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Bensberg, 8th - 9th of September

This year´s edition of the annual Schloss Bensberg Classics was held on the second weekend of September. With two more concours in London this week (Salon Privé and Windsor Castle) it is easy to compare the European Concours Circle with the American one after visiting several events on the other side of the Atlantic in the last weeks as well.

The first and most obvious difference is the size of the events. Whereas Americans like the big shows with hundreds of cars the European Concours are smaller and tent to be more cozy as they are usually set up in historical surroundings of luxury hotels rather than on big lawns. But this is not just a question of exclusivity but also a necessity due to the different mentalities as European collectors are a little bit less into the show and more into the driving events, so it would be difficult for the concours to find the needed amount of high quality cars year by year whereas events like Pebble Beach or Amelia Island seem to have no problems getting enough new cars every year. A good example for that was the European Concours in Schwetzingen ten years ago that tried to copy the American concept and started promising but failed to get enough fresh cars the following editions. Another lesson this event had to learn the hard way was the question of sponsorship. European spectators are less used to have charity events so they are usually not willing to pay a entrance fee that is covering the expenses of the organizers so a big main sponsor is needed to keep the show going, several concours disappeared because of that like the Louis Vuitton Concours at Paris, others could only survive with a major automobile brand behind them. Over the last years many of the manufacturers recognized the importance of their heritage in today´s market and most of them are running a classic car department sponsoring events. Since a few years the Volkswagen Group is more active in that segment representing their different luxury marques including Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti and now Porsche in events like the Mille Miglia and 4 years ago they decided to have a concours as well. Instead of investing in an existing concours like BMW did with the Concorso d´Eleganza at the Villa d´Este they launched a completely new event in Bensberg near Cologne in Germany. The Grand Hotel at the Castle on top of Bensberg was chosen as an appropriate setting for the first time in 2009 and due to their contacts the concours was successful right from the start.

An international jury led by Dr.Franz-Joseph Paefgen, former Head of Bentley Motors and including Jacky Ickx and the designers Andrea Zagato and Fabrizio Giugiaro to name a few clearly shows the ambition of the event to play in the major league and within just 4 years VW managed to establish the Schloss Bensberg Classics as leading Concours in Germany and more important as part of the Louis Vuitton Classic Concours Award showing its international reputation. After the French luxury brand stopped their efforts in the concours in Paris Bagatelle and Hurlingham Club they launched the Trophy Best of Concours were the Best of Show winners of the seven Concours in Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Cavallino Classic, The Concours of America in St. John, The Quail, Villa d´Este and Bensberg compete. To be named in one go with the former is a big compliment for the relatively new concours.

The Schloss Bensberg Classics consists of two parts, the Rallye Historique on Saturday with a tour though the surrounding Bergische Land and the Concours on Sunday. After visiting London the days before we had the opportunity to round up a memorable weekend as this year´s date did not coincide with the Goodwood Revival for the first time.

Early in the morning, when the sun was still hiding behind the hotel complex the 39 entered cars were set up in the castle yard sorted in 8 different classes. The theme “very important cars only” meant that most of them had a story to tell and we like to introduce some of the most important cars on the field for you.

The first class was dedicated to the pre-war era and featured a superb Mercedes-Benz 680 S with original Sindelfingen tourer coachwork. The supercharged straight six engined chassis was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and was the best money could buy at this time and this example was exported to the USA where it stayed for 70 years before it came back to the country of its origin to be part of an important collection. This car won its class and was nominee for the Best of Show becoming runner-up at the end of the day, the 6.8 litre engine sounded great coming up the ramp in front of the hotel.

Further cars in this class were a Skoda 860, a Bugatti T57 with a Swiss Graber body, a Swallow SS1 and a Opel Admiral Cabriolet. Especially the history of the Swallow Standard was very interesting for the less inaugurated visitors as William Lyons started to build cars under that name before the war. Certainly a car named SS was not appropriate after the war and the company became famous under the name Jaguar. The car on show was a Light Saloon, a 4-seater 2-door coupé standing vis-a-vis to another example of the marque, the SS90 prototype.

The Opel Admiral Cabriolet was the last development of Opel before the war and compared to the small Laubfrosch it was designed for the upper market.

Class 2 was dedicated to the sportive side of the pre-war era. Beside the already mentioned SS90 (named after the maximum speed of 90 mph) and a Singer Le Mans two Alfa Romeo and a Bentley were entered. The 1925 3 Litre Bentley from 1925 was the first factory Le Mans entry in the history of Bentley. In the first two editions of the 24 hours race 3 Litre Bentleys were just entered by privateers as Walter Owen (WO) Bentley was not convinced by the concept of the long distance race, but the success of Captain John F. Duff and Frank Clement in the 1924 edition formed the link between Cricklewood and the Sarthe. In 1925 two cars were entered including the car on show but unfortunately did not finish. In the early years of the long distance classic the regulations changed several times and in this year the drivers had to raise the hood and run 20 laps before entering the pits for a refill and taking down the hood again. The tactic of running with as few fuel as possible meant the car retired after 19 laps with empty tank due to a miscalculation of the consumption with the additional drag of the hood, a rare mistake of mastermind WO. After the lesson learned in the premiere Bentley was dominant in the next year with a total of 5 victories.

The era of Bentley in Le Mans was taken over by Alfa Romeo in the 1930s. Especially the 8C model was successful on all race tracks on the world, the long chassis in long distance races and the short chassis in road and GP races. The 8C Monza was named after the race track in Italy and this example was entered by the Scuderia Ferrari when Enzo was running the works entry for the Milanese manufacturer. As part of the tuning the engine was enlarged from 2.3 litre to 2.6 and driven by Tazio Nuvolari amongst others. The Monza with running boards, a Scuderia Ferrari history and the enlarged engine might be the most desirable configuration of the 8C 2300 line and so it was not a surprise that this car was awarded with a class win.

The second Alfa was a beautiful 6C 1750 Grand Sport with Castagna body. The Grand Sport was the most sportive of the 6C and beside the race bodies of Zagato or Touring several were bodied for road use, the Castagna might have been one of the most elegant options and one of our favorites that day.

When looking at the recent concours one can see that the microcars become more and more popular. Not few collectors have several of these and many were built in small series. Class 3 showed a few less know examples including a Scootacar MK1, a Toyota Sports 800 (looking like a small version of the 2000 GT) and a Lloyd Alexander. The Llyod Alexander was a very successful model at that time but just 49 examples were bodied by Frua.

Star of the Class was without doubt the Bizzarrini Macchinetta, the first car designed by Giotto Bizzarrini during his student days. The car is based on the Fiat 500 but a tuned engine and an aerodynamic lightweight body gave the car a top speed of 155 km/h (about 100 mph). Bizzarrini showed up at Enzo Ferrari´s office and the Commendatore was impressed enough to hire Giotto right away, later Bizzarrini became famous for his construction of the Ferrari 250 GTO.

Kings of Comfort was the name of the fourth class featuring the luxury cars of the post-war era. Since the beginning of motorization the street have changed a lot over the decades. Whereas the early cars of the Edwardian era had to share the road with the horse-drawn vehicles the freeways of the post war era increased the cruising speed and many cars were designed for long comfortable distance travels. This was also the dawn of the coachbuild era, Swiss coachbuilder Worblaufen existed until 1958, the Jaguar Mark IV was a one-off built in 1947.

After Bentley lost its autonomy they build more and more the sportive variations of the Rolls-Royce models. The Bentley Continental was produced alongside the RR Silver Cloud and H.J.Mulliner built 12 DHC on this car, the one on display was ordered by John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Chapron was well known for its pre-war creations, after the war Chapron built several variations of the advanced Citroen DS, the 2+2 Coupé named “Le Dandy” is one of the rarest with just 49 examples.

The class was won by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SC Roadster brought by marque specialist Klaus Kienle. The 300 SC was the top model of the era and even more expensive than the Gullwing or SL Roadster and just about 53 were build making the SL looking look a mass product. The light green metallic Roadster was not just awarded best in class but also voted to BoS by the public.

The Gullwing variation of the 300 series was displayed in the class Esthetes of Acceleration along a splendid Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport. The Gullwing was owned by Porfirio Rubirosa, the wealthy Playboy enjoying the savoir vivre in Paris and the Cote d´Azure. Rubirosa owned several sports car in period including some Ferrari and he was killed in a road accident at the wheel of a 250 GT Series II Cabriolet. The Talbot-Lago T26 is one of just 11 Coupés built by Saoutchik, a sister car of the one displayed at Pebble Beach at this year's Saoutchik Class. Unlike Peter Mullins example the car on show was in unrestored condition and won the best preserved trophy.

The class win was handed over to Andrea Zagato to the owner of the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Zagato.

The Class of Italian Elegance included a Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Pininfarina Cabriolet, a Ferrari 250 GT Boano, a Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder and a Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 but a highlight was the De Tomaso Vallelunga Prototype. De Tomaso is well known for the Pantera that was built in larger numbers but the story of De Tomaso started with the small and nimble Vallelunga. Unlike the Pantera with a large displacement the Vallelunga featured a 1.5 litre engine by Ford and with about 105 hp and 700 kg weight this was very sportive. The first three prototypes were built by Fissore, the later production models (also just 50) by Ghia.

The Small Series Class was won by the Bentley MK VI Cresta showing Italian design on the British chassis. The Bentley MKVI might not be the most elegant car built in Crewe so Jean Daninos, owner of the Steele Manufacturer Facel Metallon ordered a special designed Pinin Farina body on a modified chassis, the car was named Cresta, the design is very similar to the Cisitalia 202 but enlarged to fit the Bentley chassis. The car was shown on the Paris Motor Show in 1948 and the interest in the car encouraged Daninos to build a production version but just 11 cars were built in total but he later built the Facel-Vega.

The other cars in the class were one-offs, the Karmann Typ 1 Coupé was entered by VW and the Italdesign Machimoto by Giugiaro so they were both not judged. The Beradino is also a one-off but with a completely different story. Johannes Paulussen is a privateer who built the car of his dreams by himself over a seven years period, the car was shown on several concours in Germany over the last years.

The last class featured the racing sports cars and had some spectacular entries. Earlier we talked about the work of Giotto Bizzarrini and this class featured 2 of his creations. The legendary Ferrari 250 GTO is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and the one on show is an ex Ecurie Francorchamps car finished its original silver/yellow Belgium race colour. After Bizzarrini parted with Enzo Ferrari he was working for Rivolta and designed the Iso Grifo. Iso is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as well and the displayed A3/C is the competition model of the Grifo Stradale. Later Bizzarrini built a few more of these under his own name.

The 1964 Cobra Daytona Coupé came from the same stable as the 250 GTO and was the evolution of the AC Cobra. During the so-called Cobra-Ferrari war in the Sportcar Championship Carroll Shelby soon became aware that the Cobra had a disadvantage in aerodynamic terms against the GTO so over the winter of 1963 a Coupé version was build to compete with the Ferrari. With just six examples built this is the rarest model and this car won last year's RAC-Trophy at the Goodwood Revival meeting and is one of the favorites at this year Cobra-Race for the (what else) 50th anniversary celebration.

Another car to compete with the GTO was the Jaguar E-Type and 12 lightweight versions were built. One of these was modified for Peter Lindner as a Low Drag version with a fixed Coupe roof instead of the hardtop. Unfortunately Lindner was killed in this car at Monthlery but the design was copied on many cars racing today, the original remains were restored/reconstructed by the owners restoration shop over the last years and is shown on various concours since.

But the class was won by a tiny Dino 166/206 P. Although Ferrari is known for his 12 cylinder models they also built 4 and 6 cylinder models. The 6 cylinder engine was named after his son Dino who died in 1956, the first versions appeared in the 1957 Formula 2 season. Over the next year the V6 and also a V8 was used for several sports car, unlike the V12 nomination of the single cylinder displacement the name 166 indicated a 1,6 Litre 6 cylinder.

In 1965 a new Dino 166 P was announced with a design similar to the larger prototypes and the small 1.6 litre 6 cylinder engine. This car served as a prototype for the later production of 2.0 litre cars and unlike the later production models it has a 4-digit chassis number 0834. In recent years this small racer was competing in several historic races and was shown by its new owner in Bensberg. To his surprise the car did not just win its class over the favored GTO but he also lost a bet as he did not think that this could win Best of Show. Former race driver Jacky Ickx but also Andrea Zagato and Fabrizio Giugiaro seemed to have a strong vote for the small racer so at the end it won over the huge Mercedes-Benz 680 S. This was also a strong statement that not just pre-war cars are able to win concours and now the Dino will compete for the Louis Vuitton Trophy.

The Schloss Bensberg Classics was a great final of a concours weekend and the small but selected display in the castle yard was of a high quality. Hopefully the next years date will again be separate from the Goodwood Revival making it possible to visit this one again. Although the event has not a long history like the Villa d´Este or Pebble it became a fixed date in the classic car calendar within just 4 years, and as long as VW does not lose interest without doubt several more edition will follow.

Text & images ... Peter Singhof ... www.ClassicCarPhotography.de

Schloss Bensberg Classic Entries , Displays & Classes
1925 Bentley 3 Litre Le Mans Team Car s/n 1138
1928 Mercedes-Benz 680 S Sindelfingen Tourer s/n 35939
1932 Skoda 860
1933 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 GS Serie VI Castagna s/n 121215037
1933 Alfa Romeo 8C 2600 Monza s/n 2211120/SF28
1934 Singer Le Mans
1935 S.S.90 Prototype
1935 Swallow S.S.1 Four Light Saloon
1936 Bugatti Type 57 Cabriolet Graber
1938 Opel Admiral Cabriolet
1947 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 S Pininfarina Cabriolet
1947 Jaguar Mark IV Worblaufen Cabriolet
1948 Bentley MK.VI Cresta
1948 Talbot-Lago T26 Grand Sport Saoutchik
1949 Delahaye 135 M Guillore Cabriolet
1953 Bizzarrini Macchinetta
1954 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
1956 Ferrari 250 GT Boano s/n 0567GT
1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SC Roadster
1958 Bentley S1 DHC H.J.Mulliner s/n B212LFA
1958 Meadows Frisky
1959 Lloyd Alexander Frua Coupe
1960 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Zagato
1960 Maserati 3500 GT Vignale Spyder s/n 101.1073
1960 Scootacar MK.1
1962 Citroen DS 19 Le Dandy
1962 Karmann Typ 1 Coupé Studie
1963 De Tomaso Vallelunga Prototyp s/n ML1606
1963/64 Jaguar E-Type Lindner Lightweight Coupé
1964 Cobra Daytona Coupé
1964 Porsche 356 B 2000 GS Carrera 2
1965 Ferrari Dino 166 P / 206 P
1965 Iso Rivolta Grifo A3/C
1965 Toyota Sports 800
1966 Porsche 906 Carrera 6
1967 Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2
1968 Porsche 909 Bergspyder
1969 Aston Martin DB6
1969 Porsche 908 LH
1969 Porsche 917 PA Spyder
1970 Porsche 917 KH
1975 Beradino
1978 Porsche 911 SC Safari Rallye
1985 Audi Quattro S1
1985 Manta 400 Group B
1986 Italdesign Machimoto
2012 Lamborghini Gallardo
Bugatti T35 from the historic rallye
Chrysler SRT Viper
Class 1 – Wegbereiter des Luxus (Precursors of Luxery)
Class 2 – Pioniere der Sportlichkeit (Pioneers of Sportiness)
Class 3 – Legenden im Kleinformat (Legends in Small Size)
Class 4 – Könige des Komforts (Kings of Comfort)
Class 5 – Ästheten der Beschleunigung (Esthetes of Acceleration)
Class 6 – Italienische Eleganz (Italian Elegance)
Class 7 – Raritäten in Kleinserie (Rarities in Small Series)
Class 8 – Legenden der Langstrecke (Legends of the Circuit)