Thousands of classic cars and their owners descended on the home of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz for the 14th Retro Classics in Stuttgart on 14 March. More than 3000 historic vehicles crammed into the nine show halls, the feast of motoring covering almost everything with an engine, from Lanz Bulldog tractors to Le Mans prototypes. The centrepiece of the event was a rare gathering of ‘forgotten’ French marques arranged in a stunning circular display, including a 1935 Bugatti Type 57, 1956 Talbot America and a 1933 Delage D 8 S.
But the crowning glory was a 1926 Bugatti Royale – the only one of its kind – that took pride of place at the heart of the stand. The car was a one-off prototype that initially featured Packard Phaeton coachwork, going through two factory bodies and ending up as a Weymann coupe. After being crashed by Ettore, who was rumored to have fallen asleep at the wheel, it was placed in storage, surfacing some years later after travelling to America and entering private ownership. It has been the subject of a recent no-expense-spared restoration following its repatriation to France and was put on display for the first time at the southern German event by its new owner.
One of the Bugatti specialists who oversaw the project, Daniel Lapp, told C&SC: “It’s a great opportunity to show this car to the public for the first time ever. We began the project seven years ago and it’s been a tremendous amount of fun. We worked on 2300 original drawings. It was amazing to research.”
Also grabbing attention was the Porsche display – hardly surprising given that Stuttgart is the firm’s home show. The headline act was undoubtedly the ‘Pink Pig’ – the 917/20 that was campaigned at the 1971 Le Mans 24 Hours. The car picked up its nickname after it was painted pink with the names of different cuts of meat, a self deprecating joke by the Porsche engineers, who were aware that it was an amalgamation of parts from butchered 917s. The car is usually housed at the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen Museum, but drew huge crowds on this rare outing.
As well as manufacturer collections, German clubs played an important role in filling the venue. Two of the most impressive offerings came from the Opel groups, which had joined forces to bring together 32 cars, and the Ford clubs display. A number of Escort, Capri and home-market Taunus models were bizarrely set in mock flower beds, while a Granada Mk3 2.8 Injection took up the rear.
Away from the larger stands, Retro Classics was marked by the presence of rare and unusual cars. A 1962 Moretti Fiat 1300C with 42,783km on the clock was hiding in a dark section of the show. The car was described as being ‘absolutely original’ and it would be hard to argue, covered as it was in the dust and grime accumulated after years in storage. Though a very pretty and intriguing car, it nonetheless required a great deal of restorative work.
A 1968 Glas 1700 Limousine was also a rare sight. It may have lacked the glamour of the 1300 GT that sat alongside it, but it wasn’t without its charms. It was among hundreds of cars offered for sale at the show.
A stunning selection of Gutbrods was also on offer. Like Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, the firm is local to the area, having moved to the Stuttgart suburb of Feuerbach in 1933.
The action wasn’t confined to just the show halls. Throughout the day a steady stream of classics flowed onto the Messe concourse, forming a secondary outdoor display. Those wishing to take a break from the hustle and bustle inside could wander through the rows of cars, as well as members of the public who didn’t want to venture indoors. Mercedes-Benz’ featured heavily, but there was also the unusual, including no fewer than four Puma kit cars.
American classics also prove popular in southern Germany, with everything from Mustang 5.0s and Chevrolet Bel Airs to Ford Mustangs and Dodge Coronets easily spotted both inside and outside the halls.