Looking at the sheer number of events, the veteran and vintage car scene in the U.K. appears to be thriving, at least from the perspective of a spectator on the continent. In Germany, however, pre-war car enthusiasts find few opportunities to show their cars where they really belong: on the open road. This is particular true for vehicles manufactured before the Great War. In the country that boasts to have invented the motorcar, ancestor and veteran cars are actually struggling to get the attention they deserve.
This deplorable situation is by no means due to a lack of pioneering German marques beyond Daimler and Benz, and it is definitely not the result of a lack of surviving cars from that era. If one thinks of manufacturers that were already producing cars in Germany before WWI, an impressive number of brands jump to one’s mind. Apart from the “usual suspects” such as Benz, Daimler, and Opel these include famous makes like Adler, Audi, Dürkopp, Hansa, NAG, Presto, Protos, Simson, and Wanderer. You will find them well-represented in German museums and private collections, but you will hardly see any such vehicles at classic car runs.
There are several explanations for the disregard for very early cars in the German classic car scene. For one thing, car enthusiasts in Germany tend to concentrate on cars and brands to which they are attached personally and emotionally. This explains why vehicles from the 1950s to the late 1970s are so popular and benefit from rising demand, even if the bulk of them were mass-produced cars that are still available in huge numbers like the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mercedes SLs or the 356 and 911 Porsches. The generation that still remembers pre-war cars, however, is shrinking rapidly, and only very few individuals had the means to own one after the war when survivors were still available, even if in a sorry state, mostly.
© Videoquelle YouTube und Urheberrecht: oldtimer-veranstaltung.de
For another thing, German car enthusiasts tend to overvalue nominal engine power and top speed, which hardly is surprising for a nation that is widely admired for its ability to build high-performing cars on a large scale. Against this background, there is of course some enthusiasm for pre-war sports and race cars like Alfas, Bugattis, Maseratis, and Talbots, not to forget the Silver Arrows. Also, exotically-bodied cars from prestigious manufacturers like Bentley and Riley or Horch and Maybach attract attention, not the least because of their potential to further rise in value. Yet, older cars with more down-to-earth features are often regarded as “lame ducks” and their design is deemed as rather unattractive. This may reflect the dominance of underpowered and mostly conventionally-styled cars in the crisis-stricken Germany of the 1920s. While there is some truth in that perception, it leads many to the wrong conclusion that cars produced before the Great War were even more primitive. Only a few die-hard enthusiasts know: quite the opposite is true.
Yet, there are some developments indicating a gradually rising interest for ancestor and veteran cars even in the German classic car scene. One of the most delightful initiatives towards reviving the spirit of the pioneer days of the motorcar is the “Kronprinz Wilhelm Rasanz” run held in the Lower Rhine region. It was launched in 2013 by the local enthusiast Marcus Herfort who has already initiated the tremendously successful “Classic Days” festival at Schloss Dyck near Düsseldorf, north of Cologne. Inspired by a historic run from Krickenbeck Castle to Düsseldorf on the occasion of a visit of the German crown prince Wilhelm in 1907, Marcus and his seasoned team have created an exclusive event for veteran and vintage car enthusiasts that is probably second to none in the country.
During the third edition in 2015, almost 50 cars from seven countries gathered at Krickenbeck castle which is hidden in a centuries-old landscape garden and is usually not open to the public. Over the weekend, the cars covered more than 200 kilometres mostly on quiet country roads with stops for lunch at beautiful historic monuments, including the moated castle Schloss Dyck. For those who had the opportunity and luck to participate as a driver or passenger, this was an intense experience even if, or maybe because, the weather was not quite what one would expect at the end of May. After their return, the participants enjoyed excellent catering, joyful entertainment, and comfortable accommodation on the premises of Krickenbeck castle.
It is very encouraging to note that in 2015 the event attracted even more enthusiasts from abroad than in the previous years. Even a couple from the U.S.A. participated in their marvellous Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Alpine from 1914. Unfortunately, the field included only very few other British cars, with a 1903 Humber Humberette being one of the exceptions. While the bulk of cars were from American large-scale manufacturers like Ford or Buick -- which is due to the sheer number of survivors and superior spare parts availability -- also a number of rare and even unique vehicles participated. Thus, the run was again a worthy memento of many forgotten marques like Autocar, De Dion Bouton, Charron, Leon Buat, Le Zebre, Locomobile, Minerva, Panhard Levassor, Premier, and Richard Brasier. Among the cars from German manufacturers were several impressive chain-driven Mercedes Simplex, two Benz 8/20 HP, as well as a super-rare Brennabor Type A from 1908. Probably hardly known in the English-speaking world, Brennabor was one of Germany’s most advanced car manufacturers before and after World War One. They introduced conveyor-belt production even before Opel did and enjoyed the reputation of making very thoughtfully designed and extremely well-made cars including front-wheel driven ones.
© Videoquelle YouTube und Urheberrecht: oldtimer-veranstaltung.de
All in all, the Kronprinz Wilhelm Rasanz offers veteran and vintage car enthusiasts the opportunity to contribute to a great event celebrating the stunning variety of technical concepts and marques in the early days of motoring, as well as to enjoy the company of international enthusiasts and the perfect organisation provided by Marcus Herfort and his seasoned team. There is only one thing that this event appears to be lacking: the presence of more British cars! So, ladies and gentlemen, if you are the proud owner of an ancestor, veteran or vintage car, please consider taking it across the channel and participating in the “Kronprinz Wilhelm Rasanz” run next year. More details as well as professional videos from the previous events are available online: www.anno-1907.de
Source: Michael Schlenger