Coals To Newcastle
Taking a Replica Mercedes to the Techno Classica show in Essen
Early in March I had an invitation from Jim Marland of Proteus Cars, to help with the stand at the 10th Classic car show in Essen, Germany. As you are probably aware, Proteus are the creators of those magnificent replicas of such exotica as Jaguar C type, D type, XKSS and more recently the fantastic XJ13. They are now also offering a fully built replica of the 1955 Moss - Jenkinson Mille Miglia Mercedes 300 SLR and this was the car which was to feature in the show. I was naturally taken up with the thought of going over to Germany again, even if it was with a Merc, as my wife, Christine and I are frequent visitors and I would have over a week pursuing one of my favourite pastimes.
I sorted out the time off work with my employers and Christine didn’t mind my escaping for a week or so (probably quite glad to get rid of me!), then it was just a matter of obtaining currency and a few things for the trip. As I was to be the navigator I also spent some time perusing the maps of Holland and Germany, an activity in which I often completely absorb myself anyway, although the Organisers had sent fairly detailed instructions of the area around Essen.
When the day finally arrived, I drove to Bolton in the late morning and left my XJS safely in the workshops at Proteus, to have a short but exhilarating ride in the 300SLR around the streets of Little Lever, which created quite an amount of excitement for some of the locals on an otherwise nondescript sort of a Monday. Jim had already packed the tow car with most of the paraphernalia which we would need to set up the stand, along with some excellent pictures of the other vehicles in their range.
Jim Marland at the Proteus works with the Mercedes 300SLR
The actual detail on these Proteus replicas is quite incredible and the effort which Jim and his team puts in to them is astounding. From vague drawings and numerous pictures, coupled with occasional visits to see the real thing and make notes, all the necessary jigs, moulds, fixtures and formers are produced. Only then can the enormous task of building the car start. Even when the project appears to us lesser mortals, to be complete, there are still a myriad small brackets, clips and finishers to be made, often necessitating the making of a complete press tool and then having these minutiae plated or surface finished in some way or another. Our German friends have a very apt saying regarding this, and it is that ‘The Devil is in the detail’, and I, for one, can vouch for that!
We had lunch and then loaded the car onto the trailer and off we went on the leisurely ride over to Hull, arriving at around half past four in the afternoon at the King George Dock to join the North Sea Ferries ‘Norsun’, for our overnight crossing to Rotterdam. After freshening up in the cabin we strolled along to the bar for a glass of something they said was draught Boddingtons, but we’re still unsure. The Captain told us that there would be a fairly strong breeze, but in the event we had a very calm crossing and after an enjoyable meal and another drink or two, turned in for a reasonable nights sleep.
We awoke to the familiar ‘Bing - Bong’ over the Tannoy, informing us that it was some unearthly hour which equated to a quarter past four in old money! After ablutions, we strolled along to tuck into a hearty breakfast, which we had hoped would last us most of the day. We then had the inevitable short delay during unloading, and leaving Europoort behind, quickly joined the motorway system, settling back for the steady drive, assisted by cruise control, through Holland and into Germany. This car on our trailer was a real head turner, especially in Germany, frequently eliciting a wave or thumbs up from the many passing drivers or their passengers.
Driving into Essen, we were beckoned by a local driver to follow him and were escorted all the way to the gates of the exhibition site. As we drove in, we were confronted by a Deutscher ‘Jobs-worth’, who felt it his duty to send us back out along the dual carriageway for quite a distance and into another gate, only to find eventually that we were back at the same point from whence Jobs-worth had ejected us, some 10 minutes earlier. We had now clocked 254 miles from the Proteus Factory in Bolton and reasoned that we would not have even been in Dover yet (by road Mileage), if we had chosen any of the Channel crossings!
The exhibition site was absolutely enormous but we quickly found a place to unload safely our precious cargo and then with the two side exit exhausts thundering out their raucous note, we made our way into our designated hall, with me following in the tow vehicle containing all of the stand materials. The theme of this particular Hall was German sports cars and in the centre was a very large reconstruction of the Brandenburg gate, accompanied, around the outside, by full sized models of typical German houses.
Whilst setting up, we did have one brief border dispute with a French chap on the next stand, as they had the front corner of an immaculate MK2 on our stand, which was really only just large enough for us as it was. By this time it was mid afternoon and we were really confused now about the time, after putting our clocks forward twice in three days, the trip coinciding with the start of British summer time! We did the bulk of the setting up and then wandered off in search of food, as by now, the breakfast was wearing off. It may have been due to the strength of the pound, but the snacks in the exhibition halls were certainly good value for money as well as being very tasty.
We then hitched up the trailer and took it along to the secure trailer park to leave it for the entire week at a very modest charge. It was now time to begin the search for our Hotel, which was only three minutes walk away, but it took us much longer as we had a car! There was a compelling need for a quick drink, then after unpacking and changing, it was out into the town, to the ‘Mausegatt’ restaurant for an excellent evening meal, where we met Mike and Stella Carlisle from J and L spares in Rochdale, who by the way, have a fantastic range of new and reconditioned spares for us Jaguar folk.
The following morning was the start of the show for Joe (sorry!, Johann) public and this coincided with a rise in MWST (the German equivalent of VAT) from 15 to 16%, which makes our goods over there more expensive still, even neglecting the effects of the very strong pound. There were actually 16 Halls crammed with exhibits on different levels with escalators between floors and plenty of food and drink outlets. We took turns to escape and have a foray into the other halls as the show progressed, but I don’t think either of us ever saw the whole of it.
On one of my little jaunts, I visited the Jaguar stands and met up again with Henning Zaiss from Darmstadt, with whom Christine and I had had a very enjoyable evening, some years ago, while visiting that part of Germany. The standard of all of the exhibits was extremely high and on many occasions throughout the week we were told that this 300 SLR replica was for those individuals, their ‘Car of the show’. On one stand near to ours, there was a genuine Jaguar 5 litre four cam V12 engine for sale - that would really go well with an XJ13 replica, but the dealer wanted 120,000 DM (about Forty Grand) for it!! Not bad when you think, someone probably paid scrap price for it not so very long ago.
The Fabulous 4 cam XJ13 engine
On the Wednesday we were invited to a Party held by one of the exhibitors at a delightful 18th Century restaurant which had been converted from an old mill. Jim, Mike, Stella and I, met up again and decided to walk, making use of a map supplied by the organisers to get there, which turned out to be a big mistake, as the map was not very informative and we were even worse at obeying simple instructions! We did find it eventually and it was worth it, the food being fantastic and plenty to drink for all tastes and capacities. I am not sure how the Proprietors managed to convince the fire safety inspectors, the Building being entirely of wooden construction, but it was certainly a charming place to spend an evening in wonderful company. As it was a long way back to the Hotel, we decided to call a Taxi, especially after the earlier experience in the daylight!
On the Thursday I managed to visit the Trabant stand, as these little ‘plastic sputniks’ are another favourite of mine, and saw not only an example identical to ours, but also one of the very last to be made, complete with VW Polo engine and catalytic converter. Later that day I also spent some time around the various motorcycle stands, yet another one of my passions! One machine I saw had a radial engine mounted in the front wheel, I’ll bet that was difficult to steer at speed! There really was something for everyone at this show.
Thursday evening was spent at an Italian restaurant where the food was excellent but the paintings around the walls were by someone who was struggling to become a struggling Artist. I think we actually got an early night for a change as the previous excesses had now started to take their toll.
Things started to get noticeably busier during Friday and after the doors closed to the public there was a Party for all exhibitors, held in our hall and we actually got to the food counter before the Germans! The weekend was very busy with little time to do anything other than man the stand and talk with a seemingly endless stream of interested visitors of many different nationalities, giving Jim and I many opportunities to practice our spoken German and when this failed we resorted to our own version of ‘Ansunfeet’, which is guaranteed to get you out of most awkward situations. This involves gesticulating wildly, and frantically pointing to the part which you have forgotten the name of! Late on Sunday, the German customer and his good Lady arrived, by prior arrangement, to collect the car from our stand and after this there was little else to do but to pack up the stand and load the car. It was rather saddening to see the ghostly halls where once had been impeccable displays of mouth - watering exhibits, rapidly being reduced to piles of rubbish with the fumes of departing vehicles hanging heavily in the air.
A very rare Horch which was the former name of AUDI
As we left for home on the Monday morning, we stopped at a filling station just a few hundred metres from the Hotel, where unleaded petrol was only 50p a litre and Jim even thought about emptying the expensive British fuel out so that we could fill up completely with the cheap stuff! We collected the trailer and eventually made our way out of the city and back onto the Autobahn for our trip back to the ferry. We pulled into a sleepy little village just before the Dutch border where we had a light snack and then onto a supermarket to stock up with some wine and chocolate. As is usual when you have plenty of time, we arrived quite early at the ferry and had a very comfortable crossing, arriving in Hull the following morning at about eight o’clock.
We were back in Bolton by Brew time, giving me plenty of time to transfer my things and make my way home in the Jag reflecting on a fairly tiring but most enjoyable week, accompanied by the Eagles ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’, which kind of summed it all up.