Museum on wheels.
The scent of times gone by.
The small village of Partenen. The swirling mists were hanging low over the Montafon valley. They rolled down from the mountain peaks to then mix with the wafts of petrol fumes. It was still only 6.47 a.m. when a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL from 1958 rolled by the spectators, but all tiredness was forgotten in a moment. Whilst the early sightseers marvelled wide-eyed at these jewels, two gentlemen dressed in 40s-style clothing ordered coffee at the bar. In the hospitality tent very different languages mixed with the region’s dialect. The owners and drivers of the 159 vehicles due to start that day had come from all over Europe in order to be able to participate in one of the year’s finest rallies: the 16th Silvretta Classic.
Club of enthusiasts.
The special thing about the Silvretta Classic is that the selection of vehicles is not limited to exclusive and expensive classic cars. Classic cars which once served purely as vehicles for everyday use can also participate. This is because the organisers are primarily concerned with telling automotive history. And history is also written by vehicles popular amongst the general public. These, in as far as they are still authentic with regard to both appearance and technology, are always welcome to participate: even minibuses were present at the starting line. As a result the spectators are just as diverse.
However, according to Harald Koepke, the head of organisation for the Silvretta Classic rally, they all have one thing in common: “the participants are all enthusiasts.” He aptly describes the spirit of the “rolling museum”: “Every driver here is making others happy.”
A little bit of family, a little bit of James Bond.
Just in time – only two days before the starting signal for the rally sounded, the Alpine roads were opened. Now the picture was very varied: some of the drivers of the 159 classic vehicles had their whole family in the car. Others roared through the idyllic mountain scenery in classic cars for bachelors inevitably bringing memories of old James Bond films back to life.
However one and the same goal unites all of the participants in the six permitted vehicle classes: the drive along the specified routes and completion of the stages on the dot.
Waiting for the “Red Sow“.
The fans scattered around the bends who had put up their folding chairs effused a cinema atmosphere. A group from southern Germany comes every year just to see these rare cars up close. This time they shared their space with a married couple from Bielefeld. They were all waiting for the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.8 AMG. It achieved fame as the “Red Sow”. Fully unexpectedly this racing touring car was the overall winner at the Belgian Spa-Francorchamps in 1971. In 2013 the sight of it is still a sensation for which connoisseurs are prepared to travel hundreds of kilometres. However these are not the only ones for whom the experience is something special. Driver Karl Wendlinger confesses: “Driving through the mountains of my home country in a legend like the ‘Red Sow’ makes my racing driver’s heart beat faster.”
When Wendlinger later drove around the bend, he caused a round of loud cheering. It is a good thing that the Silvretta Classic is a “museum” in which you can be a little louder.