An automotive journey back through time with the Creme 21 'young classics' rally.
Cars make an impression on you.
During the Creme 21 rally there were several occasions when memories of my youth were rekindled, of the music of the 1980s and 1990s, all brought back so vividly through the cars. Cars make an impression on you. I associate virtually every vehicle with a very personal story, and that is probably the same for many other people. My vehicle at Creme 21: a Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC. Sumptuous luxury, electric windows, sliding sunroof and electrically adjustable seats, while even the steering wheel can be adjusted; and specially for Creme 21 I also brought along a CD with the good old songs from my youth. The V8 under the bonnet burbles away, the 4-speed torque-converter automatic transmission looks after the gearshifting for me, and I cruise along the streets till midnight to the sound of Depeche Mode, Culture Club, the Pet Shop Boys and their musical contemporaries.
Experiencing the past today.
The Creme 21 “young classics” rally is a journey back through time into the past, into my own childhood. It embodies a positive attitude to life, with the emphasis squarely on having fun rather than a determined will to win. Over 200 vehicles set off in Bremen on 17 September. Mission: to convey the attitude to life of the seventies. The route took in north/west and east Germany.
While I stood in the middle of the packed crowd watching alongside the road, photographing the vehicles passing by, we quickly got talking about the 'good old days', I often heard comments like 'I thought one just like that was really fantastic back then' or 'If only you could turn back time'. And that is precisely what the cremists - as the participants call themselves - do: they turn back time and take the onlookers along with them.
What makes the Creme 21 'young classics' rally unique?
This rally really cannot be compared with many other classic car events. At Creme 21 it is not about best times, but about the joy of motoring and enjoyment of the vehicles. The competitive element is secondary at Creme 21, while the vehicle brand you drive is also irrelevant, for that matter. Everyone helps each other, and you get the feeling that the cremists have gelled into a large group of friends during the rally. The brand might be different but what sets their pulse racing is always the same – you can always see just how much participants love (older) cars.
Quite a few onlookers reminisce during the rally too. Who ultimately wins is not decided behind the wheel either. To reach the top step on the podium you need a good vehicle, an even better co-pilot and a little bit of luck for good measure. While the teams in classic rallies can look forward to special stages à la time trials or regularity races, at Creme 21 you have to throw plungers, guess fairy tales or identify films on the basis of short snippets.
The daily suitcase game is justifiably as famous as it is infamous. Driver and co-pilot are allowed to take a peek into a small suitcase (filled with all kinds of items) for a few seconds, with questions on the contents being asked around 200-300 kilometres later. 'What was the date on the Le Mans sticker?'. 'How many tyres were there in the Lego packaging?'.
One particularly difficult task was estimating the total value of the suitcase contents. Then the dice started rolling and there were games to throw pencils from a predetermined height into bottles or count a pile of money inside a minute. Of course we counted the good old Deutschmark, because back then the Euro did not exist.
Attention to detail.
The drivers had to drive around an obstacle, drive over a doorbell panel, or were meant to reverse (this time left to their own devices) up to an obstacle, keeping the distance at exactly 1.50 metres. The passenger / co-pilot was not allowed to help in this case, otherwise virtually all the games are designed to require, and also promote, team skills. Well-oiled teamwork is the order of the day, so it is hardly surprisingly that you come across so many couples at Creme 21.
Take for instance Jörg and Brunhilde Schlachte from Dortmund. Here for the first time, in an impressive 1988 Mercedes-Benz 500 SL. As soon as you get talking to them, you quickly realise that they really are in their element taking part in the rally in a vehicle that is their pride and joy. The attention to detail, their love for the 500 SL, became apparent in virtually every sentence.
A Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC from 1989. Without doubt a fantastic driving sensation and, yes, there is no other way to put it: I love old cars. This year rally participants Carsten Reinmöller and Markus Asselborn transformed their Mercedes-Benz W123 T 300 D into an Italian police car. One amusing anecdote was that a handful of other road users suddenly started sticking meticulously to the speed limits. Don’t get me wrong, this rally is not a race, more like a paperchase. Played with cars, and driven on public roads. That way local residents quickly become extras and some locations transformed into gorgeous backdrops.
Capri-Sun and Haribo bananas.
195 vehicles from seven countries and 29 different car brands lined up at the start. With all the back-up and organisation team vehicles as well, more than 30 cars made by Mercedes-Benz took part in the Creme 21 'young classics' rally, ensuring the presence of a lucky star on every road.
The format of Creme 21 is unique, as not only the routes, but also the prizes on offer are very special, with some classic seventies items up for grabs. An orange lamp, an old television with a PONG game, etc. In between times you are well looked after too, drinking Capri-Sun, eating Haribo bananas, and escaping the everyday routine.
Creme 21 traditionally takes in country and urban roads, thus evoking a touch of nostalgia for onlookers and participants alike. Some participants even dress up in 1970s garb – an absolutely great look. And this spirit of the 1970s will be rolling through Germany next year once again. At present, it looks as if the 14th Creme 21 'young classics' rally will be held from 16-20 September 2015.
Anyone wishing to take part should look sharp in January 2015, as the places are bound to be snapped up, as every year. The winning vehicle? A VW Golf 1 from 1975. The co-driver (Robert Stephan, hotel owner from Lübben) though also has a Mercedes-Benz W123 230 E, first registered in 1981, standing in the garage. Last year he was behind the wheel; this year he was sitting in the passenger seat. Many cremists just keep coming back, and now we also know why.