The Klassikwelt Bodensee is held annually in the Exhibition halls of Friedrichshafen in South Germany. It was seen this year by 37’200 visitors and boasts over 800 exhibitors in 12 halls making it one of the biggest classic exhibitions in Europe. The unique thing about Friedrichshafen is that it combines the various elements of road, water and air. Airplanes can be seen in the halls as well as in the air, even a Zeppelin takes its rounds above the exhibition halls. In contrast to other classic expos, the Klassikwelt also features a small racetrack around the premises where drift and racing shows are performed. The experience is somewhat similar to the Goodwood Festival where petrolheads and classic fans can see racing vehicles, airplanes, boats, motorcycles and tractors. The variety of exhibits is huge with all sorts of classic vehicles and items. For example, you'll find WWII military equipment, helicopters, classic boats, unique tractors such as the Porsche Diesels, a great variety of motorcycles, mopeds, three-wheelers and much more.
I attended the show for 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) and it was impossible to see everything. I only whizzed through all the halls and got a glimpse of the huge variety of classics. Just the outside parking area and the inside square where private visitors park their classics are worth seeing for an entire day. The cars even vary from one day to the next since classic car visitors come only for one day.
The Klassikwelt Bodensee is held at the new exhibition halls Friedrichshafen which are modern and ginormous halls. The location hosts many different exhibitions throughout the years such as a bicycle fair, a boat fair and a car tuning fair. There is plenty of parking available which costs €6 per day.
The exhibition centre consists of 12 huge halls which are connected by corridors. The classic car parking where you'll find many cool cars is P3 East but you can see cool cars on P1 West and P1 East too. The inner yard is packed full of all types of classic vehicles, food stalls and even a small camping ground that offers old RVs.
There are uncountable special car clubs such as the Unimog Club, the Maserati SM Club, the BMW 8 Series E31 Club and the NSU Ro80 which make the event really interesting since you can find exactly your specific interest. The people are all very friendly and happy to explain something which is not given at classic exhibitions. For example, at the Retromobile Paris, all the luxury exhibitors have no interest in talking to the general public and want to keep to themselves. At the Klassikwelt, there are not that many high-end classic collector cars but a great variety of cool, interesting and unique vehicles.
Because the perfect car event doesn’t exist there are a few minus points. The racing track area is not very thought through and lacks enough space. It is hard to see something and you’ll have to gather with the crowds at the rails or on the grandstands. If you want a snack, a drink or ice cream you'll have to head all the way back in to visit one of the restaurants or stalls. Also, the track seems a bit boring since they only drive up and down a straight track which is due to the space limitations of the outdoor area. You can see the cars close up in the pits but it's hard to get a good look at them in action.
The approach of the Klassikwelt is great but lacks a bit of implementation and follow-through. Unlike Goodwood Revival or the Classic Days, it's not perfected to detail. There are parts where you get the experience and feeling of a classic festival for example in the interior area where they set up a camping ground with cool vintage RV’s. But the classic car parking is just a paved site and the organisations haven’t given it a nice touch or decoration to make it look a bit more like a festival.
Another general critique point is that you will need cash. This is a German thing and credit and debit cards are not as widely accepted as you would think in an industrial nation. They still love their good old hard cash. The exhibition restaurants do accept cards but only since this year. You can really feel this with the staff because they don’t know how to handle the point of sales machines causing long queues. If you try to eat outside at one of the food stalls you are out of luck if you didn’t bring a stack of Euro bills. No cash, no food and also no parking. The parking attendees only accept coins and bills. Prices are also not cheap either at least for Germany. Cappucino costs €4.50, a Weisswurst mit Brezl €8.50 and a Hamburger €12 so be prepared to pay exhibition prices. Lastly, like most classic car exhibitions their booking portal lacks simplicity and is very complicated to use. You have to enter your details three times before you can complete a booking. Information is in the wrong places and the name Instagram is not known to the organisers either.
Nevertheless, these are small points to complain about and the event is overall a big success and a great experience. It is especially recommended to also visit the city and the lake area which is beautiful with all its little harbours and the mountains in the backdrop. I will definitely be back for next year's edition!
Check out the photo gallery with some of the pictures I took during the 2023 event. Feel free to download and share these photos to use them for your purposes. No copyright, Creative Commons!
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 for old cars and everything that has wheels and an engine.