The Biggest Classic Car Exhibition in the World: Techno Classica Essen
The Techno Classica Essen is held annually in the German city Essen and can be considered as the biggest classic car exhibition in Europe and the world. It features over 1250 exhibitors from 30 countries, 200 Clubs and interest groups, over 2700 classic cars for sale and around 200'000 visitors annually. The event is held over an area of 120.000 m2 divided into 12 halls and 4 open-air spaces which feature private cars and other interesting motoring exhibitions.
The Techno Classica is held at the Messezentrum Essen which is the city's main exhibition centre south of the city centre. It can easily be reached via the main train station by taking the U11 underground and riding 4 stops to Messe Ost/Gruga.
Keep in mind that this exhibition is enormous. When I visited the event it wasn't possible to see everything in one day. It took me two full days from early morning till closing time to see all stalls, cars and exhibitors. You want to wear comfortable trainers and a smart-casual outfit. Also, bring a big water bottle.
The organisation at the event is very German-like with a good structure and consistency. There are many food stalls spread across the exhibition centre and the halls are clearly marked. Clubs, brands, trade stalls and dealerships are all pooled together so you can focus on the halls that interest you the most.
Unfortunately, 2022 was overshadowed by the pandemic and it was mandatory to provide proof of vaccination as well as wear masks throughout the event. This led to over hour-long queues at the gates because the staff had to scan the QR vaccination codes and had to crosscheck them with the passports. They were ill-prepared for this and their scanners didn't work half of the time leading to a massive queue and unhappy visitors.
Another big blowoff was that the official car makers such as Mercedes, VW and BMW cancelled their attendance for the 2022 event due to corona-related reasons. They are also not planning to come back in the following years. Official spokesmen said that they are looking for other marketing strategies and will likely divert their activities to the Retro Classic in Stuttgart held in February each year which is another big classic car exhibition in Germany. So the Techno Classica will likely have to live without the big names and their museum car exhibitions in the future.
Another big critique point for the Techno Classica is its poor online presence and marketing activities. Their website as well as the ticket booking portal looks like it's from the early 2000s. One who has never been to the exhibition would think that it's a local and small event. They do advertise heavily with car magazines and offline media where you'd see lots of ads in the papers and on billboards. But for an international event of this calibre, a more professional online presence and activities would be expected.
Also, social media and photographers are not welcomed with open arms. Some stalls even have small signs saying that photography is not allowed. When speaking to one of the stall representatives who had forbidden taking photos, he told me that he wanted to keep his collection private and only to a select group. Sharing photos on social media is possible and allowed but the exhibitors and the organisers are not exactly open-minded or promoting this. It shows the general demography and sentiment of old retired men who don't have a relationship with technology, the internet or even social media.
Although, it depends on the exhibitor and some of them welcome photos, posts and will let you share them on the internet. In my opinion, the Techno Classica needs a new strategy for the future to stay relevant to a younger generation of enthusiasts and collectors in order to not fall into despair.
The normal day-ticket costs €25 and the preview day sets you back €45. Tickets can be purchased through their ticketing website or purchased at the door. Prices online and offline are the same and the event is normally not sold out so it makes the most sense to get the ticket on the day at the door.
The almost twice the cost for the preview day is not really worth it because you'll only get access from 12 pm to 6 pm giving you only half a day to experience the event. There will be fewer people on the preview day but if you come early on Friday morning there won't be that much more people. There are no other benefits to the more expensive preview day ticket other than fewer visitors. Keep in mind that it will get busier on Saturday and Sunday.
Check out the photo gallery with some of the pictures I took during the 2022 event.
One of the show highlights was a one-of-one Aluminium Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona barn find in totally original and unrestored condition. It was auctioned off by RM Sothebys in 2017 for €1.8M.
Nils is a Swiss-German engineer who is obsessed with old cars and engines. He is the author of "The Ultimate Classic Car Guide - How to Buy, Maintain & Repair Classic Cars" and the founder of EVC. His passion has always been with old cars and everything that has wheels and an engine.