Photos by the author.
And now, are you ready for something completely different?
Well, almost completely different, that is.
And while Monty Python’s most famous tagline may seem a bit far-fetched here, surely what I am about to describe is a distinct yet tantalizing event, or to be precise two of them, coupling the best Italy and Germany could possibly offer to car lovers.
In fact, following the Settimana Motoristica Bresciana, with its brass cars, and the Gran Premio Nuvolari, with its vibrant sportscars and sizzling GTs, I also took a look at two further occasions to see a superb group of fascinating veterans and classics traveling up and down some of the most exciting Italian roads. Only this time, there was a distinct Teutonic flavor exuding from those rolling displays, and this was caused by the chosen locations, by the organization, and, last but not least, by the peculiar automobiles that added a priceless cultural value.
In fact, after ideally sailing up the Garda Lake in our ideal trip of sort, it was time for me to arrive in Trentino, one of the most lovely Alpine region, famous for being a land where the best of what Italy and Germany’s cultures can offer blends in a most fascinating way.
It is the land where not only those two distinctly different worlds marry together, it is a land where also very different environments met and give life to superb scenarios. Scenarios where water and clean skies have often a remarkable role in making the whole setting all the more unforgettable. And while my aim to use the Garda Lake as main focal point is again followed, there are noteworthy differences in settings, climate, general architecture, and monuments so to make those two classic cars’ meetings something really unique of their own.
In sum, what I saw was a sort of mix between the two events I assisted to in the previous weekends: they were for the most a pacific gathering of notable classics, just like the Settimana Motoristica Bresciana, with its delicate veterans from the brass era, but with an amount of daily miles comparable to Gran Premio Nuvolari’s legs, with similar physical efforts and driving skills of sporty nature. This time, however, despite miles and miles of lengthy legs, there was a more relaxed atmosphere, something more in tune with what could be a rolling expo rather than an all-out contest between sportsmen. Or, at least, that’s the impression one outsider, like me, could perceive taking a look at the teams and their respective mounts. I hope to be no wrong about this.
In fact, despite a more nonchalant facade, roads and environments were still challenging enough of their own: considering the locations, this was probably expected and taken for granted. In any case, there were many reasons to induce spectators to think that this was exactly what drivers and passengers did crave for.
Then, let’s quickly leap to the brief description of what happened during two intense weeks around Dolomites and Garda roads, roads which became home to some of the most interesting German cars ever, a real treat for who loves that kind of autos. Really Teutonic automobiles shone under a formidable sun – at least when rain didn’t ruin some of the enchanted magic – and really they deserve some shots to show their fabulous and tantalizing details!
Die Grosse Koalition: Germany And Italy Meet Together In The Trentino Classic.
Thus, after months of texts and photos describing American cars or Italian autos, what about a refreshing look at some really iconic German cars, belonging to the “Rarely Seen, Always Lovable” type?
That’s precisely what I told myself when I learned about a pair of intriguing events organized here in Italy by German ADAC, the famous Teutonic automobile association.
And adding even more drama to a veritable flock of precious German gems, always difficult to see all together outside their native land, were the splendid Dolomites and Garda surrounds which were perfect stages for such a rolling show.
Or, to be more precise, two of them, held respectively in the weeks between 18th and 21st September – the first one – and exactly seven days later – the second one .
But both had their focal points centered in that Northern Italy territory called Trentino which is half Latin, half German and entirely delightful, with landscapes ranging from peaks to valleys, from vineyards to orchards, from rumbling creeks to sunny lakes, from glaciers to spas, from stony castles to wood cabins, from solitary, peaceful villages to jet-set resorts, from idyllic high mountain passes to burgeoning downtown architectures; in sum, good to offer something of everything for almost everybody.
Those events names? Trentino Classic and Gardasee Klassik, respectively.
The first one, the Trentino Classic, is a long-awaited event which uses every year a glamorous setting as a basis for day-long excursions held during a four days span ; this year, lovely village of Molveno was the chosen one, a small village conveniently placed on the shore of eponymous lake, not too far away from the eastern slopes of Dolomiti Di Brenta massif, easternmost proper dolomite-made mountains in the whole Alpine range. This splendid locale was the starting and finishing point for driving excursions, and while I wasn’t able to take a look at the cars while roaming in and around Molveno, I was lucky enough to shoot some pics of them while parked in other spectacular Alpine scenery which were crossed by this classy caravan.
In fact, as stated, this was a multi-days trip, with lots of driving miles which prompted cars to go across Western Trentino and Northern Garda’s main roads, ensuring plentiful occasions for superb first-hand knowledge of some of the most beautiful Italian (and Alpine) landscapes and environments.
Because of the wide variety of places reached by all those autos, and because this ensemble of excursions didn’t last for only a pair of days, I was able to pick a sizable number of photos, hoping for some marvelous sunny weather after the so-so experience of Tuesday, first day I approached the cars. In fact, albeit fall was only at its beginning, for two days seemed like calendar had made a fast trip toward November, thus prompting cars from being opened up in case they were ragtops (and plenty they were in such a format) and also obliging drivers and spectators to fights with rain. And the previous day, Monday, with cars arriving in Molveno and then heading toward Paganella, a solitary rock massif just west of Trento, was equally without sun. Sun, in effect, is all the more desirable when classic cars are on the road. And what kind of idea those German teams could ever have about Italian climate, in case they had left their homeland with great hopes of shiny days and then received not a sole day of warming welcome by the big yellow ball in the sky? Wasn’t Italy the Land Of The Sun
However, most of the lovely places found during Tuesday’s leg were sadly seen under menacing clouds and, during the morning, sudden rains. A pity, considering that some of the most beautiful Trentino small lakes were reached by those classics on the move.
Luckily, despite bad premises, wet weather ceased during the same Tuesday, and the typical Italian sunny tradition began to slowly work through the clouds: rain left, and while sun wasn’t again part of the party, surely it made clear that above the looming clouds it was there, and it was as plentiful as ever. It promised to be a prominent part of following day’s activities, and in effect it maintained its promises.
In any case, and as soon as wet weather ceased during the same Tuesday, I could already take advantage of a strategic break in Ledro Valley – interesting and little known valley with a lake with genuine prehistorical vestiges located west of Riva Del Garda, the most renowned place in all the Northern Garda Lake territory. This was a situation which let me to hope in good pics and even better premises for remaining week’s portion, all this while making an already clear idea of what cars were there, and if it was worthy enough to wait for better climate, so to shot some more pics of those jewels. In this case, I understood that I had to see them again. And I also hoped for more generous weather.
This precisely happened, and as early as the following day, Wednesday, during cars’ visit to another renowned resort like Madonna Di Campiglio, one of the two undisputed Dolomites’ Queens: finally sun was high and hot, and despite a robust breeze, finally cars could bask under a well deserved sun. This naturally translated also in some splendid views of the immense backgrounds which surrounded the four wheels jewels. Further up the day, in fact, those precious veterans reached a fairly remote central Trentino point, Durone Pass, which is a relatively obscure pass surrounded by superb wilderness greatness, despite being not too far from Trento, the Garda Lake and placed at a relatively easy-to-reach altitude: nothing really difficult also for oldest cars, and arguably good to provide some desirable green backgrounds for all sort of vehicles. Kudos to organizers for their choice of such a place: it is often ignored by Italian tourists and touring organizations, yet deserves lots of attention. And what better way to promote it to new heights than to host a remarkable selection of rare classic cars, showing them against such a primeval nature? This was really a great day, also because Madonna Di Campiglio and the Durone Pass were only two of the various points crossed during this leg, a leg which also brought cars and their drivers in the apple orchards-encrusted Non Valley. And this afforded me to take some precious shots of the cars under the sun, after the cloudy weather pictures of the previous day: this was a welcome fact, for most of the convertibles now had their tops conveniently rolled up. Thus, many cars have been photographed with a before and after theme: before and after the storm, that is.
The following day, cars again started for their conclusive act from Molveno, this time going to the Adige Valley, passing through Trento itself and finally arriving in Mezzolombardo and San Michele All’s Adige, where fine wines’ birthday places waited for the arrival of all those suave classics. After 4 intense days of Trentino Classic, a great way to salute those teams, tired maybe, but happy for sure, considering what a grandiose variety of high class wilderness and bespoke landscapes were offered to their discerning senses.
Speaking of classic cars, then, what they were? Were they of worthy quality? Were their array a first–class selection? Well, no doubt about it: it was first class indeed, perfect match for the classy scenarios they crossed. In fact, while the bulk of them all was a noteworthy ensemble of stupendous German autos, many other countries had their ambassador models, and all of them offered at least one peculiar, rare, awesome car of one type or another. I can safely assume that rarely I had ever seen so high a quality regarding what kind of cars took place to a given event when comparing them to the overall number of teams, a mere hundred or so of autos: for this reason, I can also say that these meetings were right on par with the best Italian classic car scene can offer, and a splendid complement for the definitive and most nostalgic trip back in time.
To begin with, Great Britain models were represented by a number of typical MGs (like a fascinating ’49 TC or a pair of slightly younger TDs, one a ’51 and the other a ‘53, both painted in an appropriate choice of green), Austin Healeys, Triumphs and Morgans.
Naturally, speaking of English automobiles, there were also elegant Jag XKs, like a formidable ’56 XK 140 OTS, a pair of XK 140 in drophead coupé format and always seductive XKEs, often equipped with the always sublime V12.
But any event where not just one, but two superlative prewar Bentleys are available to enthusiasts’ eyes is a worthy one: in our case, a formidable ’36 4 &1/4 Liter is one of the most historically important specimens of this meeting.
It was in good company: what about an impressive Blower Bentley, one of those 4,5 Liter with that always menacing Villiers supercharger aiming at lesser automobiles on the road? Yeah, glimpses of such a car on every other auto’s rearview mirror must give most drivers some shudders . And its engine sound, amidst the Durone Pass’ wilderness? Unbelievable, irresistible and unforgettable.
Those two cars and what sensations they offered to spectators would be more than enough to justify the trip to see those cars. There was yet another Bentley too: a more recent R-Type which was quite at home between Madonna Di Campiglio and Ledro’s classy yet rustic buildings.
But there was more: an incredibly rare S.S. (the granddaddy of all Jags), really belonging to the “You Don’t See Everyday” type of autos.
This one was an S.S. One Tourer built in 1935, powered by the latest version of the Standard-derived sidevalve block, good for 70 hp. In the following years, the switch to the valve-in-head configuration made for a noteworthy injection of horses, and this, plus the birth of the 3,5 liter motor, really helped to propel Lyons’s creations at the forefront of British automotive industry. As a representative of the Jag/SS’ Thirties New Era there was The Legend itself, the SS 100, an example painted in another shade dark red.
And if these jewels weren’t enough, what about a majestic Alvis, a 1939 12/70 SC?
Once again, after those other Red Triangle models spotted in Mantua only a few days before, I really considered myself privileged enough for the rare opportunity to take a look at another one of them. Two prewar Alvises in so short a span of time, what could the British cars’ fan possibly want more?
Maybe an Aston Martin: and here again, this event gave something also for fans of David Brown’s products, this time a DB Mk III Saloon. Complete with its peculiar fins and rear hatch combo, this was another helluva car of sort, perfectly tuned to the general high quality of this show.
But this was only the beginning of said show.
French cars were represented by an always spectacular DS and its sportier stablemate, that superlative masterpiece with Maserati roots which is known as the SM, here in a 1973 fuel injection model.
But among the Made In France models, there was a veritable surprise, something I had never seen so far in real life metal, a Facel Vega! This one was a ’58 FV 3B, built in 91 examples and equipped with the 301 Polysphere engine.
Every kind of marvel one can say about Jean Daninos’ creations is true, including the snorting, raucous note coming from its Mopar engines via hot dual exhausts .
The one seen in Trentino also gave me a neat opportunity to see that A), F-Vs weren’t excessively bulky and B), their famous rear lamps lenses were a jewel in themselves, what with a neat “V” being molded into the red itself. How droll !
There were also precious few cars built in Sweden ( an always nice P1800 ) and from Iron Curtain countries. Speaking of the latter ones, in fact, there was a jewel of a Tatra 603, complete with unforgettable sound which delivered a pleasant and rarely felt note to bushes and shores when it passed through. Its superb engine loudly resounded during those mountains’ trips for sure . Granted !
The other car coming from Eastern Europe was a Trabant wagon, looking incredibly cute, incredibly tiny and incredibly practical. It was also incredibly timeless: it seemed like it was one of those late models we saw so often during those epic 1989 months; instead, it was a 1961 version !
For some of the most impervious passages through those mountains, it was maybe one of the best cars available!
Italy furnished some nice and unexpected examples of automotive drama too, thanks to two formidable Maser 3500s, one of them a fabulous convertible powered by a fuel injection variant of its superb inline six, a really classy example of the first Italian car to offer such an advanced system. Once again, I was fortunate to see two jewels of this kind in two distinct events only a few days apart.
The other one was a sober black coupé which blended marvelously with the scenario. Precious Lancia coupès enriched the Trentino Classic’s roster: an always fascinating Aurelia B20 GT in its last incarnation, the 1957 Series VI (with its vent windows as a quick telltale sign).
Equally stupendous in a really dark livery was one undisputed Pinin Farina’s diamond of a car, the Flaminia Coupé. Diamonds, in effect, may be used as a comparison tools to explain the sophisticated, sharp-looking nature of the most iconic design touch of PF’s Flaminias, the famous dihedral touch visible on their sides. No wonder if many speak of these cars as the last proper Lancia jewels: their exquisite design and their precise mechanicals are what the legends of car enthusiasts are made of .
Among other typical Latin wheels, some Alfa GTs, a Spider, a Giulia sedan, a yellow 850 Spider, and, last but not least, a spectacular Abarth 1000 TC (one early example, still with suicide doors) made for perfect mounts for lengthy hours of fun driving atop some of the most exhilarating Alpine roads, bar none. In any case, if a pair of genuine purosangue from Viale Ciro Menotti in Modena, or if a ready-for-the-track Abarth weren’t enough to satisfy most insatiable guys, what about that Holy Graal of thoroughbred hybrids, those which married haute couture Italian gowns with athletic Detroit lungs? Then, take a look at the wedge-extreme Intermeccanica Indra, last Franco Scaglione’s work and arguably one of the most emblematic cars built during the era when axe-like hoods had to be coupled with sharp edges and angular slabs of metal.
In this car’s case, this was done in a really outstanding manner, and it is even more frustrating to discover that Intermeccanica didn’t last for long, and Scaglione himself was ruined by that company’s folding out. At least we can still enjoy a car like this Indra: its suavely raucous SMC in early Seventies size surely hauls a lot, and mountain roads are no problem for competent drivers, even if under skin it hosts a plethora of Opel items.
In any case, both Chevy engines and Opel underpinnings are first grade components for whoever knew how to build an A-class road car, even more so if they did hide beneath the Scaglione’s magnificent design. Yeah, if Dolomites’ roads were a kingdom, Indra surely may qualify as their sovereign.
For that matter, maybe not totally fit for those roads, but ranking quite high in the glamour department were the American cars, those totally conceived and built in and around Detroit: here, again, there was a delectable selection of unexpected jewels.
Unexpected because of its sheer size, always a challenge on twisty roads, a ’63 Thunderbird was nonetheless present, giving a sample of jet-set way of life for American automobiles’ enthusiasts.
In case also a palatial ’63 Thunderbird may sound like a common item for typical American classic car fan, what about a ’31 Chevrolet Independence Phaeton, in an unrestored format too?
That was the oldest machine available to eyes’ consumption in the Trentino Classic contest, and surely it was quite a dandy auto also when compared to every other car. Difficult to think that this was still a member of the Low Priced Three more than eighty-five years ago – its size, its elegance, its demeanor tells otherwise to average European motorist. Really it deserved my attention.
Speaking of average motorist, I also highly appreciated the only Mustang chosen for these excursions: instead of a snorting muscle car or a swift 289-equipped model, here is Ms. Secretary’s definitive cart, the simple 200-equipped ’66 hardtop.
But, boy, what a champ it was also in its humblest format ! From outside, nobody can deny that it looks like there were a hundred or so more horses than the puny 120 supposedly living a quiet life under the immense ‘Stang hood. And evidently, good enough to propel the Mustang with grace, also on those challenging Dolomite paths. Quite the opposite of this sober ‘Stang was another rare (for European standards) American automobile: a 1985 Excalibur Series IV Roadster. This perfect incarnation of a glamorous Disco cruiser for the even more sizzling Eighties was impossible to ignore, even among those other sensational cars gathered for the occasion. But sensational is always the most fitting word to be used beside this automobile.
Last but not least among U.S.-made models, a Jeep CJ3, one of those early postwar models which is always rare to see, because, at least here in Italy, there were so many ex-war models that it was needless to buy a new model when the CJ3 was effectively built. Its looks blended nicely with some wilderness’ scenarios. And with so rugged roads to be taken by this marathon on wheels (on paper, at least), its climbing ability came in handy, especially during the wet days.
But it is now time to deserve some attention and room to those stupendous German cars which were the bulk of this event. Really there was a distinctive selection of models, with an equally ample spectrum of different ages, ranging from luxury prewar machines to Eighties sporty mounts. But who loves the Teutonic approach to the typical Fifties glamour, during the Trentino Classic could really find an automotive heaven of sort.
In effect, while most of the cars participating to this superb show on wheels dated from the magical Fifties and Sixties, as we’ve seen there were few prewar models indeed. In any case, those few were really something to write home about. And also among the cars made in Germany there was a splendid and rare Thirties auto. It was a superlative BMW 326 in convertible format, complete with its always luxurious folding top and a suave, baroque appeal which oozes quality a mile away.
But also that sumptuous BMW 326 made in 1938 couldn’t possibly cast a shadow above the impressive beauty and the exceptional quantity of some of the most iconic postwar German cars ever, the Ponton Mercedeses. In fact, never before in my life I had seen so many of them gathered all together in a single event!
180 D, 190s, 220s, in sedan and wagons format, in convertible as well hardtop combinations, with or without sunroofs: in sum, if you love this iconic symbol of the German Fifties Renaissance, you surely lost something shouldn’t you have taken part at this event.
To begin with, a pair of sedans, both gas-powered 190s (thus belonging to the Mercedes’s codenamed W121 family’s branch), one a rather austere and sober sample of this machine, quite elegant in its battleship grey livery.
The other one wasn’t exceedingly different from its stablemate, except that it had some more chrome and, more important, it came equipped with a nifty full-length soft top.
In any case, perfect examples of the first unibodied Mercedeses, cars with great doses of elegance blended with a certain general inclination to understatement. Their unimpressive looks may be at home practically everywhere, and with any weather condition. What’s more, their relatively simple profile may resemble the one adopted by the famous Keller Boxes Mopars of just a few years before, but in a finer and more harmonious rendition. No wonder if these cars were the basis for Mercedeses’ later decades of success and for a wide array of derivative models.
Among those derivative models, naturally, we cannot forget those stupendous convertibles and coupes made using the modern 220’s six cylinder unit. But before taking a look at some of them, what about a classic of Mercedes production, the wagon? Well, in those days they were mostly coachbuilt specials, like the superb model seen during this Trentino Classic. A 180 D (codename W120 D I) converted to wagon format by the Lorch-based Binz & Co. coachbuilding firm in October of 1956, which during its well-deserved restoration also gained that fine Webasto sunroof (rather similar to the one seen on one of those two 190 sedans). This was really one of the most iconoclastic cars of the whole Fifties, marrying the typical sturdiness and high-grade frugality of a slow-revving diesel engine with the practicality of a wagon, all this while maintaining the usual Mercedes fit and finish standards and unrivalled luxurious ride and excellent overall dependability. Really a multipurpose car ! Few autos in Europe (or elsewhere, for that matter) could match this machine’s qualities. And really it deserves lots of photos!
However, as anticipated, we must now take a look at some of the glamour queens of the Ponton family.
As said, this complete range of midsize Mercedeses didn’t limit itself to sedans and coachbuilt wagon conversions. To the contrary, its basic structure was quite flexible and various sportier models began to be offered as early as 1955 (with the famous 190 SL, for example).
However, the Trentino Classic offered the opportunity to observe a distinctive array of various models which were those famous convertibles and coupes more directly derived by the original sedans, also preserving many design features.
These distinctive and prestigious automobiles used the six cylinder 220’s underpinnings although via a shortened version of the same 220’s wheelbase. The 220 in itself had been originally identified by the codename W180, featuring a platform with a 111 inches span for the original ’54 sedan, which had gained more than 6 inches on the 104.3” span used by the W121 models, also because of the need to accommodate the longer six. Interestingly, Mercedes changed the codename for its ultimate and more prestigious member of the Ponton family in 1958, the 220 models offered with the fuel injection six: they adopted the W128 nomenclature.
The W180 convertibles and coupés used yet another modified variant of the Ponton platform, this time with a 106.3” span, still somewhat longer than the original W121’s structure but with an overall sleeker design. And arguably they surely looked sleeker, for sixty years later they have still an undisputed sporty elegance which borders on the exquisite, when certain trims and certain colors appear on their bodies. And all of them exude a quality feeling which is all but unknown to most of today’s cars. These were really special cars for a special type of clientele.
And special indeed was the oldest of this exclusive group of autos, a 1956 220 S Cabriolet (following the Mercedes lingo, a W180 II model). It was really divine in its demeanor, even with its sumptuous roof hermetically closed : maybe, it was even more livable, because these cars’ roofs were famous for being perfect also during the harshest weather conditions. Considering the somewhat precarious climate during the Ledro Valley stage, it was really a desirable add-on. Oh, and it works fine also for the overall design, something not always easy to say about closed tops convertibles of other kind. Clearly, as soon as the sun arrived, this car had its soft top conveniently folded down, so to permit a full open-air feeling – and a convenient look at its formidable interior.
In any case, there was also a proper closed model of this same kind of automobile, a 1959 220 S Coupé (again, W180 II), quite right to show that also with a proper fixed roof this model preserved a charisma, a feeling difficult to find elsewhere. It also made it look smaller to eyes that what it is really in metal, which doesn’t hurt; to the contrary, this restrained aura added to the general quality feeling.
Furthermore, in its case, its sober black livery made for an incredibly dignified machine, a car which you could count on for every kind of important occasion in your life, whether it is a romantic escapade or a prestigious executives’ meeting. A car for all seasons indeed – and again, its tight-fitting interior compartment made for quite a contrast with those prewar sportscars already seen above. Last but not least, its deft usage of chrome, as per Fifties mantra, didn’t disturb; and also those Chrysler-like rear appendages seemed quite in touch with both the car and its lineage. Difficult to ask for more, in case you had to choose a German car with flash and dignity in equal dosages.
However, for those desiring a further upgraded rendition of this kind of machines, Mercedes had something available, starting in 1958. And two models of this uppermost Ponton Benz were available to connoisseurs’ scrutiny during the Trentino Classic.
As said, the sophisticated 220 SE models, (codenamed, as remembered, W128) may well have been considered as the ultimate Ponton Merc, offering the six with the ultimate Fifties technological marvel, the fuel injection. Evidently, Mercedes’ wise approach at this hyper exotic job was more successful than what endured by many others (Electrojector anyone?), and after the astounding 300s, what better platform to offer it than the 220 not-too-large, still-quite-luxurious models?
So, between 1958 and 1960, a precious handful of sedans, convertibles and coupes were produced with this feature. On the outside, they didn’t differ too much from its carbureted siblings, yet that small “E” added to their name made everyone aware of what kind of technical tour de force was behind their epic lines. Epic lines which shone even more with the right color combination, like the magnificent aqua/turquoise seen on a 1960 220 SE Cabriolet, one of the last of its bunch.
This was really a superb specimen, where everything looked as perfect as it should have ever been, down to its cabinet-like interior (in truth, a desirable feature of all the sportier and more luxurious Mercedeses, a veritable triumph for senses).
And, as mentioned above, also the 220 SE was offered in a proper fixed roof coupé variant, just like the “lesser” 220 S (“lesser”… what could possibly be about those autos that’s to be considered as “lesser”, simply I don’t know ) . And it too was a precious member of the Trentino Classic meeting. This time, it also had a noteworthy two tone combination, glitzy when compared to its siblings’ liveries, tastefully restrained when compared to some really loud combinations of the same kind then so de riguer on European cars trying to outdo American models: a perfect compromise of sort, complete with a more than adequate chrome job – also a bit daring, if we consider the front fenders molding. And naturally, that wraparound back’s creen further added to its flashy styling. Difficult to find more elegant single window coupés (indeed, hardtops), than this type of Mercedes.
So, the various Mercedes Pontons seen during the Trentino Classic surely offered a comprehensive look at this whole family of cars. But there were also nice examples of its sportiest member, the always athletic 190 SL. It shared the same sedans, convertibles and hardtops’ roots, but it had a really distinct look: sort of elegant woman which left her haute couture gowns in her boudoir and instead opted for some sexy, tight yet still elegant sports attire. There were some 190 SLs conveyed for the occasion in Trentino, each of them offering a different glimpse at the various souls of this bespoke automobile: whether you preferred it in a sparkling pastel azure, in an always seductive silver or in an austere really dark blue (more a black of sort), this Stuttgart masterpiece really still shines, also amidst a whole galaxy of other Three Pointed Stars.
Because I mentioned the magic SL term, there was also a superb specimen of the glorious dynasty of these cars with the 3 liter in-line six, a magnificent 1957 Roadster. Also sporting a silver livery, this glorious sportscar has no need for further words, so stupendous it is, so important it is, so seductive it is. And, like most other open Mercedeses seen during those days, it looked as good with the roof closed as it was with the top folded down.
Equally magic for Mercedes was the 300 numerals, as witnessed by the fabulous 300 SL in both its renowned Gullwing and Roadster formats. Anyway, some of the most imposing Mercedes of them all were likely the early Fifties “standard” 300s, those built using one last rendition of the classic oval-section separated frame which was by then an established Mercedes tradition.
Those 300s, affectionately nicknamed as the Adenauers in the case of the four door versions (because the famous politicians adopted a number of them as official cars during his tenure in Bonn), were arguably some of the best cars of their days, and the fact that its powerplant was a mere six of just 3 liter shouldn’t deceive anybody. In fact, it was a smooth, powerful and poised motor, and its qualities made one ideal of a basis for the Gullwing’s ideal powerplant.
The Trentino Classic event was a great occasion to see two of them, coming from two different eras of this superb dynasty. And it was also a great occasion to notice the subtle differences between one of the sportiest member of this family (so much so that it deserved a codename of its own, different from its longer four door siblings) and one of the most dignified one, one where the term four doors and sex appeal blended really well.
The oldest one was a superlative convertible, a 1953 300 S Roadster (which, despite its very same name, was a very different beast from the agile sportscar of just a few years younger). Its old-school design, with those Oh-So-Forties separated fenders, that utterly imposing radiator grille and that swift, Clipperesque rear end was in any case made to look quite perfect, the acme of years of evolutionary work on this same design theme. No wonder if Mercedes chose to replace this older styling so late in the Fifties, and with the bread-and-butter models, the 180 and the 190, to begin with. The 300s styling nicely evolved, as we will see, but surely nobody can accuse this convertible to be ugly or underwhelming. To the contrary, some of the first words coming to mind while looking at it are sybaritic, regal, imposing, austere, princely, magnificent, suave, formidable and majestic . You choose which one suits you better. For me, this ’53 model (codenamed W188) was undisputedly a superb example of how grand looking proportions and uppermost good taste can look like if called to co-operative efforts. This palatial convertible (in effect, a two seat roadster – the proper convertible model had landau bars on its cloth top and was dubbed as Convertible A) was built on an almost svelte 114.2” wheelbase and had an overall length of 186 inches. What impressed me most, however, was its huge girth, thanks to something like 75 inches of width. In any case, those impressive dimensions were masked under a bespoke body, and those languid-looking huge headlights added to the charisma of this car. And while it’s got only 150 horses, they were apparently plenty enough to move with brisk dignity this sovereign of the road.
Its interior was, on the other hand, as enticing as its body lines, with swathes of leather, solid amasses of pristine woods and acres of moquette. Just the right cabinet into which to spend some lengthy hours under an irritating rain. After all, that cloth top was more akin to a miniature Renaissance dome rather than to some precarious cover job seen on some of other Trentino Classic autos.
Thankfully for us car lovers, the following day this 300 revealed all its glorious roofless beauty , thus providing great views of its most exuberant inner nature and its warm, cozy living room-like passengers compartment. What a dream of a car ! Quite rare too: only 141 units were assembled between 1952 and 1955 (and its roster’s siblings also enjoyed similarly low production).
Even if this Roadster were to be the one and only one of its genre to put its wheels on Trentino roads, this would’ve been an extremely joyous fact. After all, it was rare enough to make every event where one of them can be found as a mostly valuable auto show, bar none.
But, it was in a good company, for there was also its somewhat younger four door companion, a 1959 300d Cabriolet D . And no, all those “Ds” don’t mean it was equipped with an oil burner. To the contrary, this was yet another example of early Mercedes application of fuel injection to road-legal automobiles. Really this Italian contest had a good amount of pioneering examples of fuel injection cars. The 300d Cabriolet D was part of the 1957 new range of flagships Mercedeses (codenamed W189) which replaced earlier 300s (codenamed W186). The new code, as per Mercedes practice, was applied because of its deft restyling work, and, overall, because of the superb novelty which was under its massive hood: the fuel injection system, that is. Reasons enough to give a new internal code to this auto. It also had a frame which was four inches longer than its predecessors’ already expansive measure ( 124” vs. 120”, and a full 204.3” overall, really large numbers for an European car), despite being again the proven X-frame type made of ovoid section tubes. So, the already good roadholding qualities of this D-B’s upper echelon were further improved by the mechanical improvements. Naturally, the 3 liter OHC engine now provided some more cavalry, a full 180 of them: a highly appreciable fact. The smooth but persuasive 300’s engine’s sound was a pleasure to listen to, and its regular clock-like ticking was as sensational as some of those more raucous engines’ sounds which resounded through those valleys.
And the styling? Well, it gained that most iconic Fifties touch, the fins: take a look at it, and really this redesign job can be termed as a taillifting of sort, rather than a simple facelifting, even if the front end too received attention. This makes for the ultimate Adenauer. And while Adenauers’ most famous models may well be the hardtop sedans, the four door convertible can arguably be considered as the grandest of them all.
So, I was really happy to see one of these wheeled arks for nabobs parked in some familiar places. What a great coup to take advantage of this automobile’s charm (and with only 65-odd examples built during its five-years span, it is a difficult catch everywhere, including some of the most renowned indoor auto shows or some of the most famous Concours D’Elegance). This alone was well worthy of a trip, just to see it . And no problem if its roof stayed firmly in place also during sunny Wednesday stage: its charm is nonetheless radiant.
However, those distinctive Mercedes weren’t the only ones Three Pointed Stars arrived for the Trentino Classic occasion: just in case it wasn’t clear what was Mercedes’ early Fifties trademark styling, a suave early Fifties 220 explained a lot about it, with its rounded, separated fenders; sort of smaller scale 300s, also sharing flagships fundamentals in term of chassis and engine design. It was equipped with the 2,2 liter OHC six which delivered 80 eager horses. Definitely, not a diminutive machine, especially in the sporty convertible formula like this one.
Also its charm factor was plenty enough to make it a noteworthy companion to all those glamour queens. This model was also interesting because was a rare example of a car offering not just one, but two distinct convertible models: the 2/3 passengers A, as the example shown here, and the B version, with four passenger capacity (and two windows styling, against the one window, Victoria-like look of the A). in any case, it was another rare bird, because of its short production life. But, as we’ve seen with the vast array of Pontons, times were fast changing for Mercedes also, and this 220 was the last witness of a whole era, an era with deep roots in the Thirties technology and styling. In any case, they aged very well, for this 1951 W187 model was really superb.
If the Fifties Mercedeses were a sensation, the very same can be said about the Sixties ones. Here there were superb convertibles and coupes, Fintails and Pagodas, which delivered other large doses of jet set flavor and memories of fabulous trips a-la European Grand Touring. In fact, there was a wide array of those undisputed jewels which are the models belonging to the W111 family. And all of them were convertibles ! So, it was possible to make a quick full-immersion in the various evolutions this family developed year after year, beginning with a 1962 220 SE b Cabriolet (codename W111/3). Its lines are still, some 55 years later, an example for whoever desires to make a stately convertible with a bit of nonchalant taste. Here is another Mercedes car which looks good both in summer or in winter mode: in other words, with its top up or fully down.
And naturally, its interior was as sumptuous as it gets, with another triumph of leather – and that wooden dash…
This splendid early example of a road gem was accompanied by a similar 1966 250 SE – similar in looks, at least, courtesy of its tan paint. It had the first evolution of the inline six from a displacement perspective, the 2,5 liter unit good for 150 hp (versus 120 for the early 220 SE model). The example seen during the Trentino Classic also showed the vertically stacked headlights, often associated with this kind of car- for Federal regulations, if I remember correctly. If one 250 SE were not enough, there was yet another car of this type, a 1967 model, this time in a distinctive dark red hue which is very suited to this luxurious machine, and equipped with air-con.
And, as per Mercedes tradition, the contrasting color of the soft top blended really well with the impressive overall design. Last among the W111 jewels, a spectacular bronze beauty, one of those models fitted with the 3,5 V8 powerplant, a 1971 280 SE/ 3.5 Cabriolet. Strangely, this time D-B decided to stay with the old codename, despite former Mercedes models had benefited of a new code when adopting “minor” engineering and design novelties. In any case, the new motor really propelled this car into the stratosphere, and its 200 eager ponies were just the right ticket for twisty Dolomite roads.
Naturally, as a perfect complement to this plethora of grand-looking cars, there was a sizable number of Pagodas (codename W113) and more recent SLs (codename R107) . The Pagodas were especially attractive, and while not all of them were equipped with the iconic hardtop, all of them exuded a sophisticated flair which is not out of place, even during a dull, rainy day. And, quite obviously, the pagoda hardtop was quite useful during that wet Tuesday.
Last but not least among the Mercedeses gathered together for the occasion, the definitive autobahn-stormer, the 450 6.9, was also part of the ensemble . A perfect addendum to so aristocratic a lot !
What applies to those really large number of Mercedes (in truth, they had the visually larger share of all the cars seen during the Trentino Classic) , also applies to BMWs, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. But, don’t think that Bavarian cars suffered of inferior complex when likened to what Stuttgart brought about: that prewar 326, in convertible format, would be the talk of the town in any place.
But there was yet another unexpected jewel, of the type rarely seen in Germany too (let alone in Italy, for that matter): another convertible sedan, this time an impossibly cool 502 V8 bodied by Baur in 1955, in the almost mythical four door format. Although the flashy bright yellow paint may seem a bit exaggerated for this kind of machine, it is nonetheless strangely fit for the role, because, after all, that was the era when similar hues were used on other prestige cars elsewhere in the world, and because the Bavarian Baroque Angel can wear such a paint with no loss of dignity or panache. And its sprightly engine, first production V8 with oil sump, block and heads in aluminum alloy, surely had no problem to quickly move such a flamboyant machine on autobahns. Underskin, also its separated frame had some interesting tech specs, like the front suspensions with torsion bars. All in all, a worthy contender for the title of Autobahn’s Queen. After all, back in the Fifties, these BMWs were already tough competition for the Mercedes 300s, and their esthetics catered, and this seems quite clear, to the same kind of clientele otherwise inclined to buy one of those last separated-fenders Benz.
Together with the 326, here there were two BMWs worthy of a dedicated trip just to admire them
While the 326, all in all, is a well known model, the convertible sedan offered on the premises of what was labeled as the Barockengel is something of a never-seen-before threat to my mind and fantasy. Really a car which has to be seen to believe. My only regret about that 502? I couldn’t see it with its top down. Just like its Mercedes-badged “colleague”, also the convertible sedan from Munich went with its soft top snugly fitting around the passenger compartment also during the sunny Wednesday’s stage.
And if this fabulous pair wasn’t enough to satisfy an almost insatiable hunger for superb machinery, there were also more recent Bimmers which were special enough to gain public appraisals by those few tourists which still frequented those stupendous Dolomites’ resorts.
BMWs like a 2800 CS, fantastic in its aggressively irresistible appeal.
BMWs like an impossibly lemon-painted 1802, which was arguably one of the most radiant-painted cars there – and one example of the German penchant for “different” kind of paint, also on relatively sedate cars. Lemon paint was the “in thing” this year for BMWs!
Naturally, there were also other impressive cars of German ancestry: among them, a respectable selection of Porsches. After all, what kind of German-style event could possibly be without Stuttgart’s air-cooled marvels? Here there were some noteworthy 911s, coming from various and different eras of this mystical car, including a 1973 2,4 liter T, quite appealing in its strange nut/biscuit color, and a pair of 1987 Carrera 3,2 Cabriolet .
But if you were looking for some authentic rarities, jewels of a forgotten glory or underrated gems, surely you would’ve appreciated the Opel Monza, arguably one of the most advanced GM product of the late Seventies. Its lines may well look familiar to any American classic cars’ enthusiast: this was the time when fastbacks had a veritable resurgence, and it was also the time of those peculiar GM’s 1978 downsized midsizers which had, among their various iterations, some odd “fastback” sedans of sort. They really looked like bigger stablemates of this noteworthy Opel. While the American cars’ styling enjoyed mixed feelings about them, the one used for the European Monza (based on the Senator model) was widely acclaimed, albeit, as a BMW or Porsche competitor, it really didn’t live up to its expectances. In any case, an iconic example of a time when Opel had no inferiority complex while trying to rob precious shares of the upper market segments to well established firms. The Monza which came to participate to the Trentino Classic was a late production GSE example, the ultimate Monza.
Another oddity coming from Germany, this time with a distinct American-inspired look, was the Auto Union 1000 SP roadster.
This 1963 model shows how deep the early Thunderbird’s influence was in certain European automobile’s circles. Its general lines, its grille, its formidable Detroitesque rear end (where Thunderbird’s themes deftly blend with 1960 Buicks’ own solutions), its ample panoramic’s creen; in sum, all of its design makes for one cheeky yet fine example of an early Sixties sportscar designed following different school of designs than the established ones already used in Germany and in Italy. Call it the most extroverted car of the whole bunch here, on the Trentino Classic’s paths.
Speaking of oddities with German roots, there was also one of the most beautiful cars of its whole genre, bar no one: the Glas 1300 GT in convertible format, a splendid example of Pietro Frua’s magic applied to the Dingolfing’s rather advanced – on paper – technology. A technology comprehensive of cam belt application for its OHC motor.
This was one pocket rocket of a sportscar, offering vivid performances and deft good looks to those who considered a Porsche or an Alfa too inflated. The superb livery of the example seen during the Trentino Classic was really outstanding, possibly a perfect homage to the equally green surrounds. Sadly, while I was privileged to see this delightful little machine on its own wheels during the gloomy Tuesday, when next day offered a shining sunny weather, the Glas arrived in Madonna Di Campiglio aboard a towing truck. Maybe, the delicate Glas mechanicals once again demonstrated to be a bit too temperamental, or maybe the demanding Val Di Non and Val Di Sole roads were a bit too much for the little spider: in any case, what a pity to spot it not properly working; and what a perfect occasion to better study its perfect proportions, its baby Ferrari looks!
And last but not least, there were also VWs, in van formula especially. Those Typ 2s were really interesting, what with one ’64 high roof model (in German, Grossraum-Kastenwagen), a 1966 twin cab pickup (Doppelkabine), a rather rare example of the famed pick-up version of the iconic German light truck, and finally a veritable time machine of a camper, built in 1960 and complete with fitting accessories (Campingwagen its apt name in German). In fact, once its cozy interior was offered to avid onlookers’ eyes, it revealed a good sample of the kind of equipment German tourists used when coming to Italian shores for their holidays. Just what you may expect by a Westfalia.
Those Typ 2s were really special ones, I must say, but maybe the most peculiar of the lot was the one with ADAC insignia: used as support vehicle, it was as useful as beautiful, perfect complement to another ADAC-badged car, a splendid example of a Beetle.
During resting minutes at Durone Pass, that Typ 2 in yellow and black livery was also conveniently parked, almost hidden by craving eyes, in a most beautiful natural amphitheater. I bet that some of the most iconic photos belong to it, calmly parked in so spectacular place.
In effect, considering the landscape’s high quality, I must thank who chose so beautiful environments. Kudos to the organization, which was impeccable, at least from an outsider like me who met this romantic caravan of autos almost by fortuitous chance; kudos to the cars’ drivers and owners, who chose to take their mounts on some of the most fascinating yet demanding Italian roads, full of landscapes as dreamy as well as distracting: I bet that it wasn’t easy to pilot similar cars with no risk of being distracted by what laid ahead – or on both sides.
And finally, kudos to the cars themselves, which appeared as perfect conveyors of fantastic emotions: their shapes, their types, their smooth, poised action on those roads, their murmurs really added to the late September charisma of some of the most beautiful valleys of all the Alpine range. And naturally, this Trentino Classic’s edition closeness to the Garda Lake itself was an added value: with no need for lengthy mountain driving cavalcade, an oldtimers fan – like me – could conveniently meet with some of his or her favorite models, sort of open air museum freely available to precious appreciation. Thankfully, I was able to gain some by this German-made event, organized in an impeccable way and with no small help from Italians themselves. Danke!
When Worlds Collide: The Gardasee Klassik, Another German And Italian Joint Effort (German Organization And Guests, Italian Landscapes And Flavors)
Anyway, Trentino Classic wasn’t the one and only event of its kind to be organized with a similar mission and with similar logistics in the same time frame. In fact, just a week later, the third edition of the Gardasee Klassik also took lots of veterans up and down some of the same roads also crossed by the Trentino Classic. Only, just like the same names implies, Gardasee Klassik has its central focus on the grandiose sceneries of Italy’s largest lacual basin. But, just like Trentino Classic also touched Garda Lake during one of its excursions, so also Gardasee Klassik devoted some of its time to provide teams with a taste of deep Trentino flavor, one where sky, land and water magically blends.
However, while this nice variety of roads and backgrounds surely add to the show, a wise choice of locations directly on the lake surely made clear how this magical blend of sky, land and water could also be reached without leaving Brescia’s territory.
In fact, among the various Garda Lake towns, there is one jewel of a hamlet which can be considered as Northern Italy’s best kept secret, a village which really marries breathtaking natural beauty with highly romantic flavor, giving an unforgettable memory to whoever travels there, whether coming from the majestic Dolomites’ peaks found just few tens of miles up north, or from Renaissance artistry of cities like Mantua and Brescia a few miles down south. The name of this place? Limone Sul Garda.
And here those nice cars coming from Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria really found a prefect backgrounds for their stupendous lines. Here really peace of senses reached an apex difficult to be found elsewhere. Here, luckily, also weather was keen to both the cars and their passengers, offering ans exquisite day with not too much sun, not too much wind, not too much clouds. Difficult to imagine, but this pearl of the Garda Lake maybe offered one of its best days ever. Or, also quite possible, Limone is as beautiful in September as it is in any period of the solar year: after all, if there is one really undisputed merit about the Garda’s environment is its ability to be warm while elsewhere there is really cold weather, its ability to offer cool days while in nearby plains eggs could possibly boil simply by leaving them on ground, its ability to offer delicate breezes while elsewhere humidity makes inroads through trousers and shirts, its ability to offer a repair from wind while elsewhere on the same Garda robust gusts took away surfs and boats. A perfect little immaculate piece of what Italy should forever be.
So, there could ever be a better place to end one day of excursions for a rolling show aptly christened Gardasee Klassik? This meeting of glorious chariots, organized again by ADAC (or, to be more precise, by their regional Nordrhein branch), was, just like its companion of a week earlier, a good occasion to take some of the most beautiful German cars under the benevolent Italian sun. And, better yet than previous week’s climate, this time sun in itself granted its desirable rays during all of the event’s days. In fact, once again, this was a four-days-long meeting, with cars conveniently running through some enchanting places scattered alongside the lake’s shores or, like what happened during Monday, Tuesday and Thursday legs, also reaching locations like Toblino Lake and Cavedine (on Monday), Rovereto, the mysterious groves-encrusted nearby Vallarsa and the sunny Folgaria resort(on Tuesday); and finally the westernmost portion of Trentino (on Thursday), another group of formidable villages, green valleys and burgeoning forests which had been appreciated by Trentino Classic’s equipes a week earlier. But maybe the most fascinating leg of them all was the one completed during Wednesday: a complete Garda Lake’s tour, crossing through delightful towns like Malcesine, Torri Del Benaco, Peschiera, Sirmione, Desenzano…(alright, a wise choice indeed !), Salo’, Gardone and finally Limone. And most of the photos were taken during that beautiful stop on the Limone’s Lungolago promenade, a perfect background for so fabulous an event .
The following day, I knew where cars again could be spotted, and so I reached them and again took some shots, this time in a less crowded environment. In fact, albeit Limone is one of Italy’s best kept secret, it is far from being a totally unknown and reclusive place, and lots of tourists – mostly German ones, I presume from the language I did ear while being there – took a look at the parked jewels. I think they were really content with what they saw, just like me. It is always so rare to spot some of those venerable ones on the move, even more so if they can be seen so far from home.
Anyway, it was pure luck that Thursday’s stage was disputed on roads I know very well, and not only because I already saw them during the Trentino Classic’s display: it is always a great satisfaction to see some of my favorite kind of cars coming so close to my holiday’s location (Storo, a small but thriving village placed on the road connecting Trento to Brescia, not too far away from Riva), and albeit they didn’t stop for so long there, at least they made a half-a-hour rest just where I had already spotted their colleagues for the first time one week earlier, in Ledro Valley. This time, sun was also a part of the party. And once again I took some more pictures of them, with less people flocking around them, and an even more serene global atmosphere. So, I was fortunate to take some close-ups and some more photos of what cars caught my attention most, as a valuable addendum to what I already harvested during the previous Limone’s stage. And, as mentioned, sun was high in sky, so to help me to pick the best of those cars.
Therefore, those nice automobiles there to be admired really shone even more: and again, what a quality selection of models ! Just like one week earlier, lovers of highly appreciable European models had something for their needy palates: things, just to name some of them, like not just one but three prewar BMWs, all of them in droptop formula (one of them also present during past week’s events: this wasn’t alone, evidently the idea of yet another sizeable amount of miles alongside some of the most charming Italian paths was a sound one).
But there was more; much more. Let’s see what cars were part of the Gardaklassik meeting.
Some really elegant yet sporty British cars were again part of such a meeting to begin with.
Prewar cars like a 1936 Daimler Light Straight Eight Special, with its supremely long hood and that monument of a radiator.
Also included in this package, a monument of a motor.
Cars like a 1933 MG K1, delightful in its simple yet effective down-to-business styling, which incidentally also made it looking like it was at least 15 years younger.
Cars like a rare Standard, a 1939 Eight belonging to the famed Flying Standards family, in an Open Tourer format. This delightful little machine was also spotted aboard the towing truck: evidently, Dolomites roads resulted a bit too demanding for this fascinating car. But we have no problem to pardon it !
Cars like the Aston already spotted a week earlier during the Trentino Classic .
Cars like a pair of MG As or a B, cars like a pair of noteworthy Jaguars, including one splendid red XK 140 OTS built in 1956;surely its potent XK engine was a fine powerplant for the twisty paths to be followed up and down the Garda Lake’s shores.
And last but not least, British cars also included something like a superb ’72 Rolls Royce Corniche, quite the right ticket for some romantic promenade stop, just to see in a most romantic way the Limone’s late afternoon magic atmosphere.
While remembering those British cars, the oldest ones among them make me thinking they were there for some sort of Mille Miglia tribute, for they belong to the same type of cars usually spotted during Brescia’s legendary competition. And Brescia isn’t exceedingly distant from Limone.
As with the past week’s Trentino Classic, also this Gardasee Klassik had something for Italian autos fans, as well as American ones: worthy representatives of Latin sportscars were some Alfas icons, to begin with. And what better icon than an original early 1967 Duetto, romantically parked below those Limone’s palms?
Yeah, Limone’s climate is so warm that not only lemon trees (which gave the very same name to this hamlet) grow with temper and energy, but also more exotic plants like kiwis (alright gentlemen, they have become a Northern Garda specialties in these latest decades) and those palms have deep roots, and they are quite a strong presence alongside those shores. They were a real botanic add-on to the show.
This show, from a car nuts’ perspective, had another really rare and noteworthy Italian model, a superlative Giulia GTC, in other words one of those really rare Touring-made convertibles which were derived from the timeless Giugiaro-penned, Bertone-engineered coupé.
Quite a sizzling type of auto, perfect complement for the playboy type of owner on a budget – and again, just the right kind of car to be immortalized below those exotic palms !
Among other Italian models, a nice Fiat 1500 Spider was, on the other hand, another perfect car for a Garda Lake’s surround. Its sober good looks married perfectly with the delicate backgrounds.
Speaking of Italian open roof cars, enthusiasts could admire an 850 Spider with Abarth tuning, always a joy to find such a small gem.
Speaking of gem, it was possible to spot once again a Flaminia Coupé, always a fascinating model wherever it goes. It is nice to see that this car has keen foreign enthusiasts devoted to it.
But, maybe, the most curious Italian car was something really rare, sort of mix between a pedigreed Etceterinis, a coachbuilt one-off and a regular production model: a 1965 Osi Fiat 1200, one of those quasi-stock cars often offered during the Sixties as additions to official lineup of Turinese firm, built using Fiat’s underpinnings.
In this case, this neat little Officine Stampaggi Industriali ragtop was really cute, as simple as it gets. Hardly its designer (Giovanni Michelotti, one more time !) could’ve been imagined something so effective and poignant with so simple lines and so few metal.
The super cute Osi was quite the opposite to a trio of screaming ‘Vette, whose decibel level didn’t hurt: their burbling notes made for a characterful soundtrack quite nice to hear to during fast trips on mountainous roads.
For a while, Limone’s promenade looked like some sort of Bowling Green’s branch, with a more dramatic background and a bit more water, while those Dolomites roads might have well been mistaken for some Utah or Colorado secondary roads, courtesy of those superb Plastic Fantastics.
In addition to those Corvettes, yet another American icon was part of the contest: a striped Mustang, a radiant example which was ready for a showdown whenever those twisty roads could have possibly brought it.
Naturally, French cars again had a small but respectable amount of cars gathered for the occasion: a Citroen DS 23 Pallas and a charming little’75 304 S Convertible were real standouts, with the little open roof Pug totally fit for a lake’s shores’ gathering.
And once again, that always seductive example of Swedish technology created via a deft use of charismatic Italian ideas, the Pelle Petterson-penned, Frua-developed, Volvo P1800, here available in a convertible and white 1964 coupè formula. The Saint anyone? Also the glamorous backgrounds were more than fitting for this serious GT type of a car.
But like everybody might have expected, German cars were again easily kings in number and queens in glamour: apart from those three marvelous Bavarian representatives, there was something for almost everybody. Furthermore, there was something for practically every taste. Want a charming ex-DDR derivative of an iconic DKW, complete with two stroke three cylinders which did nothing to hide its engine’s most prominent feature? Well, that incredible 1955 AWE IFA F9 Cabrio Limousine was there for you, complete with a touring guide written for East German motorists. Wonder if Garda Lake was ever mentioned . But, political implications aside, it is difficult to resist to the suave charm of such a peculiar car, full of persuasive details for those who love two-stroke engines, front wheel drive and fixed-pillars convertible formula. Quite an alluring set of wheels!
And if the East Germany “copy” wasn’t enough for you, there was also an “original” DKW model, in the late Auto Union format: a 1965 1000 S, with its impressive wraparound windshield and back window, and the Four Rings badge firmly attached to its chrome-encrusted grille.
This is not only a baroque-styled specimen of a car, thus belonging to the same school of design which brought us those various Fifties Mercedeses and BMWs we’ve already seen; this is an example of how deep some American details found roots in certain German automotive design offices. So, if you ever wanted to know how a car with a Beetle body and a ’56 Buick Riviera roof could possibly look like, with this Auto Union you have a chance. But, boy, if you rarely have seen similar cars, this was really impossible to ignore.
There was also an unexpected beauty in mustard hue, a Taunus GT fastback coupé: its daring nature wasn’t out of place there, among other stars, and its Knudsen’s Nose made for a bold Seventies statement, a reminiscence of an era when cars like that were ubiquitous (in sedan formula, at least: this kind of Taunus always was a rare beast in Italy, and therefore it is even more happy to see one again).
Otherwise, did you prefer some serious sportscars? 911s were also available, from mild (a nice 1966 example with the 130-hp 2-liter engine) to wild (some far sportier models, including a notable ’73 Carrera RS with the 3-liter, 229-horses engine). Difficult to tame their exuberant cavalry: it was just fine for those roads!
Alternatively, if you prefer something more sober, there were some Seventies BMWs: that green-beans 728 was something difficult to spot in Italy also when new, at least because of its paint which was… somewhat difficult to digest for Latin stomachs.
And in addition, there were other Bavarian classics from the same era, year more, year less: for example, a finely detailed 1974 3.0 CS, one of the most charismatic examples belonging to this family of sporty GTs, a superb road machine indeed. And its gorgeous looks are still a magnet for enthusiast more than four decades later.
Otherwise, there was also a really different kind of 2002: a Baur-bodied droptop – the full convertible version, and not the “official” 2002 targa-style model. An interim model, a special variant, a one-off, a prototype? In any case, another formidable car ready for the perfect fast trip to a romantic lake’s promenade.
If you love the idea of a prewar BMW, then the Gardasee Klassik offered a really intriguing selection: it was in fact possible to see, once again, the same 326 previously observed during the Trentino Classic.
Its owners had a really great idea when they decided to spend their holidays traveling aboard such a grand-looking and classy jewel of a car!
This time, however, there were two further Thirties BMW which perfectly complemented the 326 convertible: one was a 1938 327 Cabriolet, with a sportier and more aggressive nature, but arguably equally at home in such an incomparable scenery like the one offered by Limone’s location. It also had a superb time-honored patina attached to its glorious body and interior, and a sober two-tone combination of blue paint which further added to its charisma. Really a magic carpet of a car.
If those two weren’t enough to salivate fans, there was also yet another classy BMW, third honored member of this fine group of Thirties Bavarian automobiles, this time a 327/8 built in 1939, kissing sister to the 327 Cabriolet. Once again, a formidable automobile, astounding in its glamorous but refined livery, also with its hood up to satisfy lovers of good mechanicals.
In sum, what a superb trio of cars they were!
They also looked good during those lengthy mountain miles done on Western Trentino’s roads the following day, and they made up for an incredible essay of what Munich production was all about, just before the war.
And naturally, where there are BMWs, also Mercedes must be present as counterparts: again, one brave 220 coupé team decided to take part at both the Trentino Classic and the Gardasee Klassik , and so this delightful machine was again a glamour star, really a standout below the blue sky in Limone.
In the ADAC Nordrhein contest, to be precise, there wasn’t that veritable cornucopia of Pontons seen a week before. But in any case, those few surely made their best to be noticed also beside equally important machines.
So, together with that stately black ’59 220 S there was yet another splendid convertible sister, also a 220 S version but one year younger – and with quite an opposite livery when compared to its closed sibling, an impossibly radiant fuchsia hue!
Naturally, this incredible paint added to the charm of this machine, giving a well reserved additional dose of glitz and glamour, in case the smooth contours of its voluptuous body were not enough for the most discriminating connoisseurs.
Furthermore , also a battleship belonging to the Fintail Class did an effort to navigate up to the Garda’s shores. It was another 280 S with the V8 powerplant, built in 1971, and all the more intriguing thanks to its medium blue tone. This was quite a formidable land yacht, and seeing it serenely parked on Limone promenade made me thinking it was the right vehicle in the right place with the right climate. As an additional note, I must say that, by coincidence, I followed it for some mountain miles the following day, and I can testify that it still knows how to run on those impervious turns, without losing its aplomb. Fantastic!
But, as per tradition, there were also some sporty Mercedes of the great Pagoda family, plus some more recent R107 models, just like the previous week; they were ready again to offer their sheer beauty as a grateful gift to all the conveyed tourists. And among the various cars assembled for this event, maybe they incarnated the perfect cruisers for romantic Grand Touring fast moments like nothing else.
But, like its main competitor from Munich, Stuttgart’s Three Pointed Star too had something built in the Thirties to be shown at spectators and enthusiasts during the Gardasee Klassik various stages: a formidable 230, built in 1939, codename W153, with its splendid “limousine” body in green, full of well seasoned details and also with a suave interior matching its exterior’s personality.
This beautiful machine was one of the first Mercedes autos to feature the iconic X-shaped separated frame made of ovoid section tubes for added rigidity with a 120” wheelbase. This car also had some other interesting technical features which were of high interest for its time, like fully synchronized four speed ‘box and independent suspensions on all four wheels. The engine was the old reliable inline L-head six, not a stormer, but something more than adequate to give this car decent off-the mark zest and effortless 60 mph cruising speed (top was somewhat more than 72 mph). And surely. Almost eighty years later, this machine’s outspoken qualities showed their true nature while it cruised on the roads surrounding the Garda Lake and while it climbed some decent inclines on Dolomites’s sharp bends.
Did I already say that I have a penchant for those seasoned Mercedes motorcars built during the late Thirties, Forties and Fifties? And so I hope you readers too, for they are really formidable machines, all the more remarkable if they can demonstrate their qualities on so demanding paths.
But if there were cars of German ancestry that really robbed my heart were that pair of Isabellissimas: Carl’s Finest were in fact present both as a coupé (a brilliant two tone 1960 example) and as a ragtop (to be precise, the Cabrio Coupé, also a 1960, quite elegant in its monochromatic blue livery) , and what a magnificent pair they would’ve been, in case I would’ve been able to spot them parked together. Sadly, this didn’t happen: I waited for the ragtop, but it was somewhere lost, so it didn’t take part at the Lungolago’s parking lot parade.
I found it just outside of the village, while it was waiting for some TLCs, and while I tried to take some pics of its alluring beauty (in open top format and in a really elegant blue paint), I also helped ADAC’s men to take it out of a troubled position, regulating oncoming traffic on that narrow roads. And they found time to thank me for what few help I gave them. But that was no sacrifice for me, because I was glad enough , honored too, to so closely see such a formidable automobile, also if I caught it in a delicate moment.
But, hey, they have such a charm that we may well excuse them if sometimes they can suffer some engine (or electric) defaillance. In any case, this was a good opportunity to better study the formidable looks of the most desirable of all those Bremen machines: back in their heydays, they were sound rivals to Mercedes 190 SLs and Porsches, just to name their domestic closest competitors. And their design, coming directly out of Carl’s own dreams, was a noteworthy blend of some of the most trendy fads of the era: a swoopy side, with boldly prominent fenders; a low slung profile, accentuated by equally low (and short) roof; lots of glass, chrome trims and flashy paints; hooded headlights bezels and wrapover thin taillights which looked like proper fins; and luxuriously appointed interiors; in sum, all of these elements made for models of great impact and merits. A pity Borgward left the automotive world because of a sum of problems which, with the right political help and connections, could’ve been sorted out with no fatal consequences. History told otherwise. But again, don’t think at the Isabella Coupé and its roofless sister as a mere bigger Karmann Ghia with too much mascara: that’s way too much unfair, both for the machines and their creator, Dr. Carl himself. Really he knew how to make us car nuts happy while looking at a car – or while driving it, despite some bugaboos which may occur.
One last thing regarding the various models seen during the Gardaklassik: there were various Beetles, as it was logical, and it was a pleasure to spot some of them peacefully resting on Limone promenade. But what caught my attention most was yet another Volkswagen van, again taken there under the ADAC aegis; it was a 1966 Samba Bus, complete with those desirable items which makes it such a multimillion dollars temptation: tons of windows, fine two tone colors, flat screens and sunroof. It was really a fine addition to this impressive selection of beauties .
We have finally arrived at the end of these excursions which had been centered around the Garda Lake, and it is even more fitting that I spent my last words describing two events with deep German roots: since a long time ago, in fact, Germans felt somewhat at home when coming on Garda and on Dolomites. Culture and history certainly may concur to explain why Latin and Teutonic civilizations met themselves very often in these places, thus offering knowledge of why Nordic people likes so much this portion of Italian territory. And it is really a great thing to show this through events calling in dozens of fantastic and rare automobiles, of the kind rarely seen elsewhere. Such occasions offer always grateful opportunities, letting us Italians to discover some of the most exciting German automobiles ever, without the occurrence to take on hundreds of miles directly to their homeland. And I just wanted to make also Hemmings readers aware of these precious and welcome sights, rare occurrences which must be valorized, especially if some kind of German cars are your preferred dream.
The last day at the GardaKlassik was also the last of this series of September events, so I gave those superb machines an ideal and equally fond goodbye: I hope to see them again next year, all of them, during the same shows, possibly on the same locations, possibly accompanied by even more jewels of the same kind, indeed marvels with four wheels and an engine. And I also hope to possibly see the same beautiful sun, and feel the same gentle breeze which were available in great amounts in Desenzano, Mantua, Limone, Madonna Di Campiglio, and the Ledro Valley.
I hope to see them again also because I was really happy to meet with them, with those cars under such great scenarios, sharing so enthusiastic crowds and so tantalizing panoramas. As a carefree day, I cannot imagine something better than a day with cars and people from those two rolling displays, at least for a classic cars lover. And I hope you too, Hemmings readers, were happy with the cars you see here. They really deserved some kind words – and a huge number of photos.