The Incredible Cars of Germany's Classic Days Schloss Dyck
This is how they do concours in Deutschland.
Juchen, Germany -- They call it Germany's biggest automotive garden party, and it's just like Pebble Beach, really. Except there's a castle and no beach. And there are a lot more 1958 Plymouths. And certainly way more rockabillies dancing to American music of the 1950s.
You don't often see a faux American '50s diner perched beside a medieval German moat, and this one embraces that whole poodle skirt, jukebox, and pink Cadillac vibe with something approaching religious conviction. The proprietor seemed overjoyed just to hear I was genuinely from the States.
Then he asked where in particular. "Ja, really? Tennessee?" he replied with a shout. Heads turned and a grinning gent stepped up, whooped "Tennessee!" and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. "Graceland! Elvis!" he beamed, and then started singing "The Tennessee Waltz" while people shook my hand and snapped photos. Ah, sweet celebrity.
Translating concours d'elegance in a different way
It would seem that Sgt. Presley and his fellow GIs left quite an impression during their hitch in Deutschland during the Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s, since Germans evidently now harbor a fetish for the rockabilly and Route 66 lifestyle. Even here at Schloss Dyck Classic Days, Germany's finest and most exclusive concours d'elegance, this American diner had a live band, a dance floor, and an adjacent collection of chrome-era Detroit iron that set a new standard for kitschy Americana. There's also a familiar American feel to everything about this event, in fact. Even the souvenir program and German-language Website officially call this "Classic Days," not "Klassische Tage."
For all this, Classic Days Schloss Dyck is the finest concours in this country, and it combines the presentation of exquisite and interesting historic cars like Pebble Beach, with a little opportunity for a thrash of historic racecars like the Rolex Monterey Motorsport Revival. Like Monterey Week, it happens every August and takes place in scenic circumstances, specifically on the manicured grounds of a castle (Schloss) in the Rhineland near Düsseldorf.
To be fair, there's a noticeable British influence here as well, which is not unrelated to the Brits' own military service in this country, plus the Germans' well-known love of upper-class British living. Here at Schloss Dyck, there are certainly plenty of those big, old pre-war Bentleys, and some Brits insist that this event has been patterned after the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Somehow, however, Schloss just doesn't seem so intense. Besides, the live band ain't playin' the Beatles, is it?
The right crowd, and no crowding
Unlike Pebble Beach, the scale of Schloss Dyck must yield to physical realities as far as event space is concerned. While the concours ground is a big space by European standards, it's a tiny one by California's measure. Entry for the concours ("Jewels in the Park") has been limited to around 50 cars, because that's what the castle lawn will hold.
Still, this is an elite FIVA-certified competition that has become a must for anyone doing the European concours circuit. The Mullin Automotive Museum near Los Angeles has shown some of its exceptionally nice French cars here, and well-known collector Peter Heydon of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been a regular, even earning Best of Show in 2010 with his extraordinary 1927 Duesenberg Model X.
The Schloss is also truly not suitable for flat-out racing or even a Goodwood-style hill climb. The organizers simply rope off the access roads, throw down hay bales, and handle the speed activities like a regularity rally, with ample gaps between cars and penalties for undercutting assigned lap times. Which might not sound all that exciting, but the lower risk factor allows for close-up viewing, and it's hard to be bored with a supercharged Mercedes SSK tearing past on full throttle, so close the dentist drill shriek of the blower makes your palms go sweaty.
Great cars seen up close and personal
Thanks to the remarkable number of manufacturers and collections that bring their primo material to Schloss Dyck, plus an apparent willingness to give damn near anything track time as long as it's sufficiently cool, the variety of cars can range from a 1916 Locomobile to a Porsche 917K that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There can't be many places where you could see the howling, ex-Luigi Villoresi D50 Lancia F1 car from 1954, one of two D50s left in the world, sharing a lap around the grounds with a Fiat 600 Multipla from the same decade that happens to be towing a trailer of period-appropriate motorbikes.
Of course, the something-for-everyone event formula for concours events these days always comes with plenty of autograph sessions from big-name drivers, retail opportunities, industry exhibitors, and the usual grocery list. For those wishing to adopt the British custom of wearing silly vintage clothes to vintage car affairs, there's also a vintage fashion show. Of course, most Germans seem to prefer a T-shirt and shorts, topped off by a car-themed baseball cap. (An Italian, on the other hand, would rather die on an anthill than wear such a thing.)
To this event's credit, the largest allocation of real estate here is devoted to ordinary car clubs. About 2,000 vehicles are part of Classic Days Schloss Dyck, and these cars presented by ordinary people represent the best show on the site. They certainly contribute hugely to the laid-back and happily egalitarian atmosphere. Never mind Pebble Beach and Goodwood; we like the low-price ticket of $50 and the brat 'n' beer lunch from the food tents. We're only here for the cars, dude.