125 Years of the Car - Day 1
The V8 Hotel is situated at the old Stuttgart airport and comprises of various old aircraft hangers. The hotel is privately owned and consists of 10 car themed rooms ranging from 160 euros per night to 460 euros for a room split over 4 levels including roof terrace and sauna. There are also standard rooms available for less. I stayed in the car wash themed room, which looked over the hangar containing classic and performance cars for auction / sale - quite unique for a hotel room view. A hangar further down contains hundreds of very rare cars such as Maserati, Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Porsche, Jaguar and so on. This is a service area and a place where clients can store their cars in secure, glass boxes. To add to the complex, a man made lake is under construction, which will include water sports. So, we have one resort with great food, drink, atmosphere, cars, water sports, close proximity to the Porsche, Audi and Mercedes museums, what else do you need. Various car clubs come to visit the facility and I recommend it for any of the UK clubs. Mercedes and Porsche were the most popular car here.
A tour of the Stuttgart city was next on the agenda and it was certainly a lot prettier than I was expecting. The route taken in the rather fancy Spillmann (18 - 56 seater) coach, revealed that Stuttgart isn't industrial at all and judging by the cars parked outside the various mansions, the locals are doing alright as well. Ferdinand Porsche built a villa here in the 1920's, which is now a family guest house - wouldn't mind being a member of that family. There are various beer and wine festivals throughout the year and I was surprised to hear about a Bollywood festival around October time and apparently they use the building backdrops in various films and music videos. A query from our group on who had the prancing horse first out of Porsche and Ferrari revealed it was Porsche that had the horse before Ferrari - Horse stud farm becomes Stuttgart and therefore the horse on the shield.
As you can see from the pictures, the Mercedes Museum is enormous. Mercedes has provided a facility that is not only for petrol heads, but great for student and group tours giving you a history of life as well as the car. The original Mercedes Museum started in the 1920's and some models are still on show, such as the first car from 1886, which is a three wheeled 1 cylinder car, noted as the model 1. A guided tour of the facility is 75 minutes long, however the audio has enough for 42 hours. I highly recommend spending a couple of hours here and more if you fancy lunch or a drink on the terrace. This complex is the most impressive spectacle for automotive history that I've seen and provided capacity for arranging conferences.
One of my favourite parts of the week was the very unexpected classic car evening. The cars included a Mercedes 280 SL, Alfa Romeo GT Junior, Porsche 911's and 914. I opted for the 2.0L flat 6, 1968 110 bhp, Porsche 911 in orange. This featured a dog leg gear box (1st is where you'd expect 2nd) non-assisted brakes and the longest 1st gear I've ever used - 50 km/h was about 3000 rpm and made hill starts quite exciting. The model I drove showed 900 km on the clock and was insured for 58k euros so I didn't want to scratch it. The old timers (German term for classic cars) and their drivers headed on a country road convoy to a very fancy restaurant in the hills. Once arrived, we shared stories of other motorists stopping midway around roundabouts to let us go and countless admirers and waves on the way. These cars might not be fast, luxurious or easy on the driver but they are fabulous never the less. Driving back I knew that you needed 4000 rpm to setoff from a standstill and that you needed to break with the gears and all your force on the pedal. The 911 includes no stereo because Mr Porsche would like you to listen to the engine note but the conversation was good with Germanys finest tour guides.
125 Years of the Car - Day 2
The Porsche Museum was easily my favourite of the three, which was also contributed to by the very knowledgeable tour guide, who actually drove one of the cars at the 2010 Goodwood Festival of Speed. I found the comments by Ferdinand Porsche dotted around the museum very interesting, my favourite of which 'In the beginning I looked around but couldn't find the car I dreamt of, so I decided to build it myself'. The line up of 911 Turbo's from 930 - 997 on revolving platforms at exactly the same turning speed was the longest point of admiration from me. I liked the nickname for the 930 Turbo as the 'Widow Maker', which was mentioned on a recent excursion by a PCGB member with reference to the outrageous turbo lag and tail out cornering. The museum was nowhere near the size of the Mercedes Museum but I preferred the more peaceful atmosphere, design of the building, more knowledgeable tour guide and better contents - I'm biased on this however.
The Audi Forum was much more of a conference facility with a plush restaurant, concert area and meeting room facilities. It was also a dealership location and near by all the factories. The R8 tour was a favourite with the group but cameras and recording devices were not allowed in. The Audi R8, A8 and Lamborghini Gallardo are completely aluminium and are all sprayed in this facility. The R8 is built here by hand and we were fortunate enough to walk the manufacturing line. A few facts - 4 x round exhausts is the V8, 2 x oval exhaust is V10 and 2 x round exhausts is the GT, which has a red cylinder head and only 333 are being made. 17 Audi R8's are built per day with an aluminium space frame and engines made in Hungary. Each car is only built after being ordered and paid for and the process can take 6 months. Once the customers car is ready, it is subject to a 100 km test drive on roads and rolling roads up to 200 km/h.
Burg Hornburg was the castle of choice for our second evening. Greeted by the Baron of the Castle, whose family has owned the castle since the 1600's, we were given a tour and the history on the area. This is a very grand venue with fantastic views and a good history on wine, which lead us onto the wine tour. We were given a brief history of the town by our tour guide who is a local farmer with his own chickens and producing his own alcohol. Walking through the scenic hills and taking in the various castles, our group was escorted through a tunnel under one of the buildings, revealing itself as an air raid shelter. The guide described the 1500 people who sat in these tunnels for several days at a time during the war and I was relieved to see day light at the end of the tunnel and being back out in the sun. After walking through the vin yards, we ended up looking down over the town with a very scenic view of the mountains and river. In front of us was a rebuilt shelter, which we thought nothing of until the front door was opened revealing an immaculately laid table with bottles of wine for us to try over dinner. By the time I'd tried a few, the only fact I can remember is that wine kept in oak barrels leaves you with a vanilla / cinnamon aftertaste and that you should not have wine, then raspberry schnapps and then beer on return, fantastic evening.
125 Years of the Car - Day 3
The Auto Technic museum is insured for 60 million euros, however one of the Ferrari's is worth 7 million euros alone, which is a 246 GT Dino. The museum includes planes which you can walk on such as the Concorde and the museum hosts various car rallys through the year. The museum is Beaulieu x 10 including racing cars from past and present, exotic road cars, war vehicles, planes and steam trains.
Hockenheim was under refurbishment for hosting the 2010 Germany F1. Although we couldn't really drive on the track, we did have an opportunity to walk the circuit, check out the hospitality boxes and see the pits and paddock. The track costs 17,000 euros per day to hire on non-race days, however Hockenheim must pay 20m euros to hold the F1, which breaks even selling 100k tickets averaging 200 euros. Last race they made 5m euro loss. The photos shown from the glass fronted hospitality box looking over the track are 1000 euros per person and will be a seated event including lunch and drinks.
Europaischer Hof hotel is a famous 5 star spa hotel in Heidelberg, which is like a German equivalent of Oxford. Recommendations for places to stay and eat were thrown around left, right and centre, however the ones I would pass on are Simplicissimus restaurant for food wine and Reichsapfel bar in the evening. There is a cable car from Heidelberg town centre to the castle in the hills. This must be the best scenery in Germany.