“Here we can indulge our hobby, meet other classic car fans and exchange stories. Especially in the current climate, this event is really fun,” says Malte. He has come to Cars & Coffee at the Mercedes-Benz Museum with his father and a rare classic car: a Facel Vega HK 500 from 1960. “Only 490 of these were built between 1958 and 1961, and around 390 of them have survived,” says Stefan. The manufacturer of this Gran Turismo was French, the design heavily Italian-influenced and a lot of the technology inside is American.
One of 390 maintained cars: the Facel Vega HK 500 belonging to Malte and his father.
Luxurious: this describes the interior of the French Gran Turismo with American technology.
Stefan bought it in 2012, “very spontaneously”, as he says. His son confirms: “We were astonished one day at home when we got a call from him from England at lunchtime telling us that he had bought a car.” Because that was where this right-hand drive car had been up for auction. The interest shown by the other bidders was moderate, which meant the price was attractive. “I bought the car at the auction in exactly the state in which you see it here. It can stay in this condition and show off the signs of its age,” says Stefan. “The Facel Vega is, of course, not our only car. But we use it perfectly normally in our daily lives.” But they do not take any risks. This is an important addendum. The former first owner in England, a dentist, managed to bend the powerful coupé with the Chrysler V8 engine and 265 kW (360 PS) twice and had it rebuilt twice. “I suspect that was too expensive for him in the long run.”
The vehicle next door also has a large American V8 engine. Martin has arrived in his black Ford Falcon. “Built in 1964. Rebuilt from 2016 until mid-2019.” He discovered the coupé in America via the Internet, its condition was described as good, so he bought it and had the classic car shipped to Germany. “When the car arrived, I was shocked – the state it was in had nothing to do with the description. It was in a totally dilapidated state and the car had to be completely rebuilt.” Which he then did himself.
The excellent supply of spare parts was a great help because, technically, the Falcon formed the basis for the coveted Ford Mustang.
Why did he choose that car? “I have always driven American cars,” says Martin. “The Falcon is a compact car and, as a result, I really enjoy it.” No doubt also because of its 235 kW (320 PS) engine, coupled with a vehicle weight of only 1,400 kilograms.
Cars & Coffee is a stimulating rendezvous of fascinating vehicles.
What really makes Cars & Coffee stand out is the broad mix of car brands. On this particular Sunday, numerous Alfa Romeo owners agreed to meet here and all came to the Mercedes-Benz Museum, and brought a large number of Giulias with them. And from a particular region of Germany that has a white-and-blue flag, situated between Italy and Baden-Württemberg (where Mercedes-Benz is based), several large coupés and compact sports cars have come over to Stuttgart – a friendly nod from BMW. The BMWs all get on very well with the many Mercedes-Benz cars that share the museum hill with them.
Directly opposite the entrance, Wolfgang has found a place for his Mercedes-Benz 170 Va. When this black saloon was built and registered in Germany in 1951, it was a special motorcar in a country that was in the throes of reconstruction. “In 2000, I did a complete restoration job right down to the last screw, and since then the car has been back on the road,” says the owner. The 170 Va looks almost as if it has just come off the assembly line. “I managed to find the original upholstery fabric for the seats at Mercedes-Benz Classic.”
We asked how long he had had the car. “Actually, I have always had it – but sometimes not,” comes the mischievous answer. It is not easy to say exactly, since for a while he shared the car with a friend.
He travels around 15,000 kilometres a year in his classic car. And then he mentions by the way that he does a load more kilometres in his 1949 Unimog. “That's my holiday vehicle. It knows every mountain pass from Vienna to Nice. I sleep on the platform under the tarp.”
Made in 1958 and still very elegant today: Mercedes-Benz 220 S Cabriolet.
The Mercedes-Benz 220 S Cabriolet belonging to Bernd, which is parked next to the 170 Va at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, does not do anything like as many kilometres every year. But it is not just a stationary exhibit, either: “It does about 5,000 kilometres every year.” He had been on the look-out for exactly this model for a long time, he says, pulls his mobile phone out of his pocket and shows us a black-and-white photo from 1958 with exactly this model of cabriolet, a little boy by the driver’s door and a man with a camera. “That’s my father. And I am the little boy,” Bernd explains, evidently very pleased.
But Bernd was even more satisfied when, a few years ago, he found a 220 S Cabriolet, built in 1958 – in a pawn shop in Franconia, South Germany. “It had been there for two years and was now up for sale,” says Bernd. Did he give it a thorough inspection? He was not allowed to. The car with its elegant two-tone paint scheme in red and white was a pig in a poke. But when the car was allowed to leave storage, it was in a completely problem-free state. “Of course, the battery was flat. And I had the brakes replaced. But that was about it.” Even the “Becker Europa” radio worked.
Time travel: it was the father’s car (the man with the camera) that triggered the son’s desire to buy a Mercedes-Benz 220 S Cabriolet decades later.
Contemporary witnesses of the period’s mobility from Rüsselsheim, Wolfsburg and Bremen: Opel Ascona, Volkswagen Beetle 1300 and Mercedes-Benz SL from model series R 129 (from right to left).
Cars & Coffee does not only offer high-class dream cars – carefully positioned among those cars are several mass-produced everyday people movers that attract just as much admiration from visitors. The reason is that these are often the cars they used to have themselves. Like an Opel Kadett, for example. A Trabant 601. Or a Volvo 760.
Fully fit for everyday use: Martin drives 10,000 kilometres each year with his 300 SL Roadster.
A 300 SL Roadster demonstrates a classic colour combination: silver on the outside, red on the inside. What stands out, however, is the patina – as the body is dull in some places and has a dent here and there. “Every dent tells a story,” says Martin, proud owner of this super sports car from the 1950s. “I deliberately leave the vehicle just as it is.” Technically, however, the sports car is in the best condition and, with a few retrofittable modifications, is even fit for everyday use. “I drive around 10,000 kilometres with the roadster each year.”
Twelve cylinders and turbine wheel rims. A Lorinser CL 60 from 2003.
Markus and Charlotte have had perhaps the furthest journey today: the young couple have travelled from Strömsund in Sweden in a CL 60. A Japanese reimport with just 4,500 kilometres on the clock. The 2003 vehicle worked on by Lorinser combines high performance with refined ambience. “We already came to ‘Classics & Coffee’ a few years ago,” reports Charlotte, “in our BMW M3. That’s when we said: next time, we’ll come in the Mercedes-Benz.” And voilà, here they are, combining it with a week’s holiday in Germany and surely a few rapid kilometres on the Autobahn.
Peter can also take a sporty approach, as with a lot of dedication and even more work, he has transformed his first-generation Volkswagen Polo into an automotive work of art. He bought it in 1989 – and no detail has been left unchanged. “16-valve engine, five-speed gearbox, sports suspension, hi-fi system and much more,” he recounts. “The conversion took five years. I wanted to transform the Polo into a group A vehicle.” This reflects real enthusiasm for motorsports.
“Power: enough,” says Peter about his Polo with a kerb weight of 840 kilograms.
From Stuttgart to Japan and back: Porsche 968 from 1992.
Close-up, a Porsche 968 Cabriolet blinks at the Austin Healey. It, too, is a reimport from Japan, as Ernst from Stuttgart reveals with shining eyes. “Take a look inside the engine compartment, where you can still see the Japanese stickers. And the instruction manual is also in Japanese. I can’t understand a word,” he laughs. “I even found Japanese coins in the interior.” These are now preserved in a case and remain in the classic from 1992.
For example, British flair is exuded by a white Austin Healey 100/6 from 1958. The roadster was once dubbed “The Pig” by Pat Moss, sister of Sir Stirling Moss and also an experienced racing driver, because of its driving style. “It’s as hard as a rock. Such a classic car is never a sensible purchase, however,” says its owner Frank, as “emotionality is always the casting vote.” He saw such a vehicle when he was a student – and made his dream of having his own Austin Healey a reality in 1987.
British flair: Austin Healey 100/6, dubbed “The Pig”.
Luxurious estate car: Maria and Hans's VW Passat Variant.
Or a Volkswagen Passat Variant, as provided by Hans and Maria. They bought this estate car 19 years ago when it was a six-year-old used car. For years, it accompanied the family on all their journeys – and gradually, as the years passed, slipped into its current role as a classic car. Admittedly, it is a rather special model: “It’s a VR6, that is, with a six-cylinder engine,” explains Hans. “It was originally a VW experimental car. It has all the fittings and trim they had on offer at the time.” Everything is original, except for the sports seats which he fitted. He found the smooth leather of the original seats so slippery that occupants slid around on them in the bends. “We like going to such meetings,” adds his wife, Maria. “Though this year many have been cancelled due to the coronavirus. This is the only one.”
It is rare for the “Adenauer” to also be on the hill. Most of these very representative Mercedes-Benz 300 models had black paintwork in the 1950s – this one has a mild green. “That’s the original colour shade,” says Max, who tinkered with cars in his profession even before he was retired. “Thirty years ago, I saw the car in a pile of snow on a work trip to Sweden,” he reports and shows a photo of the car from back then that even still has a little bit of snow left on top.
“A new battery was enough and off the saloon went. Once it was back in Germany, I completely restored it.” His enthusiasm spreads to those standing around him as they nod in appreciation. “Cars & Coffee” simply connects visitors and fans.
“New MOT, no defects”: this note was attached to the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 180 – which had a few signs of age as well.
The extraordinary diversity of classics makes it difficult to choose one’s personal favourite. Perhaps the white Unimog 1300 back there? Or the luxurious BMW V8 Baroque Angel? The Beetle 1300, built in 1966, making it 54 years old, still with its original owner and with just 45,000 kilometres on the clock? This time the choice is a Mercedes-Benz 180 from 1955, a “Ponton” (self-supporting chassis-body structure) saloon. The way it stands now in front of the museum, it looks as if it has just been discovered after many years in someone’s barn. The paint is dull, there are visible rust spots, the chrome trim is fading. The vehicle bears the dignity of age – and a note with a simple message on it: “New MOT, no defects.”