Retro Classics Stuttgart is a perennial playground for Porsche lovers, but what stood out in its most successful year is the quality of the home-grown cars to rise to the top of the now customary sea of 911s. Leading the way at its local show was the Porsche Museum, which wheeled out six cars from the dark recesses of its storage facility – fascinating, rarely-seen examples offering an insight into the development of several key models.
The sextuplet took pride of place in the Messe Stuttgart's stunning rotunda, and while the display lacked the punch of last year's circuit of French rarities, the classics were far more intriguing on closer inspection.
The most eye-grabbing of the group was a 959 aerodynamic model, preserved perfectly since 1989 and seemingly untouched. Bare screws lined the rear spoiler, while the original draughtsmans' marks could be seen all across the bodywork, including a cartoon by Otto Waalkes.
More modern – yet every bit as bold – was the rolling chassis from the development of the 918 Spyder. Looking like something out of Mad Max, every panel was festooned with gaffer tape, while the exposed mid-mounted engine was a warren of heat-reflecting foil and un-ducted wires.
The group also included a 944 Turbo which was used to set a round-the-world endurance record in 1986 – The Eagle of Tyrol.
Gerhard Plattner drove the car across five continents, covering 41,140km in just 31 days to showcase the car which, aside from spare jerry cans, a roof rack and spare wheels, was completely standard. Despite facing temperatures as high as 41C in Australia, the Porsche performed faultlessly and the toolkit remained unused throughout the journey.
A 928 convertible concept car, the Type 1989 long-life prototype and 984 concept completed the group.
Supporting the Porsche Museum's relics was the altogether more polished presentation from the factory which, as in previous years, was brilliantly illuminated by dazzling bright lights. Echoing the main exhibition, a 1988 959 proved a draw for those keen to compare with its earliest incarnation.
A 1960 718 RS60 Spyder – the same model driven to Targa Florio victory by Joakim Bonnier and Hans Hermann – also looked spectacular. Seeing the diminutive racer alongside its younger, larger cousins, it is scarcely believable that a similar car not only held-off a three-litre Ferrari, but dominated it by more than six minutes at the Sicilian race in 1960.
Eclipsing the older cars and the undeniable star of the Porsche stand was a car so rare it is unlikely to have even made it onto a poster let alone a bedroom wall – a 911 GT1. The outlandish mid-engined 911 shared its front end with the 996, but its wildly aggressive styling ensured that's where the similarity ends. The car is one of just 21 road-going examples to ever leave the factory, and those only made their escape in order to homologate the monster for racing.
The Porsche theme continued away from the factory-backed displays, with dozens of high-end dealers also choosing to back the local team. A 1959 718 RSK took pride of place on the Thomas H Rupf stand, elevated above the other cars by a platform. Closer inspection revealed that the car – already a rarity, being one of 35 built – had an intriguing race history. It was first owned by racing driver Roy Schechter and had been raced in period at Courtland, Nassau and Riverside.
The adjacent Mirbach area also offered centre stage to a Porsche, this time a 1954 Glockler-Porsche 356 Coupé. The car was meant to be driven by Helm Glockler and Max Nathan in the 1954 Mille Miglia, but wasn't completed in time. It then made its way to the United States before eventually returning to Germany, where it was restored in 2004.
Mercedes-Benz was also a featured manufacturer, with a large portion of one of the biggest show halls dedicated to the Stuttgart marque.
The highlight was the manufacturer's own stand, which featured a 1970 C111, 1955 300SL and incredible '38 549K streamliner, while the club areas had a younger flavour, celebrating the 190E and S-class.
The clubs displayed a keen sense of humour and attention to detail in their hall, with the Scuderia NSU Suddeutchland's set-up a highlight for many. It included a '73 Prinz 1000 in restored condition, which was parked alongside a 1200C automatic that seemed to be completely original, right down to the period luggage mounted on the roof.
An earlier Prinz was mated to a small caravan, with a slightly off-putting sunbathing mannequin standing guard.
The ever popular Unimog-Club Gaggenau made its annual pilgrimage to Stuttgart, this year showing off three variants of Mercedes' off-roader; one of the vehicles was in military trim, one saw service as a fire tender, with the third decked-out as an ambulance, complete with stretchers in the back. Again, dressed dummies accompanied each Unimog.
Despite the overarching Teutonic theme, the locals' love of British cars was illustrated by the English Corner, a joint endeavour by several Germany-based MG, Triumph, Rover, Morgan and Morris clubs. MGBs and Spitfires rubbed shoulders with an SD1 Vitesse and early 2000TC, but the star of the scene – and the least likely to be spotted this far from British shores – was the 1993 Rover 114 GTI of Réal Heuerts.
Its appearance at the show was all the more remarkable after discovering that it had been revived from scrap condition at a cost of more than €20,000. The car had featured at the Techno Classica Essen in previous years and – according to Heuerts – it is one of just seven examples still in Germany.
One of the biggest draws at the 15-year-old event has historically been the piazza, which fills with enthusiasts' cars throughout the weekend, creating an impromptu outdoor display. Despite being turned over to cars for sale for this year's event, dozens of varied classics were still on show, including several Porsche 911s – plus a single 912 – and a few rarities, such as a Goliath GP700 Limousine and Abarth A112, which could have been yours for €8800.