A Tale of Two Cities - Part One
The classic car scene is booming, with strong growth in all aspects of the business. Reflecting that, there was not just one, but two events at the beginning of the year in Europe. First up, was a trip to Holland and Maastricht for the InterClassics & TopMobiel 2015. With the city's proximity to Antwerp, as well as Germany and Belgium, the event was cosmopolitan by every measure and there was strong representation from both of those countries as well as the Dutch. Classic car shows take several forms, some are grown up auto-jumbles where spares and parts and widgets are everywhere to be found, and the displays add spice to the event. Some like the NEC Classic show are based around the car clubs who are the back bone of such events, the club members proudly exhibit their cars, often with an anniversary in mind. Others like Retromobile and Tecno Classica include the manufacturers and the local up market classic dealers. This is in effect a car sales event with stands of historical automobilia to keep the attention of those like myself who cannot afford such exotica. One such stand in Maastricht was celebrating 80 years of Jaguar, with cars from Jaguar Heritage, the Louwman Museum and the local clubs. The other major display featured Grand Prix Classics, like this collection of Cosworth V8 powered racers from the '60s and '70s, such as the Arrows A2. There was a good cross section of Formula One cars on the stand, reflecting the high level of interest in the historic racing scene. Those who preferred earlier Grand Prix eras were also catered for, a trio of pre-war Bugattis were prominent. The ability to get close to these race cars helps one to appreciate the simplicity of the working environment of this Ferrari 340 F1, one the earliest Formula One Ferraris. The single biggest factor in the development of modern Formula One came with the introduction of the Ford Cosworth V8 engine in 1967. Powerful, reliable, and structurally part of the car, it revolutionized the sport, building the platform that exists today. Cars such as this March 701 that Jackie Stewart drove in 1970 could be built rapidly and within small budgets, though the 701 is not remembered as a great car. Sir Jackie managing just one win that year with it, at the Spanish Grand Prix, by the autumn the Tyrrell team had its own car built in house. As sponsorship from non-motoring sources increased in the 70's graphic design assumed a greater importance as demonstrated on Mario Andretti's Lotus 79. The black and gold livery has now achieved iconic status. As has this Ligier JS11, once again the main backer is a cigarette brand. Tobacco companies, denied the opportunity to advertise directly to consumers on television, used these exciting cars as mobile billboards to great effect. Of course there was an auction, mainly it has to be said, of older American cars. However this distinctive William Towns designed Aston Martin Lagonda caught my fancy, perhaps it is bringing out my inner '70s style. Disco balls anyone? For the most part, the show consisted of high end classic car dealers and there appeared to be the entire production run of the original Porsche 911 in its many variants. The current, almost insane, values commanded by the 911, especially the pre-1972 cars, has led to any and every basket case being restored. Which for those of us who like the early models is no bad thing. Pity the prices have now catapulted way out of my league - another little dream crushed, ah well. Perhaps this Porsche would have more suited to my pocket and my ability behind the wheel. The Porsche Diesel AP22 (I believe that this is that model) was a light tractor produced by the company in the late 50's after Porsche acquired the tractor business of Allgaier. It was powered by a 1.5 litre, 2 cylinder engine that produced 22hp, hence the designation AP22. Not only Porsches for sale in Maastricht but Ferraris too, with this stand having perhaps the pick of the bunch. Like everyone else I have my favorites when looking around a show like Maastricht, things that catch the eye, like this Facel Vega HK500, a luxury performance car built in the late '50s, early '50s. And it is not just the high end cars that appeal, this Opel Manta 400 is immaculate and the model had a top line competition pedigree. A bunch of tidy Alfa Romeos on offer. And the genuinely weird, the Amphicar 770, an amphibious car from the early 60's. Owners had their own opinions at the time, "It's not a good car and it's not a good boat, but it does just fine." and "We like to think of it as the fastest car on the water and fastest boat on the road." Around 4,000 were built and it remains a popular, if not practical, classic. Another vehicle that was reaching unlikely levels of asking price were a number of Volkswagen T1 buses. This finely restored example on offer at €84,900, madness methinks, there will be tears before long. And where would we be without that old classic car show faithful, go on, chuck some straw on the floor and voila! A barn find, like this Renault Monaquarte... One club stand that did impress was this Bugatti effort, original cars and artifacts and a pretty Delage illustrating neatly French competition cars between the wars. The car clubs were in evidence tucked away in a separate hall, but still worth tracking down. There were a few stands that had bits for sale, it is not as if Marchal lamps are going to be available at the local store any time soon. And motoring book shops are few and far between these days, so folks like Chaters do a brisk trade at the shows. A contrast is this monstrosity, '80s excess and poor taste, a Mercury Cougar Tiffany - words fail me. Anyone who fancies stumping up the asking price of €39,500 needs to ask themselves some serious questions. I cannot finish a look around at the Maastricht InterClassics & TopMobiel on a sour note, as it was a really good show - so perhaps before I sign off to head to London we should admire this Jaguar D-Type. From the collection at the great Louwman Museum, this Jaguar is the car that won the 1957 Le Mans 24 Hours in the hands of Ron Flockhart and Ivor Bueb, leading three other D-Types to the Chequered Flag in a display of complete domination for the Coventry marque. I will be returning to Jaguar at Maastricht soon. London is calling.