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Where even rust has a price tag

The biggest market for vintage and classic vehicles in Europe

20/10/2013 07:03 |  Comments: 

Contributing editor

Sipi is a fairy who hangs above us like a huge, ever-smiling, men’s fragrance-smelling umbrella. He can be called anytime, anywhere to lend a helping hand, and he’ll be there in an hour with one of his Transits for sure. A dangerously maniac car collector (the street in front of his house is full of his vehicles), a radio-control and model car freak, Sipos is a Swiss knife made of human flesh. Totalcar is just one job amongst his zillion occupations, but he endears it the most. Lives with a girlfriend and two dogs.

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  • Mitsubishi Sigma 3.0 24V (1992)
  • Mazda 323 TXL 4WD (1990)
  • 4 long-nose Transits (a 4x4 fire engine, a fire department staff car, an ex-Irish ambulance and an extremely oversized panel van, 1980-1984)
  • Dacia 1300 (1975, being restored)
  • Ford Capri 2.9i (1982)
  • Mercedes-Benz 280 SEL 4.5 (1972)
  • Ford Sierra Tournier 2.9i drift-car (1992)
  • Mazda 121 4dr (1993)
  • Suzuki VS1400 Intruder (1989)
  • Suzuki GSX 750 New Katana (1984)
  • Kawasaki Z1000 Police (1993)
  • Aprilia Habana (2000)
  • Volga M24 wagon (1984)
  • Ural M62 (1968, in pieces)
You’ll find just about anything here. Maybe even a World War II platoon still fighting.

Since its 1975 launch the annual VETERAMA has been the event of the year for vintage car lovers. In the past 18 years I’ve been to almost every one and believe me, it is out of this world. The atmosphere is captivating. No wonder everyone who’s ever been to one wants to return at some point.

This is a place where you can marvel at vintage motorbikes worth many tens of thousands of Euros at an arm’s distance. You can have a close look at the rusty, muddy, oily parts it takes for the nearly hundred-year old machines to rise from the dead. You don’t just buy cars here, but vintage relics ranging from hairdressers’ equipment to dentists chairs, from china dolls to slot car tracks.

During the 3-day extravaganza over 4000 sellers and 50 000 visitors invade the Maimarktgelände of Mannheim to celebrate the vintage hobby from Friday to Sunday. The open air area does not get cleared for the night like that of the Mostra Scambio in Imola. The party doesn’t stop till dawn with people barbecuing, drinking beer and talking well into the early morning hours at some stalls.

This is the place you might find what you’re looking for, be it a pre-war machine, something made during the years of the German Wirtschaftswunder, or in the ‘70s or ‘80s. There’s no better place to go looking for a spare part for any restoration project you may have embarked on. The visitors and sellers arrive from all over the world. Japan, Lithuania, Italy, Bulgaria, France, Sweden, practically the whole of Europe is represented here, so your chances of finding what you’re looking for are pretty good indeed.

There’s one thing to keep in mind, though: if you plan on checking out all the stands, you’ll be walking 26 km. That doesn’t include visiting the huge car park filled with the cars for sale, ranging from 1,000 Euro ruins to 100,000 Euro luxury cars.

This year we drove my friend’s Ford Taunus 17M to the market. My mate is excellent at setting new challenges for himself. Having started the restoration of the old Ford almost 13 years ago and having been using the car for almost as long, he suddenly decided to sell it. Of course it is not easy to sell a car not registered in Germany on the German market, but Vaterama is the place where anything can happen. A dealer bought the car. My friend even managed to sell the myriad of spare parts collected during the lengthy restoration.

You have to wait till next autumn for the next Veterama, but a similar event will be held in spring. The spring Veterama used to be a two week-end event: a market for cars on one weekend and one for motorbikes on the next. It had traditionally been organized in Ludwigshafen, but moved to a new venue recently. From 2013 Hockenheimring is the place to get your hands oily rummaging around in the piles of rusty parts, and now it's a single week-end event.

Dear readers, have you been to Veterama? We’d love to hear your stories!

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pick of the litterClassic and Beloved

You idiot, did you really believe it was rust free?

My half-century old Merc is finally at home, it (mostly) survived the 2700 km-trip from Sweden. Now comes the best part: restoration. No, please just don’t sneer yet!