Discovering classics holds a certain joy rarely found

| 18 Mar 2014

I’m not talking about pulling barn find classics from sheds and sending them straight to auction, or even spotting our best-loved British cars starring in TV adverts. Rather, coming across classic cars that, until that point, had been a complete mystery to you.

Being born in 1986 when Walk Like an Egyptian was number one in the charts, I’m probably more likely than most to come across something new – much to the chagrin of my more salt-and-pepper C&SC colleagues (their hair, rather than the 1980s rap starlets). But that doesn’t bother me.

A perfect example came on a visit to Retro Classics in Stuttgart last weekend. As you would expect, the halls were packed to the rafters with Porsches and Mercedes-Benz, as was the huge outdoor concourse that held hundreds of punters’ cars. In dark corners though, there lurked some metal that looked strange and alien to me. Chief among the surprises was the Gutbrod stand, complete with a display of charming front-engined Superiors. They were only built from 1950-‘54, and until now had gone completely unnoticed, at least by me.

The German firm was founded in 1926 and originally produced Standard motorcycles, but started to build cars when it relocated to Stuttgart in 1933. In the post-war period the little Superior can lay claim to being one of the first production cars to feature fuel injection. Bosch introduced a mechanical fuel-injection system to the car in 1952, along with the Goliath GP 700. It would be a further two years before the system was installed on the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, though the racing version enjoyed it from the same year as the Gutbrod.

1952 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Le Mans 

Also new to science was a 1962 Moretti Fiat 1300 Coupé, a car so pretty that even the rotting sills and half-inch-thick muck encasing Retro Classics’ example didn’t make me wince. If anything, it made me determined to find out as much as I can. Who knows, perhaps even find one for sale?

Moretti first came into being in 1925, like Gutbrod, building motorcycles. A string of microcars followed, but it wasn’t until the late 1950s that production of full-sized cars began. In order to keep costs low, most were based on Fiats – like the 1300C spotted in Stuttgart. Few production records were kept, but its safe to say it is a very rare beast. Moretti continued to trade until 1989, before the factory closed in December of that year. The last model produced was the Ital Uno Turbo.

 1962 Moretti Fiat 1300 Coupe

It’s wonderful to see so many familiar classics in Britain, but it seems it takes the large European indoor shows to turn up little remembered classics like these.

William Cowper put it best when he wrote: ‘Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.’