26th February 2007
Roxanne Chevrolet sets off in search of entertaining facial hair...
A trip to Europe to see some old bikes is an entirely reasonable prospect these days. The easyJet flight took less than my normal drive to, say, Stafford, and cost me about the same. Bremen has its own airport a short cab ride from the city centre and all the hotels, railway station and exhibition halls are located within walking distance of each other, so the living is easy.
The sight of a hurdy-gurdy spinning out 'The Entertainer' as I approached Hall One (of seven!) set a carnival atmosphere and the musician himself resembled Catweasel (remember him?) - a promising start but not really silly enough. What I needed to see were the huge waxed handlebar moustaches and eccentric hats that the Germans wear so convincingly. Sadly, despite more than 30,000 enthusiasts who had travelled to the show from as far as Sweden, Denmark and Holland - plus a coachload from Finland and two blokes from Rochdale - the home-grown contingent either resembled nearly-normal looking stallholders or advertising executives on their day off, all black Versace and letterbox spectacles. Is there nothing one can rely upon?
Oh yes… there were vehicles too. Now the lovely Andrew Greenwood came in for a bit of stick once upon a time when he mixed cars and bikes at a show. I liked the variety a lot but seemingly I was in a minority. Bremen has five halls of cars. Wonderful, stunning, exotic cars… but cars nevertheless. The balance of the exhibition space, however, was packed solid with the types of machines we seldom see in Blighty. In the biggest 'themed display' collected from across Europe was gathered together a remarkable array of exotic marques such as Sarolea, FN and Gillet-Herstal under the collective banner 'Famous Motorcycles of Belgium'. So when you are next asked what famous things have come from Belgium you won't have to resort to Poirot or Tintin anymore. And in a commendable thumbing of noses at health and safety laws the organisers fired some of them up on stage!
Interestingly, at the sight and sound of a vintage racer being ridden onto a platform the German crowd appeared interested but passive. I feel sure such commendable eccentricity would merit enthusiastic applause this side of the Channel.
The major halls themselves are large, modern, well lit and spotlessly clean. It has to be said that as the halls became smaller and darker and slightly scruffier, the bikes appeared. And - hurrah! - I heard the distinctive sound of a Suffolk accent; the Andy Tiernan crowd had set up a stand with a lovely 650 Trumpet as centerpiece. They also had an entirely effective old portable screen and 'classic' slide projector to display images of machines that were left back in Framlingham. Descriptions may have baffled the German audience: 'A real old boy's bike' was the only phrase they used to sum up a Trident, for example. And I think we all know exactly what they meant too. Lovely stuff!
Come rumbling-tum time, and the catering appeared to be efficient, albeit with a relentlessly sausage-based motif. If you fancy something more interesting, venture out to the 600 year-old 'Marktplatz', where in the foundations of the town hall you will find the delightful 'Ratskeller', a bustling restaurant, wine vaults and ale house where you can eat at long oak tables arranged amidst giant barrels and beneath vaulted ceilings supported by 20 pillars. And then rush back to the show!
As is usual with big glamorous shows such as this, an auction was set up as a focus. And joy of joys, it was all motorcycles! Around a hundred machines were on offer, plus catalogues, books and spares. Once again, continental influences abounded. Instead of an oil drip tray beneath a bike the 'auction display designers' scattered roses, or champagne glasses. Well, whatever primes your carb, I say…
The 'Auktionator' himself, Thomas Beneke, presided over the glittering display, achieving some meaty prices. As usual, some lots failed to meet their reserves, but Herr Beneke reported brisk post-sale interest and indeed he had sold five more before I left him to his labours. I noted a 1961 Bultaco TSS 125 knocked down for around £9250, and a lovely '37 DKW SS 250 at about £24,400. I really fancied an utterly impractical 'Guzzi 750-engined 'Mako Shark Panther' concept bike with walnut dashboard and mobile 'phone holder that failed to top £5600, and the owner of a well-used MV 750/862 Special with such mods as Kehin carbs, Suzuki forks walked away from £26,000.
As a car and motorcycle combined show, it's rather out of balance at the moment. But the organisers seem committed to putting more weight on 'our' side of the bike/car scales. And the variety and novelty of the exhibits and the professionalism of the event itself make it well worthy of a note on your calendar for 2008.
Photos by Del Ratcliffe and Linda Westerwelle
The next Bremen Classic Motorshow is on February 1st, 2nd and 3rd 2008
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