important classic car exhibitions, but perhaps what makes the Stuttgart show big is the number of visitators. This was confirmed by the representant of a well known Dutch classic car dealer when he confessed that Essen is perhaps better for business considering the number of cars sold, whereas the Stuttgarter venue is apparently better for publicity due to the big number of visitors. The quality of the cars on display is also top notch, varying from a century old pioneers to exquisite contemporary exotica like the LaFerrari or the Spyker I first saw here last year. As with other important motorshows there really is a lot to be seen, perhaps too much material and information for a single day of viewing. We are in Germany, right on Mercedes’ turf so it’s only right that the three pointed star gets the lion’s share of the expositional space, with an exclusive hall and official representation from their “Classic” branch. Porsche is also officially represented, in another hall along with a few owners clubs. The American car scene is very dynamic in the region, resulting in one of the biggest hangars being overfilled with testosterone from the array of muscle cars on display, reminding people from the old continent that 2 liters is a drink not an engine size. Having acknowledged that this is German territory and and there’s nothing to do about it it was a very pleasant surprise to see the number or Italian cars present and all the companies representing them. This year maybe even a bit more than in the previous editions, the whole even had a hint of Italy. Alfas could be seen everywhere at this year’s Retro Classics but particularly in a special hall reserved just for the Italians, fittingly called “Passione Italiana”. Special guests this year whose cars could also be admired were the Staguellini Museum and Collezione Panini, the later being known as the unofficial Maserati Museum. Visiting these collections in Italy is on my bucket list of automotive things to do, but it was nice nevertheless to get here a preview of some of their unique cars. One of these rather unique cars that couldn’t be seen elsewhere was also my personal highlight of the show, a rare Alfa Romeo 1900C Ghia-Aigle seen in the main atrium. Another most special Alfa available for sale during the event was an ex works Autodelta GTA 1300, driven by the only English man in the team of test pilots, Rhoody Harvey Baley. The asking price was around a quarter of a million, but then that’s like paying change money for the privilege of owning a piece of Italian automotive history. Wonderful gems in abundance, let’s make it clear: a beautiful 6C 2500 Freccia d’Oro was also looking for a new place to call home. The seller of this particular car advertised it as having details similar to the ones of the famous 6C seen in “The Godfather” movie. Nobody can ever say whatever happened to that car, perhaps not even Francis Ford Coppola, so I guess the fate of that car remains one of the greatest mysteries of the humankind. I couldn’t care less if the Moon landing was shot in a Hollywood studio, but in this life I have to know whether that 6C perished in the explosion along with the beautiful Apollonia. Larini’s unbeatable 155 was here in all its glory. Italian nobility too: Fabio Lamborghini was entertaining the audience from one of the stands speaking about the legacy of his uncle.
A pleasant surprise was to see an older acquaintance, Peter Eyring of Autohaus Eyring Gmbh. It was from him that I bought my second 156, a 2.0 JTS SW, exactly 10 years ago. It all went so well with that purchase that two other friends of mine ended up getting their cars from him. Back then he was telling me he was the only dealer selling exclusively Alfa Romeo in Germany. In the meantime he has broaden the field of his activity to older cars as well, but remained faithful to the brand. A stunning 2000 Spider by Touring in Madre Perla Bianco with red leather interior was standing out among his fine Italian cars. This was an exquisite car in perhaps better similar to factory conditions, at least for my non-expert eye. For getting a taste of the Dolce Vita cruising down the Amalfi Coast I can’t think of a more adequate 4 seater vehicle. It was very interesting to also see for the first time the products of the argentinian Pur Sang company. This venture is specialised in high fidelity replicas of pre war cars. A bit of a controversial subject, in Italy it’s even illegal to own or to drive such a car as the authorities go to great lengths to protect the image of the Italian brands. However orthodox it may not be, the quality of their work is to be appreciated. The famous car nut (dubbing as a tv presenter in his spare time) Jay Leno was so convinced of their craftsmanship that had them build 2 cars: a replica of the Bugatti 35 and one of the Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza . For the Stuttgart exhibition Pur Sang had on display an evocation of the 308 Monoposto and a copy of the legendary 8C 2300 Monza built (if I correctly understood from the gentleman at the stand) on an original chassis. The later is something I could appreciate more, saving the chassis by building a new body is always better in my opinion than having that chassis lost or cannibalised for parts. The merits of such cars are up for debate, some people would advocate that modern replicas of past glories can never have the inherent greatness of the originals, no matter how advanced the newer construction techniques may have became.
Retro Classics is not only about exclusive, out of reach for common mortals cars though. Many so called young timers are starting to get their deserved love and appreciation. The 164 was celebrated for its 30th anniversary proudly showing off the glorious V6 of the late Busso. Il Monstro as always a head turner. An inflation of Montreals in different colours, there must have been a dozen of them. A very rare ’80s GTV Turbodelta, one of Autodelta’s 400 homologation specials complete with the period rainbow strips also got my attention. The many classic Giulias and Duetto Spiders on display have had also success among the visitors, by Sunday when I visited the exposition most of the cars have been marked with a “SOLD” sign.
The Italian car brands generally and Alfa in particular are very much sought after in Germany. Whenever a classic Alfa Romeo was displayed it seemed to capture all the attention and to become the main attraction of the company promoting it. It’s nice to see how appreciated these cars are by the general public, even if that means that inevitably as interest goes up so will the prices. If you are looking to get your hands on a older Alfa, do it before it’s too late, do it before the prices will reach stratospheric levels. The real alchemy has been recently discovered: apparently some automobiles can metamorphose from lumps of iron into gold treasures. But just the ones that have soul!