The Sunday supplement: treasure hunt
Welcome to the Aladdin’s Cave of vintage Porsche memorabilia
At tantalising eye level for a small child holding his father’s hand, long trestle tables run around the vast exhibition hall, densely packed with pristine miniature models. Row upon row of perfectly aligned scale representations of some of Porsche’s most famous racing cars, from Rothman’s era 956s and later 962s in every imaginable livery to the be-winged 935s in their myriad privateer war paints.
Further along, a dense cluster of 718 RSKs flank numerous iterations of single-seat 804 that took a solitary F1 win at Rouens in 1962. Then there are the 911s. A sea of them from every era and discipline, sporting Martini and Brumos stripes, hippy psychedelia and timeless sponsors like Jagermeister. There’s a Dakar rally 959, and back from that another neat line from the transaxle era in all its short-lived glory.
This is 'International Porsche Collectors Day', the second running of what is promising to become something of an institution for Porsche aficionados the world over. Held at the Porsche Classic Centre Gelderland, it has more than doubled since year one and now represents a unique opportunity for the hardcore Porsche fan to collect the rarest of mementos from the marque’s illustrious past.
And it’s not just models. And strictly speaking it’s not really for kids. The Centre’s many display tables are equally packed with genuine Porsche parts, from original owners’ manuals to steering wheels from long-lost 356 and early 911 cars. Engine covers and front wings bearing the hallmarks of hard driving in bygone days are propped up against one another in rows. Complete tool rolls, hubcaps and workshop manuals fill high shelves bowing under the weight of all this history. There are bonnet badges and key fobs, rare books and vintage photographs, signed paintings commemorating famous wins around the world. One table is swamped with original Fuchs alloys in every imaginable dimension and condition. It’s a veritable treasure trove of Porsche paraphernalia. The sort of place you could spend hours – and probably small fortunes – in, without even really noticing.
Outside, the Porsche Classic Centre is surrounded by complete cars, this time 1:1. Early Turbos and original Targa models open to the warm morning sun. Numerous transaxle cars park side-by-side next to 997 and 991 series 911s. And dotted here and there among the Zuffenhausen loyalists are a couple of local rivals in the lovely Mercedes 190 SL. Bucking the Stuttgart trend altogether, there’s even a Maserati-engined Citroën SM. It seems everyone inside has the passion, no matter how they choose to channel it.
The level of obsession here is unlike anything you’re likely to see again. Exhibitors hail from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and even as far afield as Sweden, selling Porsche-related memorabilia some of which you struggle to believe ever existed. Tightly packed tables are covered in posters, stickers, maps, pins, radiator badges, rally shields, coffee cups, espresso cups, wine glasses. "It is an almost inexhaustible theme,” says Belgian Tim Havermans, a passionate collector for many years and the driving force behind the Porsche website 'Loveforporsche'. He is selling sought-after back issues of the Porsche magazine Christophorus, with asking prices running into the hundreds of Euros. Elsewhere on his table are rare old sales brochures and even documentation about the annual Porsche tennis tournament.
And it goes deeper. The German Rüdiger Mayer has travelled with his wife from Stuttgart to promote the book 'Racing & Recipes', a cookbook with recipes and anecdotes by Porsche factory driver Jürgen Barth. Complete with cooking aprons, silver candlesticks and a magnum of Moët on the table covered with white linen, Mayer and his girlfriend have been pedaling the book to all comers. "We have sold quite a few and also met hundreds of really interesting people,” he says.
For many, however, the real draw is still the models, some of which are displayed in stunningly detailed dioramas by the likes of German Klaus Jürgen Pfeffer. An architect by day, Pfeffer spends his free time creating these 1:43 scale three dimensional scenes and preserving them behind glass. Parked outside the Centre is Pfeffer’s own 993, with a scarcely credible 650,000km on the odometer. “A world record for a matching numbers car,” he says with a grin. Porsche is coursing through his very veins.
As the event draws to a close and the stalls begin to pack up, there is a quiet sense of satisfaction from the organisers at a job well done. Mark Wegh, who runs the Porsche Classic Centre and is himself something of a collector, reflects on a long but rewarding day: "This has to become an annual tradition. People do not have to pay anything, they just turn up and have fun. We’ve met a lot of customers today who absolutely loved it."
His co-host Henk Koop, himself part of the Porsche Model Club Europe, estimates that the number of people in attendance has more than doubled since last year. One visitor, he observes, came all the way from America. “He had heard of our event at a Los Angeles trade show and because he had to be in Europe this week, he stayed a few days longer. Everyone seems delighted and I have only heard positive reactions. That's how it should be. So, same again next year!”
And who would bet against it. If the collecting bug is catching, for the Porsche community it seems positively contagious.