Events : Report – Techno-Classica Essen 2017

Europe’s biggest classic car show, the Techno-Classica in Essen has opened its doors – by closing time on Sunday, over 200,000 visitors are expected to have seen the vast display of clubs, car manufacturers and trade stalls.

This year’s special exhibition will celebrate the 1957 Grand Prix of Monaco showing a selection of race cars taking part – including the winning Maserati 250F from Juan-Manuel Fangio and the Vanwell VW5 from Tony Brooks, which finished second.

Juan-Manuel Fangio’s Maserati 250F

In addition the visitors of the Techno-Classica Essen can take a look back to the future: about 120 years ago, the automobile was at a crossroads – exactly as today. Which kind of drive will carry through: internal combustion-engine or electric motor?

In a special exhibition, the classic world fair recalls a most extensive forgotten fact: already, in the years 1900 up to 1920, there were an astonishing number of cars with electric motors – just as from the year 1912 the petrol engine began to carry through finally in the car manufacturing after the invention of the electric starter. Previously the petrol cars had to be cranked up by hand with great exertion.

The 1915 Detroit Electric

The first battery-electric driven car in the world, an Ayrton & Perry from 1882, will be on display as will a Detroit Electric from 1915, a Stanley Steamer steam-car from 1919 and a Mercedes Simplex from 1903 – this illustrates impressively the state of technology of different driving mechanisms in the automobile early times.

As the industry is currently moving into design and manufacture of electric cars with force, the heritage departments remember the odd electric car from the manufacturers past. Volkswagen, for example, shows two versions of historic electric Golfs, a Mk1 (see below) and a Mk3.

Comparing these with the Detroit Electric show that there was hardly any development in the electric car between the early days and the 90s, when lead-acid batteries were still the default choice. A new Opel Ampera on display close to the 102 years old ancestor does show however, that the development of the electric car has finally gained speed.

In addition car manufacturers and over 220 car clubs will have set up their often elaborate displays, making the visit worthwhile for those not on the hunt for tools, spares are a new classic to fill the gap in the garage.

A first look around the exhibition shows the amazing variety of this event. Granted, there are still plenty of various Porsche 911 models on sale, but seemingly less dominating compared to recent years. Judging our quick first glance, prices are still on the rise, but slower than before.

There is also a very distinct lack of the classic British roadster (E-type and club displays apart), probably proving our impression that this type of car is falling out of favour with European customers.

Some cars are repeatedly shown, so obviously have not sold over the past year, including a factory new (80km) Mini Moke offered for €30,000.

AROnline will visit the show and update with pictures and special finds over the next few days.

Alexander Boucke


  1. In the mid-Eightes I visited the Ibbenbüren museum when the manager was driving around in the 1908 Detroit Electric car from the exhibition.
    He told me that the museum had been rented by some automotive manufacturer association to hold a congress there. The topic was the future of the electric car. Remember that this was the time when electric cars you could buy were a BMW Three or a Golf with half a ton of normal starter batteries as an energy source.
    The organisers of this congress forced the museum to remove the Detroit Electric from its exhibition for the duration of the congress, as otherwise the participants could have seen that between this old car and the then new ones there was absolutely no progess related to the electric components.

    He took me on a drive in this old car. Except that commanding a car by two horizontal wooden push-pull levers took some getting used to, this old banger was astonishingly modern. Completely silent and with impressive acceleration from standstill it left a permanent impression.

    • Very true – on show there is also a CityGolf (an electric Mk3), the development from the Detroit Electric until the 90s more or less was restricted to putting the same drive train into a more modern shell.

  2. Just about every car on show here is very interesting, particularly to me, the Granada MK2, Volvo 145 Estate (similar to a 240 I used to drive) and the NSU Ro80. Am I right in thinking Pic 1 is a VW K70? I thought it came out in the early 70s?

  3. Picture 1 is a VW Brasilia, a Brasilian design based on the platform of the Beetle. The K70 is very much like a more angular version of the Ro80. Hard to believe the Ro80 has it’s 50th anniversary!

    • Thanks for this info Alexander. I had never heard of the Brasilia. Regards the NSU Ro80, I still have a Dinky model of one in metallic red. My Father once owned a Mazda RX4 which was also rotary engined. Was a lovely car.

  4. Until seeing pic 3 , I had never before noticed the similarity in shape between the Tatra and the Jowett Javelin : even the doors look similar

      • How very interesting. Might this be the world’s first mid-engined car ? Or was the Burney a similar layout ?

        • The Skoda Dynamic, actually only a prototype with 4 being made. But lots of interesting ideas, e.g. having the fuel tank located in the centre tube of the frame. And visually a very appealing, luxurious car.

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