Immerse yourself online in 160 years of Opel’s history…

In 2022, Opel is celebrating the company’s 160th birthday. To mark this anniversary, Opel Classic has a special gift for all fans and friends of autobile history: they can now indulge themselves in the company’s history in the new “160 Years of Opel” theme tour at opel.com/opelclassic.

Automotive buffs as we are, we certainly love everything historic about cars. So we applaud this initiative, meaning that you can enjoy from the comfort of your home a virtual tour back to the beginnings of the company and enjoy numerous highlights from 160 years of Opel engineering.

This Opel Classic tour will take you on a varied tour from the first sewing machines and bicycles “made in Rüsselsheim” to the current “Golden Steering Wheel” title holder Opel Mokka-e1.

Of course, this 160 year anniversary tour was developed with great attention to detail. The team first had to meticulously archive and document all the exhibits and precisely align them for filming so that online visitors can view the vehicles from all sides. The ‘160 Years of Opel’ tour is bilingual, offering some completely new Opel perspectives. “It’s really worth clicking on and taking the tour,” says the new Opel Classic Director Leif Rohwedder, looking forward to numerous online visitors.

“160 Years of Opel”: Virtual tour from its early beginnings to the present

This new 360-degree tour takes visitors virtually into the “hallowed halls” of the Opel Classic Collection in Rüsselsheim. Here, the brand with the Blitz shelters a veritable treasure trove of 600 historic vehicles and studies as well as 300 other exhibits ranging from Opel sewing machines to aircraft engines. The highlights of the “160 Years of Opel” tour include a look at the beginnings in the 1860s as well as the following decades. By clicking on the yellow info points, Opel Classic reveals important information about the selected exhibits – short and sweet, right to the point.

The “Wanderjahre Adam Opels” (Adam Opel’s wandering years) are discussed as well as historically valuable exhibits such as the “Quintuplet” – a five-seat bicycle – on which the five sons of the company founder had themselves photographed for publicity purposes at the end of the 19th century.

The pioneer among Opel automobiles can also be seen for the first time in a virtual tour: the Patentmotorwagen “System Lutzmann” from 1899, which marked the beginning of car production in Rüsselsheim.

Then interested visitors can continue on various paths through the historic halls. They will not only encounter numerous Opel icons and bestsellers, but also innovative record-breaking vehicles such as the Opel Elektro GT. Five decades ago, this car demonstrated at the Hockenheimring what is possible with zero emissions. The tour through 160 years of Opel history leads to further groundbreaking developments such as the first fully electric vehicle suitable for everyday use, the Opel Ampera, and the battery-electric Opel Mokka-e. The current e-car with the Blitz won the “Golden Steering Wheel 2021″1 with its convincing driving performance as well as its very own style and rounds off the journey through time in the Opel halls.

The “160 Years of Opel” tour now complements the Opel Classic online tours that were successfully launched in 2021.

Finally, we want to tell you here that visitors can also explore and enjoy more subjects Opel Classic has online in store for you: what to think of subjects like “Alternative Drives”, “Rally Racing”, “Roaring Twenties” and “Mobility for Millions”?  I would say, get tuned for an unforgettable online Opel session!

We just let you enjoy some photos here, but I suggest you grab your mouse and start a journey into history!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

On international Women’s Day, MINI celebrates Pat Moss, MINI winner of the international Tulip Rallye in ’62… with a special edition.  

Competition is embedded in the MINI DNA: the greatest feats in the brand’s history were achieved on the rally track. And the foundation for all this was laid by an exceptional female driver. In May 1962, the classic Mini was added to the list of winners of an international rally event for the first time. In the international Tulip Rally – from the Dutch municipality of Noordwijk to the French Riviera and back again – Pat Moss achieved the best time over the distance in the classic Mini Cooper.

60 years later, MINI celebrates the talent, courage and passion of this British woman racing driver with a fascinating special edition. The Pat Moss Edition of the MINI 3-door and MINI 5-door, limited to just over 800 vehicles, not only commemorates the launch of the classic Mini’s extraordinary sporting career, it also marks a pioneering achievement for female power in motorsports. Success in the Netherlands turned the classic Mini, Pat Moss and her co-driver Ann Wisdom into enduring heroines in a discipline otherwise dominated by significantly larger vehicles and entirely the preserve of men.

The Pat Moss Edition will be available from May 2022 for the MINI Cooper S 3-door and the MINI Cooper S 5-door and the MINI John Cooper Works. The exclusive design of the edition models cites the racing history of the British premium brand as well as the sporting careers of Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom.

It also incorporates MINI product innovations such as the Multitone Roof. What is more, an additional variant of the Multitone Roof is available for the first time in the Pat Moss Edition. The colour gradient of the vehicle roof extends from Chilli Red to Melting Silver and Jet Black. With the innovative paint finishing process fully integrated in production at the MINI plant in Oxford, this will be the first time a second colour variant has been realised. Minimal deviations in the colour pattern caused by changing environmental conditions ensure that every MINI with a Multitone Roof has the character of a unique specimen ex works. On the new edition models, the charismatic roof paintwork is combined with the body finishes Pepper White or Midnight Black metallic and also red exterior mirror caps.

A stylised tulip symbolises the first rally victory: it appears on the C pillars and side scuttles of the edition vehicles along with the inscription “Pat Moss”. The wheel hub covers also feature an exclusive design with a graphic which is based on the outline of the typical Dutch flower and the MINI wordmark.

The key facts of the 1962 Tulip Rally appear below the side scuttles on the front side panels: the route Noordwijk – Monte Carlo – Noordwijk, the distance of 2 500 kilometres, the vehicle, namely a Mini Cooper, and its starting number 104. These are supplemented with the slogan that still applies to MINI to this day: “born to compete”. The tulip motif, the name inscription and the key facts about the first every rally win are also to be found on the screen-printed aluminium door sill trims designed exclusively for the edition model.

Another design element used for the first time in the Pat Moss Edition is the horizontally aligned bonnet stripe in white. The printed combination of three-dimensional numbers and letters – 737 ABL – is the registration number of the classic Mini that won the 1962 Tulip Rally, likewise recalling the historical model. Meanwhile the original signature that Pat Moss wrote on the bonnet of her car after one of her victories adorns the front apron of the edition model as a graphic imprint.

In the interior of the edition vehicles, the iconic signature on the Piano Black interior surface in the passenger area is another tribute to the revolutionary woman rally driver, who passed away in 2008. The sports leather steering wheel bears the edition emblem in the form of a tulip graphic which appears on the clip of the lower spoke. The abstract depiction of engine pistons moving up and down serves as the motif for a graphic on the interior surface on the driver’s side. With bars of different heights forming the shape of the letters “M” and “W” – standing for “Moss” and “Wisdom” – they symbolise that perfectly coordinated duo that caused a sensation in the rally scene for so many years.

The MINI Pat Moss Edition is a tribute to a female racing pioneer, MINI’s rally history and true team spirit. One of the remarkable details of the first rally triumph for the classic Mini is the fact that Ann Wisdom insisted on taking part in the Tulip Rally despite being pregnant at the time: she went on to provide her team mate Pat Moss with unerring navigation guidance over the 2 500 kilometre route.

Mossie and Wizz – as they were known in the paddock – formed a successful duo for seven years. The two women had the courage to compete in a male-dominated sport – and they brought about fundamental changes, too. The younger sister of Formula 1 driver Stirling Moss, Pat Moss also won the Sestriere Rally in Italy in 1968, achieved a podium finish in numerous other international competitions and was crowned European Ladies’ Rally Champion five times. Ann Wisdom is considered the first professional woman co-driver in the history of rallying. As successful sportswomen in their own right, the two viewed their courageous foray into a male-dominated domain with typical British understatement. “We didn’t see ourselves as pioneers back then,” said Ann Wisdom years later. “We were just entering a rally.”

Pat Moss and Ann Wisdom paved the way for an extraordinary career for the classic Mini. In 1964, 1965 and 1967, the British small car secured outright victory in the Monte Carlo Rally. Decades later, MINI became the dominant brand in the world’s toughest endurance rally, achieving overall victory in the Dakar Rally four times in a row from 2012 to 2015. Two more overall victories followed in 2020 and 2021.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

2021 was another exceptional year for the Mercedes-Benz Museum…

Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

You servant is truly fond of car museums, and unfortunately, the present times are truly difficult. Also for the wonderful Mercedes-Benz Museum…

As in 2020, it was marked in many respects by the effects of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “We look to 2022 with optimism, but also due caution, because the pandemic is not over,” says Bettina Haussmann, Director of the Museum. “Nevertheless, a suitable programme is already in preparation: under the motto ‘Take your mind off thingsʼ, we would like to provide distraction in stressful times and invite you to visit the Museum free of charge in the first week of March. And of course we are especially looking forward to the warmer season with a wide range of outdoor events, the relaunch of ‘Stadtkulturʼ (Urban Culture) and Classics & Coffee. The open-air cinema and the Mercedes-Benz Concert Summer are also scheduled to take place again this year.”

“Given the overall difficult situation worldwide, we are nevertheless satisfied with 2021. The number of visitors was hardly any different from 2020,” says Museum Director Haussmann.

Currently until 15 February at the Mercedes-Benz Museum: Presentation on the hill of three championship cars from the 2021 motorsport season.

245,232 people visited the Mercedes-Benz Museum from June to December 2021 under the conditions of a well-thought-out hygiene concept. Despite a longer pandemic-related closure period than in 2020, this was only 1,573 visitors or 0.6 per cent less.

We list here for you the important dates (subject to change)

Champions@Mercedes-Benz Museum (until 15 February 2022) Special presentation on the hill of three championship cars from the 2021 motorsport season: Mercedes-AMG GT3, Mercedes-EQ Silver Arrow 02, Mercedes-AMG F1 W12 E-Performance.

Special exhibition “The Fascination of the SL – a dream car for 70 years” (until 9 October 2022).

Mercedes-Benz Museum, special exhibition “The Fascination of the SL – a dream car for 70 years”, 22 October 2021 to 9 October 2022.

 “Take your mind off things” (1 to 6 March 2022): Free admission to the permanent exhibition and special exhibition. Free guided tours daily at 4 p.m. (prior reservation recommended).

Hands-on exhibition for children aged 4 and over (29 March to 24 April 2022): “The whole world on one page – international hidden object books”.

Classics & Coffee (from mid-April): The popular classic car meeting every Sunday and from mid-May “after work” on numerous Thursday evenings.

Night of the Stars (mid-May 2022): The gastronomy event in a class of its own.

Long Night of the Museums (21 May 2022)

Concert Summer at the Mercedes-Benz Museum (7 to 10 July 2022).

Urban Culture (14 July to 14 August 2022): A diverse cultural programme on the open-air stage with partners from the region.

Open-air cinema (18 Ausgust to 4 September 2022)

Hands-on activities for children (every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Let’s hope the spring and summer will bring better times!

Soon we will also bring you more news about the Porsche and BMW museums!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

New special exhibition at the Porsche Museum: 50 Years of Porsche Design

Here you see the new Porsche 911 Edition 50Y Porsche Design. This exclusive special edition is a limited run of 750 cars

The Porsche Museum is honouring the brand’s 50th anniversary with a special exhibition. Until July 10th 2022, visitors can find out how Porsche Design became what it is today.

Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the son of Ferry Porsche, founded Porsche Design together with his brother Hans-Peter in Stuttgart in 1972. Porsche Design has long since become an internationally renowned lifestyle brand.

Alongside a presentation of the life and work of F.A. Porsche, his design philosophy and his great creative influence, various exhibits from five decades of Porsche Design will also be on display.

The 911 S 2.4 Targa from the Porsche Design’s founding year of 1972 is in the background, viewed from the cockpit of the new 911 edition 50 yr. Porsche design…

If one thing symbolises the beginnings of Porsche Design, it is the Chronograph I, a milestone in the art of watchmaking. This is why the centrepiece of the special exhibition will be two different versions of the legendary timepiece: the Chronograph 1 – 1972 Limited Edition and the Chronograph 1 – 911 Edition 50 Porsche Design.

The anniversary exhibition also includes style-defining cars that F.A. Porsche created or which come from his private collection. Among them is the 904 Carrera GTS, which he himself once described as his masterpiece. A 911 (993) Speedster from his estate will also be on display. The 911 S 2.4 Targa from the Porsche Design’s founding year of 1972 that has been restored by the Porsche Classic department as part of the special request program will join the vehicle show, as will the new Porsche 911 Edition 50Y Porsche Design. The exclusive special edition is a limited run of 750 cars with numerous features reminiscent of the iconic designs of F.A. Porsche.

In addition to the plain Black exterior, the nods to the past include the classic check-patterned Sport-Tex centre panels of the seats and the red second hand of the Porsche Design Subsecond clock in the Sport Chrono Package, which comes as standard.

The quintessence of Porsche Design

“Good design must be honest,” F.A. Porsche always emphasized. He designed the legendary Porsche 911 and founded the design studio in 1972. Today, Managing Director Roland Heiler and his team still follow that philosophy. Using authentic materials, they design carefully thought-out, functional and durable products with a purist aesthetic. As the in-house design team of the Porsche Design brand, their inspiring high-quality products include watches, sunglasses, luggage and leather goods.

With locations in Zell am See, Berlin and Ludwigsburg, Los Angeles and Shanghai, the design office also offers its services to international clients. This results in first-class consumer goods, household appliances and industrial products – for example in collaboration with Elan, KEF, LaCie, Morita and Panasonic.

The choice of materials plays a decisive role in Studio F. A. Porsche’s products. Titanium and carbon can turn them into lifetime companions and add new, unexpected functions. The combination of traditional, honest design approaches with ambitious innovations turns the products into genuine luxury items.

The Porsche Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Information on the Porsche Museum’s current hygiene regulations can be found at http://www.porsche.com/Museum.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Jacky Ickx to be celebrated at Brussels Interclassics with his ‘81 Citroën CX 2400 GTI “Paris Dakar”

Jacky Ickx has his 75th birthday this year, and the organisers of the Brussels Interclassics decided to celebrate him on the sixth edition of their show, which will be held on the weekend of 19, 20 and 21 November.

15 cars will be shown on the event, representing the milestones of Jacky’s career. On the central display, a Citroën CX 2400 GTI will also be seen, a perfect replica of the CX he drove on the 1981 Paris Dakar, together with his co-pilot, the French actor Jean Claude Brasseur.

The Citroën CX in Paris Dakar livery was remarkably close to standard, and therefore making a replica was quite feasable…

For the third edition of Paris Dakar, Citroën had entered 4 cars, one in white, driven by Jacky Ickx. The other teams were well trained, Jacky had only seen some film reels of the event prior to the race, and he commented later “Jean Claude and I were total novices to the event, we could have won this race, as the car proved very competitive indeed”.

Nevertheless, Jacky and his team mate led the race, only to abandon in the last stage due to an accident.

The impressive CX 2400 GTI is to be admired in hall 5, stand 5.307. The car is put on the show by CQS Classics, based in Tienen.

We just let you enjoy the photos here, and let you admire how sleek, powerful and efficient these rally Citroëns were in their heydays.

For Citroën enthusiasts, your servant can tell you here Citroëns have always been quite exceptional cars for me, I always cherished the moments I sat behind the wheel of them. I just love their comfort, their unerring stability, even in the worst of weather and road conditions.

Jacky Ickx and his faithful team mate, French actor Jean-Claude Brasseur

My first encounter with the marque of the “double chevron” was behind the one spoked “volant” of a DS 23 Pallas injection electronique, although as a passenger, my memories were even earlier. My aunt in Holland had bought in 1955 a white DS 19, and I sat as a king on the deep blue rear seat, totally smitten by the futuristic design both inside and out, the beautiful and cleanly styled dashboard, the hydraulic commands, the unique comfort and roadholding. My aunt liked to drive with zest, and on the straight but still rather narrow roads, speeds well above 120 km/h were often seen. It felt perfectly normal in this DS. Indeed, the goddess of the road it was called, and deservedly so.

But also the CX left us with indelible memories. I remember driving the CX 2400 GTI – indeed, exactly that model – to the Birmingham motor show. What a delightful Gran Turismo experience it was.

We can tell you here that more Citroën news is to follow: we drove the range of electric Citroëns, amongst others the Berlingo and C4 near Paris, and also tested a diesel powered version of the C4 with the 8 speed automatic, which proved very impressive indeed, showing all the good Citroën qualities.

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

The Zoute Grand Prix 2021: living now in everyone’s heart…

The Zoute Grand Prix inspired young and old to take out their beloved classics…

This year’s edition of the Zoute Grand Prix has been spreading over several Flemish cities now. Bruges and Ostend have stepped also in the game.

This year we were of course in Knokke, but decided to live the event through the public and bystander’s eye.

The Zoute Grand Prix has indeed grown into a formidable event with a very wide and large public impact. For Knokke Heist, it has become the busiest weekend of the year, with absolute record hotel bookings.

It raises the spirits of car lovers of all ages, and many are those who take out their beloved young- or oldtimer out for a spin on the Knokke streets during the event, and have their own very personal Grand Prix.

There are also a lot of new and very recent cars around, many of them with tuned exhaust to add some extra drama to their Knokke sortie.

Shops of every kind in Knokke had arranged their showrooms and added to their shop windows a specific touch referring to the theme of the event.

Even your daily(?) gin can be enjoyed – literally – in the spirit of the Zoute Grand Prix…

We just let you enjoy some of the snapshots we took on the Knokke streets, where, we must admit, no EV’s or electrified cars were to be seen for near or afar this weekend…

Classic racing cars can also run like clockwork…
Capelleschi Gallery, specializing in car paintings, added with a Ferrari flag to the theme…

We will report on the actual event, including the Bonham’s auction and the Concours d’Elegance in these columns soon!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Centro Stile Fiat and Abarth creates a stunning one-off based on the beautiful ‘60s Abarth 1000SP…

The slender original ’60s Abarth 1000 SP on the left, alongside the new one-off successor…

Sometimes, things happen which make the heart of a car enthusiast beat faster. Like an initiative taken by the people of the Centro Stile Fiat & Abarth.

They have now rolled out a contemporary interpretation of the superbly stylish and iconic Abarth prototipo Designed in 1966 by the Milan engineer Mario Colucci. Just look at the accompanying photo. Of course, we can only hope and pray that this will not limit itself to this one-off styling and engineering exercise.

A beautiful evocation of the purity of the original Abarth 1000SP…

The points and lines of the original car’s design were respected to ensure continuity between the ’60s sports car and the concept car of the new millennium.

The contemporary Abarth 1000 SP respects three fundamental design principles already seen in the ’60s model. First and foremost, the lightness of its forms, its volumes and of course its weight.

The second principle is aerodynamics: modern design technologies have made it possible to combine the iconic lines of the 1000 SP with an aerodynamic coefficient worthy of a contemporary sports car.

Finally, ergonomics, aimed at improving the user experience, to optimize the vehicle’s control and agile driveability.

A faithful evocation…

The Abarth 1000 SP echoes the lines and aesthetics characteristic of its forerunner. The sinuous body, with the soft surfaces of the fenders highlighting the position of the wheels, takes up the pattern of the spider with a central engine.

The cockpit glazing features shaped side deflectors, with their profile lowered towards the roll bar, the latter strictly “in view”, to highlight our being in the presence of a “no-holds-barred” spider.

Of course, today’s passive safety requirements make the car taller and more imposing…

The rear geometries of the Abarth 1000 SP accentuate the harmony between the lights and the exhaust pipes.

Of course, The livery is strictly red and the characteristic air intakes appear all over, from the front bonnet to the cooling slots in its rear counterpart. 

The headlights also follow the minimalist scheme of the historic 1000 SP, with point lights on the nose and a single pair of round headlights to accentuate the car’s remarkable breadth when seen from behind.

The present Abarth 1000 SP thus maintains a very similar identity to its forerunner’s, courtesy of the meticulous work to update the historic, no-holds-barred Abarth 1000 SP.

Despite modern safety requirements, the designers of Centro Stile managed to retain the character of the original…

Conversely, the tubular chassis under the “skin” of the historic Sport Prototipo gives way to a hybrid frame, with a central cell in carbon fiber and an aluminum front. The “new” Abarth 1000 SP features a powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder, 1742-cc central engine, capable of 240 hp. The sophisticated mechanics of the concept boasts overlapping triangle suspension in the front, with an advanced MacPherson strut at the rear.

We will tell you more about the original 1966 Abarth later, so stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel.

Laurin & Klement S series: The first high-volume model from Mladá Boleslav made its debut 110 years ago…

This is already the second series of the Laurin & Klement, enjoying also success in the middle east, besides the many buyers in the vast Austro-Hungarian empire…

The car manufacturer Laurin & Klement enjoyed first economic and sporting success with bicycles immediately after it was founded in 1895. Bicycles were the product to begin with. But already 4 years later, the product range was expanded to include motorbikes before the company presented its first automobile in the autumn of 1905 – the Laurin & Klement Voiturette A.

The Austrian sales center of Laurin & Klement was eagerly looking for dealerships in the UK and Commonwealth, for its Type S.

Lets not forget, Laurin & Klement was embedded in the vast Austro-Hungarian empire, and this meant a domestic market good 50 million people. In 1908, 90 per cent of all automobiles in the voiturette segment manufactured during the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary were made by Laurin & Klement. And voiturettes were quite popular too.

In addition to its high utility value, the vehicle also had a particularly attractive price-performance ratio and low fuel consumption.

Laurin & Klement presented its best-selling model, the S series, on 16 April 1911. It sold in high numbers: more than 2000 units had been built by 1924 in numerous versions, including the Lady coupé and the Kavalier ‘double saloon’.

Laurin & Klement’s vehicles also appealed to international customers, finding buyers as far afield as the British and Russian Empires. The S series performed well in the most demanding races and competitions, finishing 6th overall in the 1914 Targa Florio, for example.

The additional designation 12/14 HP resulted from 12 ‘tax horsepower’, a value calculated for tax purposes according to an officially defined formula, as well as from the actual output of 14 hp (10.3 kW). This was produced by a water-cooled four-cylinder petrol engine with a displacement of 1,771 cm3 and side valves.

The engine, with a flywheel positioned at the front, closely behind the radiator, formed a single unit with the clutch and the three-speed gearbox. This meant that only one oil level had to be checked and changed. In addition, the car manufacturer installed a special lubricator made by Friedmann, which served as an oil pump and oil reservoir. It ensured the supply of oil, thus increasing the service life of the mechanical assemblies. The Eisenmann magneto-electric system was used for the ignition.

There were several versions of the robust chassis, and the four-cylinder petrol engines with a displacement of up to 2,413 cm3 generated 30 hp (22.1 kW) at this stage of development.

The fifth series of the celebrated Model S was quite powerful and fast for its time.

The range quickly grew with the addition of models in higher vehicle classes, and the number of units produced in the individual model series soon numbered in the dozens or even hundreds.

A robust ladder frame made of U-shaped steel profiles riveted together formed the basis of the L&K S. The rigid axles at the front and rear were each suspended with two longitudinally mounted leaf springs. The pedal-operated main service brake acted on the cardan shaft behind the gearbox, while the drum brakes on the rear wheels were connected to the handbrake lever. The standard equipment included special spoked wheels, the steel rim of which was firmly bolted to a wooden hub cap. This made it easier to repair the 710 x 90 mm tyres when they were damaged, which was a common occurrence at the time. For an additional charge, the manufacturer also offered wire-spoke wheels, followed by full steel rims from Michelin after the First World War. The complete road-ready chassis of the Model S with a wheelbase of 2,688 mm weighed 650 to 700 kg.

Wide range of variants to meet all requirements

The early Laurin & Klement S reached a top speed of 50 to 60 km/h, depending on whether it was completed with a light commercial vehicle body or passenger car body. The basic versions could be adapted to the specific needs of each customer. At first, the open-top models with two or four seats were most in demand, but later the range was expanded to include other versions, such as the ‘Vienna’ landaulet, the ‘Karlovy Vary’ saloon, the ‘Kavalier’ double saloon and the ‘Lady’ or ‘Doctor’ coupés, each with a specific ladies’ or gents’ interior. The light commercial vehicle derivatives included the ‘Fortschritt’ platform truck and the ‘Express’ luggage carrier.

The “series” production of the sixth and last series of the Model “S”: cars and bodies were already on stands to make work easier…

Customer demand continued to rise, not least because of the regular modernisation of the Laurin & Klement S vehicles. Each stage of development was denoted by a type designation with a subsequent letter from Sa to So. The designations complemented each other, and there were overlaps in the production periods. Over time, the wheelbase grew in numerous steps from the original 2,688 millimetres to 3,220 millimetres. The basic configuration of the in-line four-cylinder engines was retained; however, the displacement increased from 1,771 cm3 to 2,413 cm3 over several stages. In turn, the power output increased from 14 hp (10.3 kW) to 30 hp (22.1 kW). In addition, the three-speed gearbox was replaced by a four-speed transmission to enhance the dynamic characteristics of the S-series vehicles. A modern electric starter became available from 1918 – initially only at the customer’s request – although it was still possible to crank the engine as before. Due to the larger displacement and the higher compression ratio, however, cranking was very strenuous. The original acetylene lights with carbide gas generators were replaced at the beginning of the 1920s by electric light bulbs, which were much easier to operate.

During the 14 years that the Laurin & Klement S models were built, the car manufacturer achieved numerous motor racing successes with the series. Among the most noteworthy are the victories in the Trieste – Opicina and Troppau – Moravian Ostrava races (1911) as well as the Grand Gold Medal at the race in Parma, Italy (1913), 6th place in the overall standings at the challenging Sicilian mountain race Targa Florio (1914) and the special prize awarded by the Chairman of the Czechoslovak Automobile Club Prof. Otakar Kukula for the ‘L&K Se’ model in the 2,000-kilometre reliability race of 1921. In the same competition, the larger ‘L&K So’ model was awarded the silver plaque. In addition, the cars drove to victories in the Zbraslav – Jíloviště and Ecce Homo hill climbs as well as in the Schöber race (1922).

By the First World War, the Laurin & Klement company had become the largest car manufacturer in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A significant proportion of the vehicles produced in Mladá Boleslav went to foreign customers on all continents.

Tradition of volume models from Mladá Boleslav

After more than 2,000 vehicles of the S series had been produced, the Laurin & Klement / ŠKODA 110 model became the best-selling model of the Mladá Boleslav-based manufacturer; a total of 2,985 units were produced between 1925 and 1929. These were the last cars to be developed in the Laurin & Klement era, though they already bore the ŠKODA logo.

The tradition of affordable volume models, which began 110 years ago with this Laurin & Klement S series, continued after ŠKODA entered as a strong strategic partner.

The ŠKODA 422 was the brand’s first vehicle to be produced on an assembly line using efficient production methods and was available from the spring of 1930 at a starting price of 33,000 crowns. The average annual salary of a civil servant at that time was 18,000 crowns. Between 1930 and 1932, 3,466 customers opted for the Š 422.

In March 1934, the Baťa company took delivery of the first model of a completely new generation of cars from Mladá Boleslav – the ŠKODA POPULAR. The model was the answer to the economic crisis at the time. The POPULAR’s technical innovations included its central tubular frame and independent suspension. The price of the vehicle, which was also in high demand abroad, started at just 17,800 crowns. This was one of the reasons the car won over more than 22,500 customers between 1934 and 1947.

Other milestones in the Czech automaker’s history include the introduction of rear-engined vehicles (1964: ŠKODA 1000 MB), and transversely mounted front engine and drivetrain (1987: ŠKODA FAVORIT). In 2020, ŠKODA presented the ENYAQ iV, the first series-production model based on the Volkswagen Group’s MEB platform for battery-electric vehicles.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Bentley celebrates the production of its 200.000th car…


The Bentayga Hybrid, destined for a Chinese customer, met the oldest surviving Bentley, EXP 2, and a number of long serving colleagues, as it rolled off the production line at the home of Bentley in Crewe this week.

Things have taken off for the inconic brand over the last 18 years. Thanks to the success of the Continental GT and more recently the Bentayga SUV, daily production has soared. Indeed, over that period, over 75 per cent of 101 years of production has been hand-built at the Crewe factory, more than ever the home of Bentley. Current daily production, 85 cars per day, equals monthly production numbers of two decades ago.

The Bentley Continentals – then and now…

I vividly recall the interview I made at the Frankfurt Motor Show more than a decade ago with Franz-Josef Paefgen, then CEO of Bentley Motors and Bugatti Automobiles, posts he left in 2011.

During his time as the Chief Executive Officer of Bentley Motors Ltd., he was responsible for the Bentley Mulsanne and the Bentley Continental series of cars. From 2003 to 2005, Dr. Paefgen was responsible for the development of the Bugatti Veyron.

Every Bentley is actually a four wheeled chapter in automotive history…

I asked him then whether a hybrid Bentley was not on the cards, as Bentley’s could be considered the pinnacle of engineering and an electrified Bentley would be proper. It clearly was not in the strategy of the VW Group then, as the idea was immediately brushed aside by Mr. Paefgen as unrealistic, customers not wanting this at all…

Well times have changed quite a bit since then, as we now read that Company aims to be end-to-end carbon neutral by 2030 with entire model range switched to battery electric vehicles(!). Bentley will move to full electrification – PHEV or BEV only – by 2026, then switch the entire model range to battery electric vehicles by 2030. The industry-leading Beyond100 Strategy will transform every aspect of the business as Bentley accelerates into its second century of luxury car production.

Six cylinder Bentley engine production in the ’50s in Crewe…

What this means for the retail value and depreciation of the existing and historic Bentley’s remains to be seen…

But back to the production history.

The Continental GT was the first landmark…

In 2003 the introduction of the Continental GT represented a transformative moment for the brand, and this Bentley alone, has represented 80,000 sales of the total of 200,000, and created both a new segment, and a contemporary image foundation for the Bentley business.

The Crewe factory in 1940…

…followed by the Bentayga

The success of the Continental GT has been mirrored by the Bentayga, offering a true Bentley driving experience and unparalleled luxury. Launched in 2015, when it established the luxury SUV sector, the fastest SUV in the world has reached its 25,000 production landmark. It is expected that the Bentayga could surpass total sales of the Continental GT within a decade and become the biggest selling Bentley model in history.

And now in 2021…

Since 2005, the company has also built 40,000 examples of the Flying Spur, the most successful luxury sports saloon in the world.

We show you here some photos, lifting a veil of the very interesting and multifaceted production history of the brand, and then we have told nothing of their sporting achievements…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

My unforgettable drive with the Giulia Super over the Alps on the way to the Monza Grand Prix in September 1970…

Here I stand proudly as a 23 year old behind the driver’s door of the Alfa Giulia Super, with my nephew looking into the ravine of the Great Saint Bernard pass…

There are epic moments, already in the young life of a car enthusiast. I was barely 23 at the time, when I accompanied my father on a drive to attend the 1970 Monza Grand Prix. My father had a Olive Metallic Green 1,6 Giulia Super press test car for the occasion, and I have been smitten for Giulia’s and Alfa’s ever since, as the drive was so magnificent.

My father had his faithful Leicaflex with the 90 mm Summicon – R f 1:2  lens along, and this is the perfect camera to make impressive shots. You see them here.

My father and I had also taken my nephew along, and so we went on our drive, with me doing most of the driving, as my father found that I understood the car very well. Of course we were keen to let the Alfa perform. This meant cruising on  the German Autobahnen and the A27 through Switzerland and the Italian Autostradas at speeds between 150-160 km/h in fifth gear, when the law allowed it of course.

On our route, we decided not to take the Simplon Tunnel, but take the historic road winding over the Great St. Bernard pass itself, which lies a few hundred metres from the Swiss border with Italy, and is only passable from June to September.

Not only was the old classic pass road a dream for the Giulia, with its pleasantly short second and third gears, and I gladly helped the somewhat weaker synchromesh of the gearbox with expert double declutching. Descents were also epic, as this Giulia had already four disk brakes…

I still recall the eager sound and crisp exhaust roar of the 1,6 litre twin cam engine, and, as said, am totally smitten by Alfa’s ever since.

The Monza Grand Prix was rather dramatic. We arrived in Monza on the fifth of September, going down to the track after having got our press permits and parking voucher for our dear Alfa. Only to hear that Jochen Rindt had killed himself during the practice session on that day. He spun into the guardrails after a failure on his car’s brake shaft. He was killed owing to severe throat injuries caused by his seat belt. He was way ahead in points over the rest of the F1 field, so he became the only driver to be posthumously awarded the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship.

The Great Saint Bernard Pass was gruesome in winter, so prayer to our Lord was certainly appropriate…

We show you the photos, and dream away with you on the joys of holding the wheel of this magnificent four door Gran Turismo, which the Giulia was and still is right to this day…

Your servant would love to make a repeat edition of this drive on the Great Saint Bernard Pass with today’s Giulia… that would be truly great!

Hans Knol ten Bensel