08 June 2011
Andrew Ralston reports on the annual Techno Classica event which attracts thousands of classic car fans and model collectors from across Europe. ...
The German city of Essen, situated beside the river Ruhr, is an important industrial and business centre but not, perhaps, a place that many British tourists usually get to. However, towards the end of March each year classic car fans and model collectors alike head for the city’s exhibition centre, the Messe Essen, for the Techno Classica show.
With over 2,500 historic vehicles for sale this year, and a record 178,300 visitors from 30 different countries, the Essen event is, in the words of the organisers, ‘the world capital of the oldtimer universe’.
In one vast exhibition complex you’ll find classic car dealers, model car specialists, sellers of motoring literature, prestigious auction houses like Coys of London, classic car owners’ clubs and even motor manufacturers such as Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen who are well aware of the importance of their heritage. This year for the first time Rolls Royce, too, had a stand, showing the new Ghost alongside a 1960s Silver Cloud.
These displays, situated in the first hall you enter, give the event the feel of an international motor show, but the atmosphere is different in each of the 20 different halls in the exhibition centre. Whether you’re looking to buy a classic Ferrari or simply to rummage through autojumble-type stalls, browse for books and car brochures or add some models to your collection, there’s something to suit everyone. In fact, even a full day’s visit hardly gives enough time to see everything.
British model car collectors are, of course, familiar with the huge contribution to the development of their hobby currently being made by German brands like Minichamps, Schuco and, more recently, Neo, whose high quality models include British subjects – Daimler, Jaguar, Alvis – as well as some of the more unusual German cars like the rarely-modelled Borgward Hansa and Lloyd Arabella.
Just as motor manufacturers are prepared to show prize exhibits from their historic collections at Essen, so too model manufacturers like Schuco had stands which showcased to the public some of the new releases exhibited to the trade only a few weeks earlier at the Nuremberg International Toy Fair which was covered in depth in our supplement in April.
What better place than Essen, then, to get a feel for current trends in model car collecting in Europe? Collecting is clearly a serious business in Germany, judging by the number of specialist diecast dealers attending the event, many of whom also sell models on line such as www.modellautomarkt.de of Mainz or Manfred’s Automodellborse of Duisburg. Piled high on many stalls were the numerous different part-work model ranges that have proliferated in the last few years. Some of these, particularly the French Citroen, Simca and Renault issues, have found their way to the UK, but those issued on the German market are less familiar.
Latest to appear is the Opel Collection which offers a mix of classic and modern vehicles modelled by Ixo, ranging from the 1951 Olympia to the 1989 Opel Lotus Omega. Strange as it may seem, this series comes in packaging which carries the name of a UK-based distributor but is apparently only available to subscribers in Germany, Austria, Luxemburg and Switzerland. Check out the website, www.opel-sammlung.de to see the interesting subjects issued so far.
In 1/64 scale, models of East German cars, such as various Trabants, Wartburgs and the Sachsenring limousine were on offer for just €5 apiece while HO scale plastic models by Wiking, which have a big following in Germany, were much in evidence too. Another popular collecting trend in Germany consists of promotional models issued by food and drink companies, particularly the various brands of beer, with the ubiquitous VW T1 Transporter van being a favourite subject for different liveries.
If most of the model cars on offer at Essen were of the recent variety, a small but significant number of traders specialised in obsolete models and antique tin toys. Trade stands were mixed together in several of the halls of the exhibition centre so that it was quite possible to stumble upon a display of rare diecasts sandwiched between a dealer in engine components on one side and motorcycle leather gear on the other!
A most unusual item spotted on the stand of tin toy specialist Keppler Versand of Bielefeld, Germany, was a 1950s working model of a car chassis used to demonstrate the mechanical operation of a motor vehicle, for sale at €790. Herr Keppler’s view was that prices for tin toys were similar to those of last year, or had dropped slightly.
On the other hand, demand for quality obsolete diecasts remained strong, according to French traders M. et Mme. Grandsard of Marquaix Hamelet, near Amiens, who trade under the name G. M. Racing. Among the typical offerings on their stand were a mint and boxed Dinky Mini Traveller for €155 and a near mint Ford Anglia in a very clean box for €88. “The obsolete models have been selling well as they are always in short supply,” commented Mme. Grandsard, “but there are so many sellers of modern diecasts competing against each other and that lowers the prices.” Good news if you’re a buyer, though!
It is above all the size of the Essen event, and the fact that it runs for several days, that attracts traders to the show. Swedish collector Lennart Elmqvist, for example, made the decision to travel to Essen rather than attend a local show in Gothenburg the same weekend. Lennart, who was offering a good range of Dinky, Tekno and other obsolete diecast models, had recently replenished his stock by purchasing items from a major collection. He was also delighted to receive a copy of the latest issue of Diecast Collector!
With typical efficiency, the organisers’ website is already advertising the dates of the 24th annual Techno-Classica Essen event which is open to the public from 22nd–25th March 2012. If classic vehicles and models are your passion, make a note in your diary now!