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Great cars, great stories at Youngtimer Event 2014

Youngtimer-Event-2014Sunday June 15th was the third edition of the Dutch Youngtimer Event “Forever Young”. Owners and enthusiasts of cars from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s gathered together at the former DRU factory complex in Ulft, near the German border. Some visitors may have not even made it to the entrance of the event, as even the parking lot was one big cookie jar, filled to the brim with cars from the past, kept running by passionate owners who showed their car and told their story to other enthusiasts. With the outside area covered by brand- and model- owners clubs like the Mazda-owners club, Volvo 480-owners club and the EMW “Club for forgotten and undervalued youngtimers”, the air was filled with enthusiasm, passion and appreciation of each other’s hobby.

Walking into the factory hall was like stepping into a time capsule. It was easy to feel a bit of melancholy in this combination of the industrial atmosphere with the remains of the pre-war ironworks still visible and the well-preserved cars from the time when we were young. As most of the cars on display inside were for sale, some felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, finding it hard to restrain themselves.

Bart_Demandt-Marc_Klaver-Robert_Servaas-Peter_van_der_MadenAnd also on display, but not for sale, were the ten “Best of Show” cars that would compete in the annual Concours d’Elegance. These cars were thoroughly reviewed by a professional jury existing of automotive journalists Marc Klaver, Robert Servaas and Peter Van der Maden. The cars were of different ages, different segments and in all kinds of different conditions, from fully restored with many hours of labor to completely unaltered down to the original paintwork. And besides that, it was at least as fun to hear the stories that accompany them, especially when told by the proud and passionate owner.

Peugeot_205_GTI-whiteThe winner of the Concours was a fully original 1992 Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9, a car that’s sadly becoming rare, especially in an original and undamaged state like this one. The owner had spent months looking for his perfect 205 GTI, so when he didn’t need it anymore after a while, he couldn’t find it in his heart to sell it. He stored it in his grandma’s garage, and left it there for 13 years before starting it up again. He even got many thumbs up when he took it for a 2.300 km road trip through France. Even in its country of origin, a pristine GTI has become a rarity, and it’s great to hear people still recognize and appreciate the model that put Peugeot back on the map.

Peugeot_205_GTI-graphiteIt was not the only 205 GTI in the Concours, another entrant was a graphite gray 1993 GTI, one of the last 1.9 versions made. This particular car had coincidentally also been stored for 13 years, but this was because of health issues by the widow of the first owner. It had been parked in a garage, with cardboard boxes piled on top. Unfortunately, the paintwork had been damaged from the boxes, and it needed a respray. Thankfully, the new owner was a true Peugeot 205-fanatic, who has owned more than 50 cars from this model, and currently has 8 in his garage, among which two 205 Rallye, and an original “Fourgonette”. He has completely restored this GTI, which has only 26.000km on its odometer, and has put more than 600 hours of labor in it.

Mazda_1000Second place at the Concours was for a 1973 Mazda 1000 two-door sedan, which has been fully restored by the owner. His father bought a similar car brand new in 1973 and he spent his childhood on de back seat together with his two brothers. Then when he came of age, he decided he wanted one as a restoration project for himself. For nearly 10 years, he kept on the lookout for one, but only found them either in miserable condition or in coupe version. When he finally found the right one, the restoration started, but the biggest challenge was getting parts. Parts for a 40-year-old Japanese car are not abundant in Europe, so he had to find them as far as Thailand, but he got the car exactly the way he had imagined. Now the restoration is complete, it will only go outside when the skies are clear.

Audi_100_TDIA pristine 1990 Audi 100 “Typ 44” TDI, one of the first TDI models ever, came in third place. This “Cylamrot“ (plum colored with pearl-effect) version only had 22.000km on the odometer and looked like it was brand new, as if it had just rolled out of the showroom. Regrettable to some, its owner has bought it not to keep it in this unique condition, but to clock hundreds of thousands of kilometers on the odometer. “I chose between an almost new VW Golf TDI and this one, and this is the most special, the most comfortable and probably also the most reliable of the two”.

BMW_730iIt was not the only top-class German limousine in the Concours, another notable contender was a 1994 BMW 730i in mint condition, with its original spare wheel, a complete tool set and even an untouched first aid kit. It didn’t show its 100.000km, it looked brand new, even under the hood where the small V8 engine does its silent job. It used to belong to a pharmacist in Belgium who apparently didn’t use the car for what it was built for: cruising the Autobahn at high speeds in an extraordinary level of comfort.

Mercedes_380SEWith an Audi 100 and a BMW 7-series, the triplet wouldn’t be complete without a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. This example was a particularly charming one, as it also featured a small V8 engine, combined with the short wheel base and almost zero options. That’s right, this 1984 W126-series 380SE in Petrol Blue has alloy wheels and an automatically operated antenna, and that’s it. Beige cloth seat upholstery, manually operated windows and mirrors, no sunroof, this must have been one of the cheapest V8-powered S-Classes of this series. And it’s still in its original condition, driven as a hobby car by an enthusiast of the brand.

Mercedes_190E_2,5_16vAnother Mercedes-Benz enthusiast showed his Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16, one of the fastest “Baby-Benz” versions of the time. And it’s finally the one that will stay with him forever. Maybe. He’s had five 190E 2.5-16 but none were in his favorite graphite gray color. Unfortunately, it has a sunroof and an automatic gearbox instead of the “dog-leg”-manual, so if he finds a dark-grey manual without a sunroof, there may be a seventh version. It’s originally from Switzerland, exported to Paris, where the current owner picked it up. The previous owner had always stored it in a garage to keep it from getting damaged by the “Parisian way of parking”, but when he had bought a new car and offered this one for sale, it stayed outside on the streets of Paris for a couple of weeks and got scratched all over. The need for a respray gave the buyer a great bargaining position and he drove it back to The Netherlands.

AGM_Ford_Fiesta_FlirtAlso in the Concours d’Elegance was a car with a Dutch heritage. The 1988 Ford Fiesta Mark-II was converted into the AGM Ford Fiesta Flirt by the Dutch company AGM. This conversion was done more professionally than the British Ford Fiesta Fly convertibles, but still of the approximately 150 units produced, only 4 cars have remained in The Netherlands, of which two in driveable condition. The current owner has restored the car, only the roof still needs to be renewed. This will have to be custom-made, as the owner has had contact with the former owners of AGM and the supplier of the roof, but the templates for the roof have been discarded several years ago.

Honda_CivicWhen was the last time you saw a 1980s or ‘90s Honda Civic that wasn’t spoiled with aftermarket wheels, exhaust, spoiler set and lowered suspension? Can’t remember? Neither could I. Until last Sunday. The 1989 Honda Civic 1.3 three-door was in original condition, with plastic wheel caps and black bumpers. It was free of rust and the red paint had started to fade only slightly. It must have been one of the most sympathetic cars of the Concours.

Porsche_930And the one that attracted the most attention was the 1987 Porsche 911 Turbo (officially Porsche 930). This specific model still had its original paint, which unfortunately meant some chippings in the hood and, not surprisingly, some worn paint at the rear wheel arches. Technically, it wasn’t in original condition, with an aftermarket exhaust, turbocharger and camshaft, increasing the original 330hp to 400hp. Considering this was one of the fastest production cars of its time, competing with the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini, and considering the tricky handling of the Porsche 911, it’s surprising that it’s still accident free. It’s been in the current owner’s possession for 10 years and won’t be sold. He’s got a collection of other youngtimers, and the Porsche is only driven for special occasions. Not what it was built to do, but it’s probably a good thing to preserve a gem like this.

As you see, a wide range of cars in different segments, of different time periods and different stages of originality or restoration. Each with its own characteristics and its own story, but all worthy of some special attention at the Forever Young Concours d’Elegance. I can’t wait to see which cars next year will bring.