A stunning array of coachbuilt masterpieces from the collection of Salius Karosas provided a breathtaking centrepiece for this year’s Retro Classics Stuttgart, with an incredible 55 cars from the Lithuanian businessman’s hoard making the journey to Germany.
Among the remarkable machines to grace the enormous stand was a 1933 Mercedes-Benz 380 Special Roadster – a regular at concours events throughout 2017 – and a beautiful Erdmann & Rossi-bodied 1938 Bentley 4 ½ Litre Coupé Cabriolet, which stood out from the more sober cars thanks to lustrous blue paintwork.
Joining the Erdmann & Rossi collection were more than a dozen Soviet-era vehicles including a brace of Chaikas, threatening jet-black ZIL limousines and an imposing 1941 ZIS 102 A that could have come straight from Detroit – or perhaps Auburn – were it not for the fine detail that included a hammer and sickle motif set into the front of the grille.
A 1934 Mercedes-Benz 500 Nürburg stood in contrast to the restored classics on the stand thanks to being presented in as-found condition.
Remarkably, both hood and interior seemed in decent shape, though there is little doubt it too will be fully restored in time.
Also garnering plenty of attention was a mammoth 1930 Minerva AKS-2. The fearsome looking vehicle is powered by a 27-litre Liberty aero engine and is capable of a top speed of nearly 150mph.
Karosas’ collection is delightfully diverse, and among the Erdman & Rossi-bodied rarities and Kremlin cars were nestled a 1957 Rometsch Beeskow Volkswagen and pint-size Adler Junior Sport.
As ever, German manufacturers had a strong presence at Retro Classics despite a date clash with the Techno-Classica (which is promised not to happen next year).
Porsche led the charge, with several significant models from its museum including a mint 356 Speedster and Rothmans-liveried 961 – the first all-wheel drive car to finish Le Mans.
BMW was also in a celebratory mood, marking the 40th anniversary of its futuristic M1 with a fine array of roadgoing examples complemented by three competition models, which proved the stars of the stand.
They included a 1979 racer from the Procar series and the firm’s 1980 Le Mans entry, the fabulously liveried Group 4 machine of Dieter Quester, Didier Pironi and Marcel Mignot, which was covered nose to tail in a map of France.
Both manufacturers enjoyed strong club support, with the 16-car mock grid effort from the German Porsche clubs particularly impressive.
Everything from 904 Carrera GT through to later 924 Carrera GT was present, but perhaps the biggest draw was the Paris-Dakar 953.
The much-anticipated Giants of the Fields display lived up to expectations, with clubs and museums presenting a mind-boggling array of agricultural equipment that dwarfed everything in sight.
A colossal 1909 Fowler-Pluglokomobile Type AA4 (right) cast a long shadow over admiring visitors. The Leeds-built tractor was rated at around 170bhp and rather than driving up and down fields was positioned at the end to draw a plough through the soil via an under-slung winch.
Larger still was a 1973 Schlüter Profigigant, weighing in at more than 20 tonnes and powered by a c650bhp 12.5-litre engine. We dread to think how much a new set of – eight! – boots might cost.
Local Capri clubs rarely disappoint, and true to form produced a strong display of cars that appeared to sit in a bed of flowers. They included 1983 2.8i, Capri 3.0S and a Mk1 XLR, which appeared to be nearing the end of a full restoration.
The Alfa Club wowed with an 18-metre plus 1966 Fiat 643 N1 car transporter that had been fully restored and dominated the Hall 7. To top it off, the upper rack sported a stunning Zagato pair of Giulia TZ and Junior Z.
The ever-popular outdoor piazza was once again turned over to sellers, who were able to park their cars free of charge – as long as they were for sale.
Freezing conditions didn’t deter the crowds, who braved swirling winds and snow throughout the weekend. As with the indoor show, the vehicles were incredibly diverse, with a strong US presence – a hangover from American GIs, who brought their cars to Germany in the post-war years.
Plenty of cars were offered for sale inside, too, and prices seemed a touch more realistic than in previous years – though we did spot a 1997 BMW M3 cabriolet with 110,000km on the clock and a paint-chipped bonnet advertised for a dizzying €29,500.
More eye-catching was a Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’ and Roadster pair from HK Engineering, both of which were offered in original condition and in matching colour schemes of cream over burgundy.
The open-topped car was offered for €1,425,000, while the earlier tin top was €1,250,000.
Also matching nicely was a set of Porsche 914-6s. The red 914-6 GT was an eye-watering €210,000, while the other car, also from 1970, finished in Ravenna Green and boasting a non-standard 3.3-litre turbocharged engine, was priced at €150,000.
Though the majority of the cars on display were factory original, local group Kulturschock added some variety with a selection of heavily modified classics with barely room for a fag paper between sill and road surface.
A 1974 Trabant 601 fitted with Ronal Turbo alloys sat alongside Beetle and Golf.
Local tuning firm Irmscher took a large stand, showing no fewer than 13 vehicles. Pick of the bunch was an ex-Röhrl 1973 Ascona, flanked by a 1968 Opel GT and Commodore, while a 1962 Corvette could have been yours for €93,500.
Event organisers launched a new concept for this year’s show – Neo Classics – devoting an entire hall to cars built between 2000 and 2018 that they have tipped to become instant classics.
It was easy to get on board with the idea of a 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 RS or 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, but a few stands – such as that specialising in brand-new Dodge Chargers and Ram pickup trucks – fell slightly wide of the mark. However, there wasn’t much wrong with this Wiesmann GT…