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

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

We personally witnessed the unfolding of the Audi Quattro (Rally) Saga…

We were there: your servant in conversation with Michèle Mouton in Sankt Moritz, on December 8, 1982…

Your servant was already active as a freelance car journalist from the mid-seventies of last century, so we witnessed up close the birth of the Audi 5-cylinder engines and the (rally) cars powered by it were quite familiar. When we were telling you the long career of Audi’s 5 cylinder engine, we told you how your servant remembered a drive behind the wheel of the Audi 80 Quattro with this magnificent engine. Just look at our pages on this site, and more especially https://autoprova.be/2016/09/18/sweet-memories-our-drive-with-the-5-cylinder-audi-80-5e-quattro-in-sankt-moritz/

This memorable test drive of this Audi 80 5E Quattro took place in Sankt Moritz, on 8 and 9 December 1982. For the assembled international journalists, Audi had also organized a demonstration run with the Quattro Rally Cars, and had brought Michèle Mouton and Stig Blomquist to the venue.

You see me here chatting with Michèle Mouton before having a demo drive with her at the wheel in her Quattro Rally machine…

Sweet memories!

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

My first Volkswagen Beetle, bought for 500 Belgian Franks or 12,5 Euros… here in a 1969 photo!

Faithful readers remember the article on the Autoworld Exhibition where I told about my purchase of the ’55 export Beetle from famous Television critic Johan Anthierens. Just click Volkswagen celebrates its history in Autoworld… – Autoprova – for the Connaisseur to read the story.

I found a photo of the VW, with my eldest sister – she is one year younger than me – posing in front of it, in July 1969. She lives happily married in the US and is a busy mother and grandmother now. Note how the simple and clean Mary Quandt fashion of the end of the sixties looks even very smart today…

I had removed the hubcaps of the car, put a circular racing number background to camouflage the somewhat scratched door. The former owner Johan Anthierens has also damaged the side board slightly, but neverteless, with our cosmetic changes, the VW looked very preppy and the paintwork was overall still excellent!

More to come from my archives…

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Some early photos from my automotive beginnings…

In Corona times, some days are spent delving into archive boxes, and of course, treasures are found. I will show them in several reports here on my site.

They tell us about unique moments, and also learn us also how fast time goes…

Here above you see a photo of me in my early twenties, behind the wheel of the much underrated 914-6 VW Porsche, with its 2 litre six cylinder boxer, a necessary ingredient in making it a “true” Porsche.

We drove quite a few Porsche test cars from the D’Ieteren press fleet, here you see me at the wheel of one of the earlier 911’s, which I loved very much and was able to drive to their limits without the slightest mishap. Indeed, I never ever lost control of these early 911’s. I still love them… and their characteristic road manners, which still call for a talented and sensitive driver to master them. Note also the absence of headrests!

Much more to come!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa Romeo celebrates its female racing drivers – part 2: the glamour and the speed…

Liane Engeman, from the race track to photo modelling for Alfa…

In the first part of our story where Alfa Romeo pays tribute to its glorious queens of speed, we took you back to the ‘30s, but now we guide you to more recent times. First we start off with a good looking racing driver, who later became even a …photo model for Alfa: The super-fast Dutch driver Liane Engeman, she excelled herself in the Toine Hezemans team’s Alfa Romeo 1300 Junior.

Liane Engeman with Toine Hezemans…

The photo here above let’s you understand fully why she became later an iconic model for Alfa…

Then there is Christine Beckers, who I came to know personally. Her heroic days were in the ‘60s, the era of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA. Its results, victories and importance in Alfa Romeo’s history are well-known. Less known, however, are the events of the (supercharged) Alfa Romeo GTA-SA. Prepared in ten units for Group 5, it was equipped with two hydraulically operated centrifugal compressors that boosted output to 220 hp, resulting in a top speed of 240 km/h.

It reached peak performance, but as historical test driver from Autodelta Teodoro Zeccoli explained, the GTA-SA had “an unpredictable boost of power would kick in suddenly without notice, making the SA an unpredictable vehicle, hard to govern on curves or when maneuvering.”  One able to govern this ill-tempered vehicle better than any other was the young Belgian driver Christine Beckers, who won in Houyet in 1968 and went on to achieve excellent results the following year: in Condroz, at the “Tre Ponti”, at Herbeumont and at Zandvoort. But there are more heroines…

Maria Grazia Lombardi & Anna Cambiaghi

To follow Maria Teresa de Filippis in the 1950s, the second Italian woman to drive in a Formula 1 race – in as many as 13 GPs – was Maria Grazia Lombardi, known as “Lella”.

Between 1982 and 1984, she took part in the European Tourism Championship with the Alfa Romeo GTV6 2.5, together with Anna Cambiaghi, Giancarlo Naddeo, Giorgio Francia and Rinaldo Drovandi, and helped to bring in multiple titles. She remains the only female Italian driver to have improved her standing in a Formula 1 race.

Tamara Vidali

In 1992, Vidali won the Italian Tourism Championship (Group N) in an Alfa Romeo 33 1.7 Quadrifoglio Verde, set up by the brand’s newly established Racing Department.  Just as unforgettable is the fully yellow livery of the Alfa Romeo 155 that she drove in the Italian Superturismo Championship (CIS) in 1994.

Last but not least there is Tatiana Calderon.

Born in 1993 in Bogotá, Colombia, Calderon took her first steps in motorsport in 2005, winning a National Championship in the Easy Kart Pre-Junior series. Just three years later, she would become the first woman to win the JICA class of the Stars of Karting Championship East Division in the United States.

In 2017, Calderon became a development driver for the Sauber Formula One team. One year later, Sauber promoted her from F1 development driver to F1 test driver for Alfa Romeo Racing.

We enjoyed reading about all these (very) fast women, and we trust you did too…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Alfa Romeo is celebrating their female racing pilots on international women’s day…

Odette Siko in her Alfa 1750 6C…

International Women’s Day is an ideal occasion, Alfa Romeo found, to put its female racing champions behind an Alfa sportscar wheel into the spotlight. The material they put forward is so abundant and interesting, that we make (at least) a two-part series of it.

We start here with the early, very elegant protagonists, who combined female elegance with panache and excellent racing qualities…

We start here with Odette Siko, you see her elegantly here in the photo above.

She takes you back to the 1930s, where Alfa Romeo asserted itself as one of the main protagonists in motorsport. This was partly down to extraordinary vehicles, but also to drivers who became part of the legend: these were the years of Nuvolari, Varzi, Caracciola and Sommer. The latter won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1932 behind the wheel of an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, but the Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 SS driven by the striking Odette Siko finished fourth overall and won the 2.0-liter category! A young Parisian, Siko quickly became one of the stars on the track, displaying her elegance both in the paddock and in her racing performance, often accompanied by another female French racer whose path also crossed Alfa Romeo’s several times: Hellé Nice.

Hellé Nice, see the photo here, was a model, acrobat, and dancer. Her real name was Mariette Hélène Delangle, but was more commonly known as Hellé Nice. Renowned for her outgoing personality, Nice was good friends with the Rothschilds and the Bugattis. She raced in Europe and America and became one of the first drivers to display the logos of her sponsors on the bodywork of a single-seater racing car.

She took part in the 1933 Italian Grand Prix at Monza in her own 8C 2300 Monza; in the same race, Campari, Borzacchini and Czaikowski tragically lost their lives. In 1936, she won the Ladies Cup in Monte Carlo and took part the São Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil, where she fell victim to a dreadful accident, then miraculously came out of her three-day coma.

Further on, there was Anna Maria Peduzzi. In her time, the years of Scuderia Ferrari marked a crucial chapter in Alfa Romeo’s history. The drivers of the “Prancing Horse” included Como-born Anna Maria Peduzzi, the wife of driver Franco Comotti, who was nicknamed the “Moroccan”.

After her debut aboard her own Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport, which she had purchased from Ferrari himself, Peduzzi almost always raced alone and only occasionally with her husband. In 1934, she won the 1500 Class at the Mille Miglia and, in the post-war period, raced in the Alfa Romeo 1900 Sprint and the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

We conclude our first part here with Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo.

The forerunner of female Alfa Romeo drivers, Baroness Maria Antonietta d’Avanzo made her debut in the interwar years. A pioneer of Italian motorsport, aviator and journalist, d’Avanzo won third place in the Alfa Romeo G1 at Brescia in 1921, and proved her worth in many competitions as a formidable opponent for the best drivers of the time, including a young Enzo Ferrari.

Baroness d’Avanzo in her Alfa 20-30 ES

Baroness d’Avanzo raced until the 1940s in a variety of vehicles and races, traveling all over the world to do so…

In the next part we will tell you more about our national champion Christine Beckers and her more contemporary colleagues… Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Volkswagen celebrates its history in Autoworld…

Traditionally, in February and March, the Brussels based Autoworld Museum organizes a special for Volkswagen historical exhibition, culminating in a Beetle love parade on St. Valentine’s day.

However, the parade will not take place in 2021 for obvious reasons, but the exhibition organized in collaboration with Volkswagen is very special indeed!

The exhibition is dubbed “Volkswagen Milestones” and reflects the historical zeitgeist of the car of “Everyone and everbody” on the basis of the three important models in the history of the brand: the Beetle from the 50s – 60s, the Golf from the 70s to the early 80s and last but not least, the “Electrical Age”, with the new ID.3.

When I saw the cars on the exhibition, via a magnificent photo portfolio shot by Yves Noël, I couldn’t help reflecting back to my early days of motoring. Because, of course, I started out myself behind the wheel of a Beetle. I had bought, as a student, this ’55 (I believe) Beetle De Luxe Export from the famous and iconic television, arts and performance critic and column writer Johan Anthierens, who had learned the craft of journalism from my father, then Chief Editor of the illustrated weekly magazine “De Post”. He had hired Johan to write the Television column in “De Post”. Johan Anthierens bought a new car, and he sold his Beetle to me for the modest sum of 500 Belgian Frank, which is the equivalent of…some 12,5 Euros.

This Beetle is the exact same car as figures here on Yves Noël’s magnificent shots, with – if I recall well, the indestructible 30 HP 1200 cc version of the famous boxer in the back. Indestructible, well, almost. At higher mileages the third cylinder suffered unavoidably rather more from lean mixture than the others, and compression losses in this cylinder due to worn exhaust valves were often de result. This situation was however not bad with this one.

This beetle, with dark green livery, had soon its hubcaps removed and its wheels painted silver, and looked the part! We drove four years with it with the greatest joy throughout Europe, from Copenhagen to Bordeaux, over Routes Nationales and Autobahnen, and our greatest admiration for Porsche and its designs was born then.

Then, I stumbled on another bargain Beetle, the exact self same car as the black one here on the photo. It still had the 30 PS (manual choke) engine, but an “American type” steering wheel, with a big chromed claxon ring, and, progress, the bigger rear window.

Performance was basically the same as the first one, but I adorned the dual exhaust with slightly bigger diameter tail-end pipes, and this gave a deeper, throaty exhaust note, very similar to a 356 Porsche.

Boy, did I love driving this Beetle with zest… I drove it for another 3 years, until I got engaged to my present wife. Her father changed cars, and so I became as a “welcoming present” suddenly the happy and proud owner of the famous big Volkswagen 411 L, donned in dark British Racing Green paint, which suited it very well. That was my (big) Volkswagen during the Golf era, being also the last creation by VW within the air cooled boxer engine at the rear philosophy. A very comfortable and fast car, which would have merited an even greater success than it had. But other times were coming, also for the “bigger” VW’s. Not only the Passats were soon to come, but in those days also another beauty which was born on the drawing tables in Neckarsulm, the VW K70. This car fitted better in the Golf era, where thermal efficiency, economy, light construction and excellent road manners together with style became the norm.

The Golf era started in 1974, and these cars changed the perceptions about what a small car could do. Winners, I found, were the Golf GTD, which could cruise along all day at 140 km/h and consume still only 6 litres/100 km or thereabouts, with its 1,5 litre Diesel being a pleasant and eagerly revving machine. Then, there was the ultimate Golf, the GTI. Originally 110 PS, but what zest and panache. Also the styling details are absolutely iconic, to say nothing about its handling and performance.

There were also the three spoked steering wheel, the chequered seats, the wheels, the paint scheme, the throaty exhaust note…

Of course, there is also VW’s electric future on display, and indeed the ID.3 is a very convincing car. Just read our test report in these columns. We have just left hospital last week after two major operations, but around easter we are able to take the wheel again. The new VW hybrids are cars we are looking forward to. We will ask Joke Boon, Press Events Coordinator and VW Press and PR Director Jean Marc Ponteville to have a look in their calendar… and thank Joke Boon here for all the Autoworld photo’s she sent me!

Just some practical info: Autoworld – Jubelpark 11 – 1000 Brussels. Open every day, also Monday, from 10 AM to 17 PM (Saturdays and Sundays until 18 PM)

Admission: €12/adult – €10/senior – €9/student – €5/child (6-12 yr) free for children below 6 yr. Tickets bought online cost 1 Euro less.

Hans Knol ten Bensel