Enjoying the oddities at Stuttgart

| 14 Mar 2013

Last weekend marked my first visit to Retro Classics in Stuttgart, a superb show that packed a huge amount into its eight halls. And all displayed in modern buildings with plenty of natural light – a pleasant bonus when compared to other classic-car events of this ilk.

It was easy to get to as well. Fly into Stuttgart, walk out of the terminal building, cross the road and you’re there.

As you would expect, there was a huge turnout of home-grown cars but – terrible as this sounds – I found myself eventually becoming somewhat blind to such models as the Porsche 911 and Mercedes 300SL Coupe.

They weren’t everywhere, exactly. It’s just that they are stalwarts of this kind of show and you end up taking them for granted. As with Retromobile last month, far more interesting to me were the oddities that I hadn’t seen anywhere else.The first to stop me in my tracks was an incredible-looking Fiat Barchetta (main image, above). So impressive was it, in fact, that it was stealing the limelight from a collection of Lamborghinis on the same stand – hardly cars that are used to being upstaged.

Only one was built in 1943 for the Italian racer Baroness Maria Antonietta Avanzo, who entered the Mille Miglia and Targa Florio. That amazing aluminium body covered a 1500cc supercharged six-cylinder engine, enough to push the little Fiat on to 180kph.

The NSU Wankel Spider Club Deutschland was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of a car with a Wankel rotary engine, but its stand also featured two competition Spyders with conventional powerplants.

One was a 1967 example with the four-cylinder unit from a Prinz. It put out only 85bhp – but then the car itself weighs just 360kg. A 1969 version with a Speiss engine was displayed alongside. Both of these neat little cars were driven in circuit-racing and hillclimbing by Kurt Brixner.

This Imp 700GT was tucked away against a side wall on the Steyr Puch Freundeskreis stand. Only a very small number – 21 seems to be the best estimate – of these attractive little coupes were built by Intermeccanica in the early 1960s as a rival to the Abarth Fiats. The brainchild of Frank Reisner, they were based on the Puch 500, with five known to survive.

Not only did one hall show off a number of lorries, there was a superb line-up of buses, too. I was feeling a little guilty that I made a bee-line for the latter in preference to the BMW display alongside, until two colleagues admitted that they had done the same.

I have a curious fascination with old buses, especially the more compact models that feature a few curves instead of the harsh straight lines of recent years. This 1961 Setra S6 was one of many on display from the innovative company, which is now part of Daimler Benz.

If a bus wasn’t an eccentric enough choice, there was also Germany’s oldest tractor. The Uhldingen-Muhlhofen Museum brought along this 1905 Bergman. Its 6840cc ‘four’ no doubt thumps it along nicely, but it was the tractor’s crude combination of the mechanical and the old-fashioned agricultural that was so appealing.

And finally back to cars. If the thought of working on your classic’s electrical system makes you a little nervous, spare a thought for anyone in coming years who decides to restore a Mercedes R129 SL.

This stripped-out model showcased the model’s advanced nature. No doubt one day it will convince someone that taking on a DiY rebuild wasn’t the best idea after all...