Essen, Germany isn’t really much to look at. It is somewhat typical of many cities in der Vaterland, having been bombed-out during the second World War and rebuilt using one heck of a lot of grey concrete. It also has the requisite burned-out church tower as a reminder. Not sure what it’s supposed to be a reminder of, ar at least I’m not going to get into that here. There is a bright spot in Essen, though, and it comes once a year to Messe Essen, the city’s huge convention center complex: Techno Classica Essen.
For fans of classic German cars (as well as just about anything European, although not so much British) Techno Classica is Mecca. It is 12 huge convention halls full of factory-sponsored car displays, car club displays, vendor and auction house showrooms, restoration shop displays, parts, books, accessories, and in the open areas cars for sale. If any event can be everything to the European classic car enthusiast – this is it. To boot: it is an easy drive from Frankfurt am Main airport.
The first this that strikes you on your first trip to Essen is the sheer size of it. Just looking at the map of the show you get a little bit of an idea just how big it is – and it is cram-packed with cool car stuff. The factory-sponsored displays are the most impressive: some of them giving you the feel of literally walking back into time into a showroom circa 1985.. Or 1975.. Or 1965. The big carmakers like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and their subsidiaries really to a great job of supporting this event and it shows in the extent and quality of the displays on hand.
You will find some club displays partnered with the factory displays, and others in specially-designated halls. The European clubs do a great job of bringing out their best and brightest vehicles to put on display, and the club representatives are always happy to strike up a conversation with enthusiasts from across the pond. It is also interesting to see just how model-specific come of the clubs get, like the Audi 60 club or the Mercedes-Benz Stricht acht (/8) club. Each one just as happy as the next to be there and to talk cars.
In addition to the assorted parts – common and rare (especially for those of us with US-spec cars), vendors sell books, brochures (in English and other languages) various automobilia and even toys. On my last visit I cam home with a dirt cheap chrome locking gas cap for my the 280SL I had at the time. The time before that it was a stack of brochures for just about every car I’d ever wanted. My friend came home with a wood and leather steering wheel for his W126 Mercedes. Oh yes, and the prices are most definitely negotiable. The cars for sale are likewise negotiable – especially as the event nears an end and the seller starts to get desperate…
With the dollar and the economy in the shape they are presently in, a trip like Essen is sure to be a reach for most of us. I like to look at it as an experience, and there is every chance that you might find just enough in parts and trinkets to re-sell that you could make-up a lot of the trip cost on the other end – although I make no promises. The next event will take place on March 21-25, 2012. If you don’t go next year, start planning now for the year after. It is totally worth it. Find more details about Techno Classica Essen here.