Gone were the major manufacturers with only Abarth, Alfa Romeo and Skoda having a presence. The organisers admit to having lost some 10% of their exhibitors, the show area consequentially being reduced considerably. Of course it could just be that the manufacturers spent their budgets on the recent Frankfurt Motor Show, which only happens on alternate years, and will return to Essen next year. We shall see. Having said that, attendance is holding up pretty well, with some 105,000 visitors passing through the doors during the opening weekend.
Essen has always been the showcase for the German tuning industry but locally-based Brabus was one of the few companies to take up their usual slot, although there was plenty of bolt-on ‘bling’ to be found. Ominously there is talk of a rival show for the tuning boys taking place just down the road in Dortmund two weeks before Essen next year.
But it was not all doom and gloom, far from it. The organisers didn’t manage to fill all the empty spaces left by the departees but they had a good try. The hall normally occupied by the tuning companies was largely given over to a display of classic Ferraris, beautifully laid out and well lit, making them a mecca for photographers. Slightly less tasteful were the customised Rolls and Bentley lurking nearby. Imagine, if you will, a Silver Shadow lowered to an unseemly level, sporting bling wheels and with its Chrysler Hemi engine bursting through the bonnet! Slightly less garish was the 1953 Mulliner Bentley, only the inappropriate wheels and tyres spoiling the image. Both cars belong to the same owners and normally reside in Florida...
If all that was not enough of a culture shock, across the hall was a drag racing Gullwing Mercedes 300SL complete with big wing, parachute and balloon tyres. Closer inspection revealed that no real Gull’s had been injured in the creation of this specimen however, as the body was a fibreglass replica. Phew!
For a return to sanity a trip down to Hall 1 was required, where S.I.H.A. (the organisers of Techno Classica Essen) had brought together a mouth-watering display of twenty-one Lotus models, ranging from Mk 6 to Mario Andretti’s World Championship-winning Type 79. Others included Jochen Rindt’s 1970 Tasman 49B, ex Ronnie Peterson JPS 72, and the rarely seen Type 70 Formula 5000 car. Sports racers represented included an Eleven, 23 and 47 Europa, whilst road care were represented by Type 14 Elite, Elan +2 and Cortina. Clive Chapman was in attendance on the first day, having supplied several of the cars, and even Miss Universe dropped by for a photoshoot. With it’s green and yellow-themed backdrop, this was certainly one of the most popular sections of the show.
S.I.H.A. as usual organised a concours d’elegance for the older machinery, three classes covering the periods 1936-1950, 1951-1960 and 1961-1985. Overall honours went to a gorgeous 1947 Alfa Romeo 2500 whilst the three classes went to an MG TC, Porsche 356 and Mercedes 280SE respectively.
Concept cars always go down well, and whilst there was nothing new, the various show cars from Audi, Citroen, Giugiaro, Veritas, et al provided a big draw.
A major benefit from the change of emphasis of the show was an increased motorsport presence, something that has long been missed by the cognoscenti, especially as the origins of the event are as ‘The Jochen Rindt Show’. Next year sees the 40th anniversary of Rindt’s posthumous World Championship title so hopefully the occasion will be honoured. Perhaps Classic Team Lotus can be persuaded to bring that 49B back?
Essen filled a couple of their otherwise empty halls with a live action arena, which provided some lurid entertainment, and as part of their plans for the future there is talk of ‘racing’ on an outside circuit on at least one of the days of the 2010 show – and yes, there is confident talk of the future, which is good news when other events are disappearing, some never to return.
Next years’ dates have been announced as November 25-December 5, 2010, but before that there’s Techno Classica (7-11 April) to look forward to, and it seems that several manufacturers will be having a presence there including Alfa Romeo, who of course will be celebrating their 100th anniversary.