It takes only an instant. Just a whiff of gasoline mixed with air in a carburettor, or the exhaust note from an air-cooled flat 6 or a V8 pushrod engine, and your heartbeat will be pumping as fast as if you were a die-hard vintage car fan. And then, there is the venue. One glance around you, and you’ll know that you are in a very special, very unique setting. Yet, the stylish and airy space seems no match for all these exotic machines that surround you.
As a German vintage automotive centre, Classic Remise (*remise /rɪ’mi:z/ – a coach-house, Shorter Oxford English Dictionary) has operating divisions in both Berlin and Düsseldorf. We recently visited the Classic Remise Düsseldorf, which is the firm’s heritage premises.
It is housed in what was once a huge steam locomotive roundhouse maintenance centre closed down after WWII as the steam locomotives were replaced by diesel and electric engines. The building was bought by a Berlin family after years of neglect, and after altering the zoning, was transformed into the Classic Remise Düsseldorf. The old industrial architecture has been combined with fresh airy glass and staging to become a superb presentation of historic and classic vehicles. The result is a showroom and storage centre that guarantees a unique automotive experience. Opened in 2006, it is the second classic car centre of this kind worldwide, the first being the Classic Remise Berlin, also well worth visiting.
If you were to rely solely on information from the internet, the images googled of Classic Remise would seem to be just an old historical automotive museum; a visit would show just how striking Classic Remise is in person. You’ll begin in the atrium, the location of the firm’s famous vintage automotive trading centre , beautifully displaying nearly a hundred classic cars, including two Porsche diesel tractors from another century. You’ll be impressed by how the style of the display reflects the cosmopolitan spirit of the surrounding Düsseldorf neighbourhood. Known as one the trendiest cities in Europe, with many giant fashion house headquarters and boasting the longest bar street in the world, Dusseldorf also nurtures an artistic atmosphere and high appreciation of contemporary art, influences easily reflected in the beautiful interior and exterior architectural presentation seen throughout Classic Remise.
Actually, Classic Remise is not only involved in the selling progress, but also as visitor destination for thousands of guests, hence it also houses over 30 automotive agencies offering restoration services, and cosmetic maintenance, as well as a boutique, a theme restaurant, bank, mortgage and insurance broker services, making it an ideal operating environment for everything automotive. You can find the best selling Morgan dealer here, which generates 10% of the marque’s sales. Additionally, you can also visit Donkervoort, the independent Dutch sportscar maker in the centre. In fact, just standing at the entrance for 10 minutes serves as a sort of mini automotive show runway, as you watch numerous famous brands come and go from Classic Remise storage.
That storage is truly unique, as it is “displayed” rather than “kept”. Classic Remise’s design allows owners of classic cars to rent one of the 75 completely glassed-in individual garages where they can park their cars. The garages are locked and integrated into the main building. Thus, in addition to being out of the weather, the cars can be seen and enjoyed by visitors. For the purpose of “keeping” and “displaying”, it is not necessary to have an expensive supercar nor antique classic. For example, the Remise is home to many unique models such as two of the British-made Peel P50, a 49cc three-wheeler that cost 199 pounds in 1963. It’s also a Guinness record holder as the smallest production car; rumour has it there were 47 units sold with only 30 units still surviving over the years. Of course, it is precious, but the diminutive Peel puts a smile face on the face of everyone who meets this little car. Isn’t that good enough?
We had the impression that the Classic Remise intends to become a famous attraction as a venue full of classic cars with unique decoration, however Mika Hahn, manager of Classic Remise Düsseldorf disagreed our comment. “We do not care whether we become a Disneyland or Universal Studio; this is a place where the motor heads can gather together”, said Hahn. “If you like cars, you will love this place.”
Not only a vintage car fan, Mika was a sidecar racer, teaming up with his father for some vintage sidecar races; he now runs his own sidecar racing team. Though Mika is Finnish, he was raised in Düsseldorf and hence has a deep bond with the city. He has a 1922 SNOB motor bicycle, 1925 AUTINAG motorcycle and a German-made 1950’s Vespa scooter. One can clearly see his passion for the city through his collection.
Further, if you are sight-seeing in western Germany or the southeastern portion of the Netherlands, I still suggest you to spare some time to pay a visit. It is a disappointment-free guarantee.
WORDS: SOBE CHOW | PHOTOS: KIMIO NG | DESIGN: FRANCO AU-YEUNG
Article originally published in Blackbird Automotive Journal Vol.8 – REVIVAL.