Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
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Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
Schloss Bensberg Classics 2016 ... Ferrari 340 America Touring Berlinetta named Best of Show
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Bensberg, 2nd - 3rd of July, 2016

For the 8th time the Bensberg Classics were held in the name giving Barock Castle, the Althoff Grand Hotel in Bensberg. Invented in 2009 to counter the BMW Villa d´Este Concorso d´Eleganza by Volkswagen in association with the Althoff hotel group the annual event again drew about 50 cars in 8 different classes to the lawn to be judged by the international jury.

Over the years the concours specialty became a diversity in the classes ranging from the typical concours classes to the more common cars of the different epochs, certainly a concession to the less glamorous image of the Volkswagen group. After classes for the economic miracle in previous years this year’s classes included the centenary of BMW, European Design with American drivetrain and the coachbuilder Touring. Other classes included the pre-war coach built design as well as the post war cabriolets and the sports racers from the 1970s.

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Traditionally the weekend starts on Saturday with the Bensberg Rally including some German Celebrities and about 100 cars taking the roads of the Bensberg hinterland to be welcomed in the hotel in the afternoon. With reasonable entry fees not few visitors took the chance to have a look at the various cars ranging from an early Bentley 3 Litre to the VW Beetle. Those not willing to pay the entrance cordoned in front of the main entrance. Unlike the last years the weather was perfect both for the rally and the concours on the next day.

Early on Sunday morning the hotel guest were woken by the loud exhaust note of the various racers in the sports car class, be it the Porsche 3.0 Litre RSR or the Zakspeed Ford. Soon all the cars found their way from the underground garage to be lined up by the volunteers on their designated spots and the jury could have a first look around. Led by former Bentley CEO Dr. Franz-Josef Paefgen the international jury included Pebble Beach chairwoman Sandra Button, Le Mans legend Jacky Ickx as well as the designers Andrea Zagato and Louis de Fabribeckers (Touring) and renowned motorsport journalists. Unfortunately the internationality of the event is usually confined to the judges as over the last 7 years the event was not able to attract many high profile collectors from further away, again the field was reduced to German collectors and a few cars from neighboring countries. As Volkswagen always had to find the middle way between posh and down-to earth the Bensberg Classics might lack the noblesse of the Italian Concours or the prestige of the American counterparts. To make things even worse the Volkswagen Group did retract from the concours as an event for the wealthy classic car owners does not seem to fit in the current political atmosphere when millions of “ordinary” people face the consequences of the “Dieselgate” affair.

But as there are certainly several great private collections in Germany as well this does not necessarily mean that the quality was low but certainly it makes it much more difficult to get the required amount of new cars every year shown by the fact that some entrants had more than one car on show despite the small field.

Class 1 was dedicated to the luxury cars of the pre-war era. Few marques symbolize the luxury and sportiness as much as Bugatti. Known both for their superior small racers as well as for the tourers the Type 57 certainly is the crown of the history from Molsheim. Delivered in five different factory bodies aside numerous special coach built cars the Ventoux named after the hill in the Provence was the 4-seater 2-door version, today widely known as the coupé. Finished in an elegant grey paint the Bugatti was certainly the most elegant car of the class. More unusual was the Rolls-Royce Wraith by Erdmann & Rossi, a British icon clothed by the Berlin coachbuilder in a time of high tension between the two countries. Brought over the Bensberg by the well-known Erdmann & Rossi Collection of Saulus Karosas the car did not just win the class but also the most outstanding restoration, but star of the class was without doubt the highly original and patinated Delahaye 135M of Egon Zweimüller.

Class 2 saw a small selection of diverse pre-war sports cars showing the different approach to the racing theme. On one side the small Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 by Touring that proved very robust including several successes at the 1000 Miglia contrasting the brutish appearance of the Bentley 8 Litre. Originally intended to carry heavy saloon coachwork the 8 Litre Chassis was rarely graced by a more sportive VdP fabric but whereas many of them were converted over the last decades the car in Bensberg was the famous Tourer by Captain Hewitt with its imposing exhaust pipes.

More stylish was the Audi Front 225 Roadster from the Audi Museum, the elegant roadster designed by the Horch-coachbuilders to cover the front-drive chassis of August Horch’s new company. The only coupé in this class was the Peugeot 402 Darl´Mat DSE that also should become one of the runner ups for the Best of Show.

As mentioned before class 3 was dedicated to European design with American power. Maybe one of the best known examples of this category is the De Tomaso Pantera, one of the few cars of the class making it in a higher production number. But this was almost 20 years after the Facel Vega FV2B saw the light as a luxurious coupé of French design powered by the popular V8. Ten years later was the Iso Grifo A3/C Stradale designed by Giotto Bizzarrini (of Ferrari 250 GTO fame) for Piero Rivolta. Both available in street and race version the car in Bensberg was the very last car built before Bizzarrini and Rivolta parted ways. Less known are the Vetta Ventura Apollo 5000 GT that is rarely seen in Europe and the Bristol 411 MKII. After using the BMW-engines in their early life Bristol finally switched to the V8 (Chrysler) as well. The MKII might not be the most elegant car on the field but very interesting as an introverted counterpart to the more glamorous Bentley.

Carrozzeria Touring was given an own class and looking over the long history of the Italian coachbuilder the class could have even had more examples as the pre-war history was not shown. Touring became famous before the war for their superb Alfa Romeo 8C versions both in 2.3 and 2.9 litre versions and soon after the war Touring was also responsible for the first 6C 2500 models. Most famous is the Villa d´Este referring to the connection between Touring and the contemporary concours circuit, in Bensberg was the SS Aerlux version with the huge Plexiglas sunroof.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s Ferrari founded the base of their success with several important race victories at Le Mans and the Mille Miglia making the new marque the choice of the wealthy sportsmen of the time. In a time when the sports racers were still suitable for street use the coachwork was more important than in the later “form follows function” era. With its connection to the Alfa Romeo race team Enzo Ferraris first choice to body his new models was unsurprisingly Touring, the Barchetta and Berlinetta on the 2, 2.5 and also the bigger engined 4.1 litre 340 America is still considered as one of the best designs on a Ferrari to the present day. The Black 340 America in Berlinetta version was one of the crowds’ favorites as well as the jury’s choice for the most important Best of Show.

But also the rival from Modena, Maserati has chosen the Touring design to cover the first really production car, the 3500 GT. Very unusual the Coupe (Touring) and the Cabriolet (Vignale) was built by two different designers.

Class 5 was dedicated to the open cars cruising the Riviera in period, although cruising might not be the favorite discipline of the first car in the class, the small engined Siata 1400 GS. Siata is known for the sleek elegant spiders, be it with the small Fiat 4-cylinder engine or the later V8.

Some might be surprised to see a Porsche 356 on a concours field but unlike the later production cars the early 356 also saw some coach built variations. Before Porsche took over Reutter and brought them to the capacities needed for the demand several cars had to be built out of house due the high demand of the new Porsche, so in 1952 more than 200 cars were built by Gläser in Dresden, those models are much sought after. Compared to the rarity of the Porsche and also the Aston Martin DB2/4 MKII DHC the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL was a mass product. With more than 25000 examples built not few were surprised to see an (immaculate) example on the lawn but this is part of the approach at Bensberg showing the public a diversity both in rarity and design.

Following the Cabriolets were the Coupés of the 1960s. Ranging from the Pininfarina designed Ferrari 365 GTC, the Ghia designed Fiat 2300 S Coupé to the Opel Diplomat, and BMW 3200 CS and Bentley S2 Continental this class featured Italian, German and British design.

A centenary display was dedicated to the BMW cabriolets. The story of the cabriolets started with the licensed production of the Dixi as a derivate of the Austin 7. Known for their motor bikes and their aero engines (as seen in the emblem of BMW) over the next decades BMW became synonymous for the sportive drivers. The sportive ambitions were first shown with the BMW 328 Roadster that became unbeatable on the race tracks in the 2-litre classes, the street versions of the 326 Limousine and the 327 Cabriolet brought these genes on the road. Not few think that the 327 is still one of the best looking BMW ever built, especially those with the powerful 328 engine are exceptionally sought after today but also the “normal” version in the characteristic two-tone is certainly an eye-catcher. Based on the 502 V8 Baur built a small number of Cabriolets before Graf Goertz came up with the 503 Cabriolet and more importantly the 507. Counterpart to the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster the 507 is not only rarer but most likely also more elegant with its purer lines making the Mercedes look a little bit barock. Several celebrities fell in love with the 507, the most famous might have been the King Elvis Presley himself during his army years in Germany. The car in Bensberg was finished in very stylish midnight blue and was voted Best by Public Choice at the end of the day.

Last but not least was the class of the sports race cars of the 1970s. All but one came from the German manufacturers, be it the Opel GT Conrero, the BMW 2800 CS Schnitzer of the two Ford by Zakspeed and the factory touring car Ford Capri 3100 RS.

After the class victories on various race tracks in the 1950s and 1960s Porsche started to build the most dominating cars during the 1970s. Beside the Prototypes the different variations of the 911 helped Porsche to get the record of most race victories held by Bugatti since the 1930s. Just like the Bugatti the amount of victories was given by the amount of private entered cars in various classes and the 911 both Turbo-Charged or naturally aspired was a common sight on the race track all over the world. The legendary 2.7 RS became the base for the later 3.0 RS and the 3.0 RSR race version. Many of these cars were raced for almost a decade with significant success and the RSR in Bensberg was not entered in less than 4 Daytona 24h races and went on racing until 1982, 8 years after its first IMSA 1000KM victory in Mexico City. Despite its racing history the car today remains basically unaltered over the years and was presented in superb race ready condition.

Sole Italian car in the class and class winner at the same time was the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione. In a time when Lamborghini came up with the first mid engined supercar the latest version of the front-engined V12 was introduced by Ferrari. Although not intended as a race car the production was enough in numbers to homologate the car in Group 4 that led to 3 Series a 5 cars in special race trim called Competizione. The car in Bensberg (Chassis 16363) was prepared by French Ferrari importer Charles Pozzi and campaigned in Le Mans winning its class and coming home 6th overall.

At the end of the day 3 cars were considered to become Best of Show and lined up in front of the lawn, The Alfa Romeo Aerlux, the Peugeot Darl´Mat and the winning Ferrari 340 America. Unlike the last years the Pebble Beach style fireworks could be fired in sunshine making this a great day for all coming to Bensberg. Unfortunately the future of the Concours is very uncertain as one might doubt that the Althoff Group will keep this up without the background of Volkswagen whose contract reportingly ended this year. As the concours business is a very difficult on in Germany anyway the lack of a main sponsor is not easy to compensate. We are curious about the development in Bensberg over the next months and hope that somebody will take over.

Report & Images ... Peter Singhof