Classic car rallies are common in both Europe and the United States. But what’s not common or seen or heard as often, is an Indian teaming up with a German to participate in what is one of the most unique classic car events in the world.
The Crème 21 Youngtimer Classic Car Rallye was held in Germany in September 2014. The entry rules were simple, road worthy vehicles manufactured between 1970 and 1990 could participate in this rally and the idea was to have fun with these “youngtimer” classic cars.
For the first time an Indian (this writer) was invited to take part in this event. My co-driver was Tim Westermann—a German auto journalist and experienced racing driver. Ours was the only Indo-German team at the event and Volkswagen Classic Museum loaned us a 1973 VW K 70-making about 100 bhp.
The Volkswagen K70 is quite rare and ours was the only one at the event. It was originally developed by Neckarsulm Strickmaschinen Union (NSU), but in 1969 Volkswagen took over NSU and started marketing the K70 as a Volkswagen product. Interestingly, the K70 was the first Volkswagen with a front-mounted engine, the first with water cooling, and also the first with front wheel drive. All very significant landmarks in the long history of Volkswagen.
The highlight of the Crème 21 Youngtimer event was its route and this year was no different. The 200 participating teams drove over 1,000 kilometers in five days through the scenic back roads of Germany. The organizers of the event said “Many classic car events are about showing off your cars. But our focus is completely different—you come to our event and get to enjoy driving your classic cars. We spend a lot of time doing surveys and locating the best driving roads for our rally. We look for picturesque and quiet country roads that take our participants to pretty places deep within Germany.”
The event started from Bremen—Oldenburg the University City, and proceeded to charming towns like Buckeburg, Alfeld, Braunlage, Oschersleben, Benneckenstein, Hann, Munden and Bielefeld before finishing in Borgholz-hausen.
As, in 2014, unified Germany celebrates its 25th anniversary or silver jubliee of the Fall of the Iron Curtain, the route of the rally often crisscrossed from West Germany to East Germany and back.
Even twenty five years after the fall of the Iron Curtain and reunification of Germany, one can still see the stark contrasts between the two. Communism in East Germany between 1945 and 1990 is the reason that differences had started to develop.
In East Germany you can still find people who haven’t understood or reject capitalism, whereas in West Germany it’s all about enterprise and hard work and enjoying the good life—just like in the United States. Though the reunification has changed a lot of things, you can still see that East Germany has a lower standard of living and is not as prosperous when compared to West Germany.
The event attracted lots of amazing cars including Porsches, Mercedes Benzs, BMWs, Audis, Citroens, Renaults, Ford Mustangs, Alfa Romeos, Peugeots, Fiats, Minis, Aston Martins, Jaguars, a Lada and several Volkswagens.
Tim drove on two days and I drove on the other three days. I not only enjoyed the driving but also the navigation and though the road book was in German, I soon got the hang of giving navigation instructionslike 300 metres geradeaus (straight); 200 metres links (left) and 400 metres rechts (right). I am really proud of the fact that in the two days I navigated, we never got lost even once.
Wherever the rally went it attracted lots of enthusiastic spectators, some also coming to view the rally in their own classic cars. The entire event had a festive atmosphere and in the evening all the participants would get together to party. I enjoyed the German beers and schnitzels at these events. What was very nice was that even the organizers joined the party and were completely informal with the participants. Everybody was really nice to me and very curious about India and wanted to know about the new Modi Government and its policies. They were particularly pleased that I had traveled all the way from India to participate in a German event and went out of their way to make me comfortable.
One unique aspect of this rally was that though the competitors were given a road book and start and finish times for stages, the winners and scores of the event were actually decided by the games. Yes, games.
At various times and controls along the route a variety of contests were held for the competitors. These ranged from quizzes, puzzles, to games that tested skills and luck.
For example at one control we were given a box containing sweets, chocolates, toys, etc. We were allowed to look into the box for 21 seconds and then asked a question. In our case we were asked—what was the total cost of the contents?
At another control participants were given a laptop that had clips of Hollywood films and we had to recognize and name the film. At another control a team member had to roll a dice while the other teammate moved on the board drawn on the ground as per the score.
All the participants enthusiastically took part in such games making the Crème 21 Youngtimer Classic Car Rallye a truly fun event.
Bob Rupani is a pioneering Indian automobile journalist and editor of Auto India magazine. He has authored several books and regularly writes for Indian and international publications.