by Alexander Jentzsch – CHB’s German correspondent
This year was my first time at Classic Days in “Schloss Dyck” and it was overwhelming! We arrived on Friday and after wandering around and getting used to the area, we met some great racing legends, like Walter Röhrl and John Fitzpatrick amongst many others. The event at Schloss Dyck (Castle Dyck) is known to be one of the large vintage cars events, so you really need the complete weekend to have an opportunity to see everything.
The first cars that watered my mouth were the British racing green Bentley 4 1/2 Litre Supercharged from the end of the 1920s – better known as “Blower Bentley” – and the 8 Liter Bentleys and the famous silver colored “Mother Gun”. It’s incredible how much power these cars send out, even if they are not running. On the opposite side, there were their old rivals of the supercharged era: the Mercedes SS and SSK with their lovely exhaust manifolds. Soon their engines would burst to life and race against each other, just like in the old days. Until then we had a view at those good old Bristols with their very special bodies. After WW2 the construction plans of the famous BMW 328 engine were taken to Britain where Bristol used them to build their 400 – 403 models.
Many many other cars would be worth mentioning, but after a while you don’t even notice anymore that you’ve just passed a 300 SL Gullwing and just the super rare and curious cars draw your attention. Next step was the Mercedes 500 K Roadster in dark brown from 1934. Really one of the most beautiful cars in the world! Not really pretty but very interesting was the Tatra 87 of the same era, but with a very different shape. Aerodynamic design (cw of 0.36!), a single fintail and in the back an air cooled V8 with 2.5 or 3 litre displacement. Unfortunately not many interesting cars were manufactured in Czechoslovakia during the period of the iron curtain.
“Jewels in the Park” lived up to its reputation as there were wonderful French convertibles like Delahaye, Talbot Lago and a Peugeot 402 Eclipse with its electric removable hardtop. Even though I’m not a great fan of American cars, one police car attracted my attention: a 1941 Chevrolet Special Deluxe which showed that the Americans have a sense of humor. Its red flashlight had a sign “The Light from Mars”, which reminded me of H.G. Wells’ book “The War of the Worlds”, which was broadcasted as an audio drama three years before.
We nearly spent the complete next day at the race course, watching, smelling and most importantly LISTENING to all kinds of vehicles. Starting with the pre-war Brough Superior and DKW motorcycles and ending with Walter Röhrl’s Audi Quattro, covering altogether every era of motorsport.
The most impressive cars were those produced before WW2. A very special Rolls-Royce was delivered to Colonel Harry Day who asked for more power. So a Rolls Royce Liberty engine from a plane was mounted in a Phantom II chassis. The outcome was a car with impressive performances: V12 engine, 27 litres displacement, 550 hp, 30 litres of oil and 70 litres of cooling water. Each time when this beast accelerated, the whole car twisted due to the massive torque from the engine.
Later, as a true highlight, the Bentleys and Mercedes were released and fought it out against each other. In my view the Merdedes SS is much more beautiful than the SSK, since it has better proportions. All these cars have really big engines that makes listening to them a real concert of joy. But as soon as they engage their superchargers, it immediately gives you the creeps. There’s no other sound like this: the high singing of a circular saw mixed with the low frequent humming of all those six pistons racing up and down in their cylinders.
But the most brute car was still to come. Maybe you have already seen or heard of the 1905 Fiat with its Isotta Fraschini Zeppelin engine? It has “only” 16.5 litres displacement, but every start causes enormous black lines of rubber on the tarmac. To get more weight onto the rear driven wheels, the two passengers are seated behind the rear axle. I don’t have to tell you what kind of sound this machine makes… hugely impressive! Unfortunately, after two rounds, the magneto failed, so we helped to push the car back to the garage.
I want to close this report with a car which should have raised more interest in history: the steamer. A few companies developed powerful and quite environmentally friendly cars. Stanley build the CS 1 in 1919, which could be run with petroleum, kerosine or diesel/petrol. The boiler was in the front, where other cars would have their piston engine, and the two double-action cylinders were under the car next to the rear axle. For those who know a little about physics I don’t need to explain how much torque a steam engine can create – it’s incredible! (even if I didn’t get the numbers). The only disadvantage is that you have to heat the boiler, which takes at least 30 minutes and if the conditions are not perfect it can take up to 60 minutes. I don’t know why, but the guys didn’t install a screen around the fuel injector, which is mounted outside, so that just a small wind can blow the fuel away from the boiler. Nevertheless, I learned from a man next to me, and from the Rolls-Royce Phantom II owner, that the word “Chauffeur” comes from the steam cars, since they had to be set fire to.