Nearly two weeks have passed since the doors to Europe’s most important classic car show closed, so it’s time to look back after the shock about the prices asked for some cars has settled somewhat. The weather was splendid, the number of show goers was very high at about 190,000 and there have been some truely amazing cars on display. But was it top or flop?
Words and photography: Alexander Boucke
After the show closed and we returned from our last visit to Essen it felt as if we desperately needed a break from running our eyes along rows and rows of classic cars – it feels like trying to see the complete collection of the British Museum in a single day. Yet we felt that there was something lacking. For the avid Porsche 911 shopper the show may have been heaven, choice was seriously larger than trying every combination on Porsche’s web configurator for a new one – at similar prices, to start with. On the other hand this highlights the current situation in the classic car market: the 911 is not a rare car and supply is really generous, except some special versions. Is it a sign of a bubble appearing when prices for such common objects explode? We will see next year I suppose. We can, though, see the reasons for dealers rolling out row after row of Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, E-types and VW T1 buses at the moment.
The show was for many years a place where dealers would try out how far they could reach with prices and you can, of course, never be sure how much of the asking price was actually paid on every sold car. But this year it was taken to the extreme by some. There was, for example, a barn find Beetle from Sweden, likely stored in the barn in the late 1960s due to wear, rust and plenty of dents. The price shown varied between €24,000 and €39,000 on different days of the show. We will not delve into prices more deeply, apart from mentioning a rather nice XJ40 shaped Daimler Double Six from Switzerland, looking rather good value at about €12,000 showing the fully-stamped service history on the passenger seat.
In the past Essen always offered a good selection of interesting, useable and affordable classics, at least in the outside areas, but these were mostly lacking this year. There were, of course, the odd 2CV, Mini, Beetle, Mercedes /8 Diesel or Opel for sale, but these really needed searching. The spare parts, automobilia and tools market looked good, mostly high quality, and certainly offered something for everyone.
Over to the brighter aspects of the show, and there were plenty. The quieter, early days are great to try and spot special cars across the show, and we were not disappointed. How often do you see a (the) Maserati Boomerang for sale? That brought back memories of playing Top Trumps or looking through the newest Matchbox brochure in the early 1970s. Also on offer and sold rather quickly was a one off Pininfarina Lancia Gamma estate, a very handsome design a couple of decades before the time of crossover cars. This would have made a nice contemporary alternative to the Lynx Eventer based on the XJ-S. Another stand did show a cool selection of Italian beach cars, including a fantastic Innocenti Mini Mare.
As in the past, the manufacturers created great displays showcasing current anniversaries. Jaguar Land Rover exhibited the first production Range Rover along an early XJS and a 1935 SS1 Closed Coupé to celebrate Jaguar’s 80th anniversary. Mercedes-Benz had a very impressive display of aerodynamic achievements showing – amongst others – the Diesel engined C111-III, Rudolf Carraciola’s speed record car from 1936 and a special-bodied 540K from 1938 with an extremely low drag coefficient of only 0.36. A small sports car was in the centre of the stage at Opel: the Opel GT, GM Europe’s baby Corvette. Interestingly, Audi chose to ignore the 50th anniversary of the brand.
However, as always, the best part of the show was the hall containing the club stands. Compared to the last year’s the clubs were given less space and we could here a few moans from the clubs feeling pushed aside somewhat. But this did not deter them from investing endless hours into themed displays. And yes, while we have already seen more than one attempt to recreate an Airfix-kit on a show stand, the Fiat 500 recreation of a Tamiya kit was the best so far. For us with BL-blood in their veins the small stand of the Mini Register Germany contained two little gems: an Innocenti Mini Cooper 1300 next to an even more rare Authi Mini 1275GT.
And for those that did not know about Volkswagen’s most tasteful product, VW offered their own Curry Wurst again this year. In production unaltered since 1973 this is well worth a little queuing before heading home!
Special cars and manufacturers:
- Concepts and prototypes : The Wolseley 3 Litre prototype (1969-1970) - 5 February 2024
- Our Cars : Martin’s Austin Allegro – Back in the UK again - 12 May 2023
- Our Cars : Martin’s Austin Allegro – a very good service - 15 March 2023