Status symbol: China’s new love for German classic cars


China‘s new love for German classic cars

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-status

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Many Chinese people followed the week-long marathon of around 30 classics from Beijing to Shanghai with great enthusiasm.

Source: Wolfgang Gomoll

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-status

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The vehicles had to cover more than 1,600 kilometers through China – a real adventure for the more than 30 classic automobiles.

Source: Stefan Grundhoff

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-china

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After starting in the capital Beijing, the first stage led to Tianjin, one of the most important port cities in the People’s Republic. Via Qingdao we went along the Yellow Seah south. Before the final stage, the old capital Nanjing was passed before the destination Shanghai was reached.

Source: Stefan Grundhoff

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-status

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No matter where the classic vehicles appeared, they were admired. A VW Beetle from the Essen tuning company Deckers is making its way through the streets.

Source: Wolfgang Gomoll / Stefan Grundhoff

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-classic

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The overall winner of the Classic Cars Challenge China was the VW Scirocco from the Volkswagen Classic collection.

Source: Stefan Grundhoff

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-classic

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Although the extremely wealthy Chinese have recently bought vintage cars from Europe in addition to their other luxury cars, many people in the People’s Republic can buy noI can’t even afford a simple car.

Source: Stefan Grundhoff

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-classic

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There is often improvisation, as can be seen in this photo. In many regions of China, bicycles and decrepit mopeds are the main modes of transport.

Source: Stefan Grundhoff

Status symbol: China's new love for German classic cars-german

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When suddenly a convoy with countless vintage cars turns up, that’s a huge attraction.

Source: Stefan Grundhoff

Owning a Bentley, Rolls-Royce or Mercedes is a matter of course for China‘s super-rich. If you really care about yourself, you drive classic cars. However, this is fraught with obstacles.

D.he former class enemy parks in the front row. Just a few meters below the Great Wall is a 1935 Auburn Roadster, right next to it is a 1957 Aston Martin DB3, followed by a monstrous Cadillac DeVille 6300, built in 1959.

As if the Chinese didn’t already suffer enough from their car exhaust fumes, the catalytic converter-less road cruisers from the west are now also arriving. A small but steadily growing fan base is delighted at the sight of the precious automobiles.

In the midst of these classics stands Xiaoming Hou and mumbles a satisfied "meiho", which means something like "wonderful". The wiry mid-forties inhales the morning air, which is clear and fresh about 60 kilometers from Beijing, while the usual smog bell billows over the capital.

But the organizer of the “Classic Cars Challenge China”, a vintage car rally from Beijing to Shanghai, has neither eyes for the metropolis nor for the impressive protective wall on which the first tourists are already scrambling in the early morning sun.

Import of vehicles is prohibited

All his attention is focused on the entourage of 27 automobiles that are making their 1,600-kilometer journey to Shanghai. The fact that this adventure with the classic treasures is taking place with the blessing of the government shows that the classic car scene in the Middle Kingdom has picked up speed rapidly despite all the restrictions.

Because since 2009 it has been very difficult to get approval for an automobile that is more than 25 years old. In the best case scenario, the owner receives a license that is valid for a maximum of one month.

The import of the vehicles is usually also prohibited. "The only way to do this legally is to declare the classic car as a cultural asset," says Sven Xu, a participant in the rally.

Discarded cars from embassy employees

Another classic car fan, Xiaoming Hou, notices increasing loopholes in classic car registration and speaks of a real classic boom. "The desire for classic cars in China is increasing from month to month."

Xiaoming Hou is an ardent fan of the Alfa Romeo brand and owns all the models of the traditional Italian brand that have been built since 1975. His oldest car is an Austin Seven from 1929, a racing car that has been driven on the venerable Silverstone circuit in England.

Before the heads of state spoiled the hobby of friends of classic cars, wealthy Chinese bought their discarded vehicles from employees of foreign embassies. These were mainly models from the 70s and 80s that are now considered to be young timers. How many classics are in Chinese possession today can hardly be estimated.

"Some club members only have one car, while some have 100," says Xiaoming Hou, who also belongs to one of these classic clubs. Even if the import of the cars is difficult, the fans of classic automobiles are not very different from their counterparts in Europe or the USA. There are also different types of collectors in China.

Chinese classic cars are also cheered

Some are only looking for a specific brand, such as Volkswagen, or are looking for specific years of construction. Others focus on famous models that are considered milestones in automotive history. It is also a fact that, unlike in Europe, the selection of classic vehicles is very limited.

The Chinese fans are not only committed to Aston Martin, old models from Mercedes-Benz and Maserati. A Hong Qi (Red Flag) CA ​​770 from 1972 and a baroque-style Feng Huang 760 also take part in the rally.

The passage of the historic column causes excitement everywhere. Crowds of people surround the starting field, cell phones and cameras are pulled out to get a picture of the rare vehicles and their drivers. One of them is racing legend Jacky Ickx, who controls a Decker Beetle 1302 tuned to 135 hp.

The land of stark contrasts

“The Beetle is a real rocket. It has power, the handling is great, the brakes work fantastic, it’s pure joy, ”says the Belgian. Despite all the confidence and joy, the race to Shanghai also reveals the stark contrasts of the up-and-coming Asian country.

In the shadow of the booming regions, three- and four-lane motorways are a matter of course. Just like the gigantic trucks that transport up to 20 brand new cars across the country on the top loading area.

But there is also the other side of the gigantic empire. Squeaky pigs are crammed tightly together and carted through the area, and four-lane smooth asphalt belts are turned into dusty runways with potholes so large that you have to worry about the rims at every meter. Bicycles and decrepit mopeds are still the main modes of transport here.

Quite different from classic car rallies in Europe

With the bee-like bustle of mopeds, rickshaws and pedestrians, minor collisions are inevitable, and it borders on a miracle that nothing worse happens, at least not when the rally team is making its way. And if two careless road users come together, they swear loudly and – just drive on. cars?

Rather the exception. The hard shoulder of the tarred roads is used to dry corn on the cob. Cyclists and motorcyclists cavort on the median, apparently not particularly concerned about the traffic regulations. Muddle through somehow.

In contrast to European classic car rallies, there is a lot of improvisation on the trip to Shanghai. Toilets are housed in a camping bus, and sometimes the organizers only notice on the route that the road book issued is incorrect.

Chinese drivers behind the wheel of old German cars

As if that weren’t enough of the challenges, there are the Chinese traffic signs. The rally participants from the west put their heads together at the fork in the road. Answers to questions such as “Isn’t the horizontal line a little higher?” Or “Isn’t the swing more rounded?” Often decide about dinner or a cry for help. Time is of the essence: it gets dark at 6 p.m..

In front of the new automobile museum in the metropolis on the Yellow Sea, all 22 classic cars that are still rolling get a cheered reception after seven stages. Three old and youngtimers from the BMW brand – a 2002 model from 1972, a 315 (E21) and a 325i (E30), which come from private collections in the People’s Republic – win the team championship of the rally. In the individual classification, a Scirocco I TS from 1974 has the front hood.

Two local pilots sit at the wheel, a Chinese flag is quickly at hand and decorates the windshield. VW will be happy. In 2013, a German-Chinese joint venture also established itself in the classical music sector in China.

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