Visiting Germany’s first classic car test center

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This is where the garage gold goes on the lifting platform

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-first

Peter Deuschle has specialized in testing old cars – like this Alfa Romeo GTV 2000 Bertone from 1973. His customers come from all over Germany

Source: Frederik Laux

Germany’s first test center for classic cars has opened in the Black Forest. The business is going well, because the screwdriver hobby has become an industry – and that has consequences for enthusiasts.

E.The Black Forest idyll disturbs the loud rattling. But it is not a lawnmower that Wolfgang Conzelmann takes around the corner. The pensioner drives up to the vehicle inspection center in his old Mercedes station wagon. The golden-brown 300 diesel from 1983 rolls hoarse nailing onto the lifting platform. A dent here, a few sheets of metal welded there: Sure, at 32 years old, the Benz of the W123 series is no longer a new car. But it is something special that you rarely see on the streets.

“The car is a cult”, enthuses Halter Conzelmann, who wears a dark Barbour jacket. The T-model of the W123 was the first station wagon that Daimler produced in series. The 300 naturally aspirated diesel produces a solid 88 hp. Mercedes-Benz did not offer a charged diesel until later. The T on this Benz does not stand for turbo, but for "tourism and transport". And with the W123, that is more leisurely. Conzelmann calls its five-cylinder diesel “wandering dune”.

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-germany

Peter Deuschle is happy about the golden brown 300 Mercedes Diesel with the year of manufacture: "This is still a real tractor"

Source: Frederik Laux

“It’s still a real tractor,” says Peter Deuschle happily as he checks the Mercedes for repainting and possible botch. Because originality is important for a classic car. Deuschle founded Germany‘s first test center in Wildberg in Baden-Wurttemberg, which exclusively examines classic vehicles. There, classic car drivers can apply for the so-called H license plate, which gives them tax advantages and free travel in environmental zones. The engineering office also offers purchase advice and appraisals. “Your expert for classic vehicles” stands in front of the garage.

The classic car market sets records

“Unfortunately, young people have to stay out here”, wrote the specialist magazine “Oldtimer Markt” and spoke of a world premiere. Deuschle’s business idea is good, but it was obvious: classic cars are booming in Germany. The number of registrations has been increasing in the double-digit range for years. As of January 1, 2015, the Federal Motor Vehicle Office registered 350,000 vehicles with historic license plates, a new record.

The hobby of a manageable number of nostalgic screwdrivers has become a kind of national sport. This is also shown by the classic car fairs, to which thousands make the pilgrimage who do not own an oldie themselves. Meanwhile, businesspeople sense that they can make a lot of money with old cars. Vehicle trade, spare parts market, oldie rental: There’s a lot of money in the industry.

His customers come from all over Germany, says Deuschle, who worked as a motor vehicle expert for over 20 years before opening his test center in July. Most of the customers come from the region.

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-visiting

In July 2015, Peter Deuschle opened his classic car test center. He works with the testing organization GTu

Source: Frederik Laux

The neighboring district of Boblingen is one of the districts with the highest vehicle density in Germany. And that’s not because so many people live there. It’s because there are many people living there who can afford several cars.

In Wildberg, inspector Deuschle carries out the official main inspections for the classic cars in cooperation with the inspection organization GTu. The unofficial assessments and evaluations are carried out in cooperation with Classic Data from Bochum. The expert organization has been monitoring the price development of historic vehicles for more than 30 years. And that can be summed up in one word: crazy.

Completely wacky price increases

Example Volkswagen Beetle. The crawling animal from Wolfsburg is the most popular classic car in Germany with around 29,000 registered copies. The average price for a Beetle 1200 A (1964–65) is currently 12,500 euros, which is an increase in value of over 100 percent compared to 2011, ie a doubling in value.

The price increases for classic sports cars such as Ferrari or Porsche are completely wacky. There are Porsche Carrera owners who have an appraisal made that is completely out of date after a year – because the car is now worth 100,000 euros more. Since the savings account stopped paying interest, more and more people are trying to invest their money in old cars.

But this plan often goes wrong. Because the mass of classic cars is priced well below 20,000 euros. Opel Rekord, Ford Granada or an old Trabant: cars like this only gain very moderately in value over the years. The garage and maintenance costs usually eat up this gain in value. The owners don’t drive these cars to speculate, but because they enjoy them. It is the immaterial that counts. "We’re talking about a hobby," says oldie specialist Deuschle.

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-germany

Some of the old cars are so special that conventional workshops are reaching their limits

Source: Frederik Laux

But these classic car drivers also have to go to the workshop with their treasures and have a general inspection every two years. In principle, every test center in Germany is open to them, be it TuV, Dekra or other organizations. "Nobody has to drive their old-timer to the Black Forest when they need a new HU sticker," says Johannes Hubner, spokesman for the Automobile Club of Germany (AvD).

Old cars are very special

The problem is that some old cars are so special that the workshops sometimes reach their limits. One example are complex carburetor systems that a motor vehicle mechatronics technician who has only learned something about injection systems can no longer adjust. With other oldies like a Goggomobil or a Fiat 500 it is better not to drive onto the roller test bench because they are difficult to get out of there with their small wheels. "When classic car drivers hand over the steering wheel, they want to be able to trust that the inspector can deal with the special features of the car," says engineer Deuschle.

These cars are like stocks

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-classic

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Safe bank: Sports cars from the 1960s are considered a good investment. Lamborghini – here ei – is one of the brands for which hardly any negative surprises are to be expectedn Miura from 1966. One of the more frequently built classics from this period is …

Source: Lamborghini

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-classic

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… the Mercedes SL with the official type designation W113, which is called a pagoda because of its gentle dent in the roof. Despite around 50,000 copies built, the car reached auf Auctions already have prices well over 100,000 euros. But that’s still a long way from cars like that …

Source: picture-alliance / dpa

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-germany

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… Ferrari 250 GTO. The classic racing car was only built three dozen times, and at auctions, the prize regularly fetched around 40 million euros. "Only" around a tenth, with around four million but still a lot of money, already achieved …

Source: Carl Christian Jancke

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-visiting

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… the Aston Martin DB5, which the Scottish actor Sean Connery made world famous in his role as James Bond in "Goldfinger". Winning at Porsche recently especially the last air-cooled models from the early 1990s in value. But you haven’t yet reached prices like the …

Source: dpa

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-germany

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… Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 Coupe from 1972. The lightweight version, which has already been valued at over one million euros, is primarily in demand. What enthusiasts also don’t vshould be forgotten, are the partly high …

Source: dpa-tmn

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… Maintenance costs: The general overhaul of a large engine alone can cost several tens of thousands of euros in classic cars like this Mercedes S600. The one with a short wheelA representative sedan built from 1964 to 1981 drives a solid 6.3-liter V8 with 250 hp.

Source: Infographic Die Welt, Kienle

What is special about Wolfgang Conzelmann’s Mercedes W123 is that the car has only driven 109,000 kilometers in its long car life. The car already bears the H license plate – without the special operating permit, the pensioner would pay almost 1000 euros in taxes per year for the three-liter diesel. At Deuschle’s oldie test center, Conzelmann wants to have the appraisal report for his oldie renewed. “I’m afraid of theft and third-party damage,” he says.

Because it is like this: For enthusiasts and sometimes also for investors, vintage cars are of great value. But not at all for insurance people. In the event of an accident – the owner doesn’t even have to be to blame – the opposing insurance company will always refer to the age of the vehicle and estimate the value at around zero. "They then say: What kind of box is that, you can scrap it right away," explains Conzelmann.

This is why appraisals are so important for classic car owners. Owners can only enforce their claims in the event of damage if the value of a vehicle is documented. Motor vehicle expert Deuschle will set the value of the Mercedes W123 TD 300 at around 15,000 euros. That’s a lot for an old “tractor”. But it’s not what is commonly referred to as garage gold.

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-first

Garage gold: the 356 A Carrera 1600 GS Coupe was the first Carrera that Porsche built. Even when it was built in 1959, it was not cheap, today it is a seven-digit euroworth it

Source: Frederik Laux

It is rolled into the yard a short time later – but not on its own. Because garage gold is seldom driven, but mostly just stands around. "Safe journey for your holy sheet metal" is written on the trailer from Boblingen. And when the tailgate opens, it becomes clear what the whole Heckmeck is about: there is a glacier-white Porsche 356 A Carrera 1600 GS Coupe, built in 1959. It is actually green, but at Porsche they were of the opinion that glaciers had a green shimmer.

It was the first Carrera that Porsche built. The DOHC boxer engine with vertical shaft develops 105 hp, making the 356 A a super sports car around 1960. And already pig expensive back then. Today the overhaul of the complicated engine alone costs more than 100,000 euros because there are hardly any people who are familiar with this technology. The average market value for the whole car is astronomical. “Certainly seven figures”, says the specialist Deuschle and carefully drives the noble Porsche onto the stage.

Vehicle owner with dollar sign in his eyes

Such vehicles are not necessarily good for the classic car scene because they generate envy. Normal are the screwdrivers who tinker with their rusty Opel or Ford and are happy when they can take a little trip with it at the weekend without thinking about increasing its value.

The headlines, on the other hand, are made by the super cars when a Ferrari or a Mercedes 300 SL has been auctioned for so many millions of euros. The owners come to Deuschle for the appraisals, and many have dollar signs in their eyes. "If the customer asks you for the seventh time about the likely price development of his car, it can get on your nerves," admits Deuschle. But he deserves a lot from the hype. A valuation report costs 350 euros or more. For noble classics like the snow-white Porsche, which is actually green, the amounts are well in the four-digit range.

Visiting Germany's first classic car test center-germany

Peter Deuschle has been a motor vehicle expert for more than 20 years. Sometimes it annoys him a bit when his customers ask him again and again for the expected increase in valueask ng of your classic car

Source: Frederik Laux

The madness is no longer even limited to classic cars that are 30 years or older. In the meantime, prices are skyrocketing for cars that were just everyday cars yesterday. For the Mercedes W124 for example, who founded the modern E-Class. The W124 was built over 2.5 million times. Jochen Ritter owns one of them, it’s the top model, an E500 from 1993. The sedan with the silky-soft eight-cylinder was produced together with Porsche, the new price at that time was 150,000 Deutschmarks.

IT project manager Ritter bought his E500 ten years ago for 12,000 euros. At that time the Benz had just bottomed out of its depreciation, but then prices rose tremendously. Today, Ritter could easily charge three or four times as much for his E500. Ritter, who is hoarding various other Mercedes in garages, grins: "You have to buy cars when they are cheap."

Correctly it should read: “You have to buy noble cars when they are cheap.” Because an Opel Kadett D or an early Golf II, which are older than Ritter’s E500, are also cheap. The Golf II was a million seller, early models are now H-license plate capable. But Peter Deuschle has not yet drawn up a single valuation report for a standard Golf. “Nobody has been here yet,” he says. Because the appraisal for such a car is simply not worth it.

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