Zwickau in West Saxony on a perfect summer day in August 2013. A stroll through the town’s main square is like paging through the history of the automobile: Over 180 hand-picked classic cars, each representing an individual chapter from the book, have been on display at the annual Saxony Classic car rally for eleven years. The chugging and firing of the engines echoes off the historic facades. For the automotive enthusiasts gathered here, the sound is more than just a noise made by old machines: It is music to their ears, rich in traditional tones and strongly influenced by modern accents.
The rally is a museum on wheels with exhibits that are not fusty and outmoded, but full of colour and life. The convoy of mobile artefacts travels over 600 km through Saxony, along roads lined with people cheering. The long, elegantly curved fenders of the vehicles mirror the idyllic, rolling hills of the Ore Mountains. Most Saxons go into raptures on the subject of cars. The angular, chunky engine hoods are a tell-tale sign of the power underneath them. Some of the oldest vehicles are like fortresses on wheels, encasing their drivers in tons of sheet steel. They command respect, just like the castles and fortresses found throughout this region. Each car is unique. The beauty of the technology and scenery is what matters over these three, glorious days in August at the Saxony Classic.
Saxons Have Cars in Their Genes
Is it all just a big show? Not for Saxons. They don’t see it as a spectacle in the superficial sense. These people in the heart of Europe have petrol in their blood! Saxons have cars in their genes, as many say, just like the Swabians in southwest Germany, where the history of the automobile began with the Mercedes Benz. In Saxony, automotive pioneer August Horch established a second, independent line. But tradition here in Saxony does not mean exhibits in a museum, although of course there are some of those too, such as at the Horch Museum in Zwickau. For Saxons today, tradition means keeping the best of the past alive and recreating it in a new form in the present. This German state that was virtually hidden from the world behind the Iron Curtain until 1989 is today a production location for global market leaders like BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen. And that is no coincidence.
Ever since industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries, Saxons have had a burning interest in everything that moves, and above all in things that roll, are powerful and embody the zeitgeist. Machines, engines, and motor vehicles on two, four or more wheels: Saxons build motorcycles, cars and steam locomotives with passion and enthusiasm. Ingenuity, diligence and engineering skill are typically Saxon. Of course the people here love to hear themselves described in this way too. Not only because it is flattering, but because it is true.
This is why the long retinue of cars in the Saxony Classic is so eagerly anticipated and welcomed every year. In 2014, it is being held for the 12th time. While the spectators are duly impressed by the Italian curves of a red Ferrari or the nobility of a Bentley, an elegant Horch or a sporty pre-war Audi elicits that sense of pride that makes Saxons so Saxon. It is pride that comes from being part of automotive history. These days, no one is ashamed any more of the Trabant, the flimsy “cardboard car” produced for 40 years in the East German planned economy. Saxons drive their VW Golfs or Passats today with the same enthusiasm as they did their Trabant back then. “They are built here by us,” Saxons like to say.
Saxony, Home of the Automobile
Saxony today is one of the largest automotive hubs in Europe. Following German Unification, Volkswagen was the first to invest in this new location, followed closely by BMW and Porsche. VW has been building engines in Zwickau and Chemnitz since 1990, and the luxury VW Phaeton has been rolling off the line in the company’s Transparent Factory in Dresden since 2002. BMW makes its 1 and 2 series coupés in Leipzig. In September 2013 it added the i3, a production-ready premium electric car with a carbon fibre body, which currently sets the standard in the global automotive market for electric drives. Production of the Porsche Macan started in Leipzig in February, the company’s third model series after the Cayenne SUV and Panamera station wagon. Over half of all Porsche vehicles are now produced in Leipzig. But Saxony not only sets standards when it comes to new vehicle models and types, but also in modern production methods: Efficiency in resource and energy consumption, intelligent logistics and high-tech manufacturing are milestones on the road to the sustainable factory of the future. But regardless of technical progress, one thing has not changed: Every day, some 75,000 employees stream into the production facilities of the three big manufacturers and the several hundred suppliers in Saxony. Saxony always was an industrial state, and still is today. Investors and Saxons themselves are doing everything they can to make sure it continues to be one in the future.
In planning the route every year, the organizers of the Saxony Classic always include traditional locations as well as new production sites. “Classic car drivers typically prefer picturesque, varied routes,” says head organizer Harald Koepke. “And Saxony has plenty of those. There is so much to discover here, and that is why we plan a new route every year that blends automobile history with culture and countryside in a new way.” And what countryside! The vehicles travel rural roads that do not dissect nature reserves, like the major highways do, but rather fit seamlessly into the idyllic landscape. Perhaps this paints too harmonious a picture of this modern industrial region. But then again, maybe Saxony is just a good example of how compatible industry and infrastructure, social development and environmental protection can be. (excerpt)
decorum Kommunikation/Carsten Schulz-Nötzold
Photo: Motor Presse Stuttgart