The contents of a legendary classic car graveyard in the Swiss village of Kaufdorf were auctioned on 19 September 2009.
Nearly 800 classic cars from the 1930s to the 1980s were sold to the highest bidder.
The car cemetery in the Swiss village of Kaufdorf is probably the last rusting place for old cars you will ever see. It contains the oxidised remains of 780 classic cars, some of which are really special.
The collection was started in the 1930s by Walter Franz Messerli and his son Franz, who took over in 1975. They intended to transform this immense junk yard into a museum, but the authorities thought differently – the site had to be cleared on environmental grounds before the end of September 2009.
After failing to sell the entire site the previous April – asking price was SFR 1.2 million – all the cars were auctioned on 19 September 2009 by Oldtimer Galerie. So, if you were hunting for that elusive part for your Porsche, Jaguar, Borgward, VW or Ford, or looking for a challenging project, this was for you.
It was the most spectacular car auction of the year, and probably the last of its kind unless the governments stop the current scrappage schemes.
An interesting alternative to visiting a classic car dealer, is to attend a car auction. There are many old established names, such as Bonhams, Christies, RM Sothebys, Artcurial, Ossenat to name but a few, which tend to attract the high end of the market. Most nowadays support internet bidding, so you don’t have to be there in person.
Bids can go up excruciatingly slowly, but also unexpectedly rapidly, sometimes in mind-boggling increments of €100,000 or more. There are however many smaller names where the biding can be no less exciting, albeit at a lower level.
The auction is the best way of determining the value of a classic car, as it constitutes the ultimate bringing together of supply and demand, although as we have seen in recent years prices have gone though the roof as a result of people wishing to invest in them, as opposed to driving them.
When I wrote this in the year 2000, all buses on Malta and neighbouring island Gozo were a sight to behold – and to experience! However, all has now changed, and the buses are modern and have air conditioning. You no longer have to stoop to get to your seat – they are tall enough to allow you to walk inside the bus.
The buses in Malta are really something else. The newest models date from the 1970s and all are traditional British makes, such as Leyland, AEC, Ford, Bedford.
Nowadays (2000) all are painted yellow with an orange stripe down the side. There is no destination film, just a route number shown behind the windscreen. All buses are privately owned and the cab interiors are usually decorated in some way or another – most have a religious picture or two, mostly a madonna, a cross or a sticker proclaiming “I Love Jesus”. However, some have pictures of more down to earth subjects and boast: “I love sexy girls”. Some have framed photographs showing off the bus and its proud owner.
Postcards, posters and books about the buses of Malta are on sale everywhere on the island. Originally each route had its own livery. Later the island was divided into public transport zones and the buses of each zone were painted in a different colour scheme. At some point all buses were painted green. The reason they are now all yellow and orange is – at least according to a Scotsman (who had been visiting the island for the past fifteen years) we met while waiting for the bus in the blazing sun at Ta’ Qali – that with a view to improving road safety the government decreed that green buses should be no older than five years. The proud Maltese bus owners’ solution to that was simply to paint the buses yellow! After that the government gave up.
Although you will still find old cars on the streets of India, most just look old (and I don’t mean due to lack of care and maintenance). The Hindustan Ambassador, for instance, is based on the 1950s Morris Oxford and was still being produced in 2004. The 1958 Fiat 1100-based Padmini is also an evergreen. Other models include the Hindustan Contessa, which is in fact the 1972 Vauxhall Victor.
“THE AMBASSADOR – THE FIRST AMONG INDIAN CARS
Ambassador – the first car to be manufactured in India, has been ruling the Indian roads ever since its inception in 1948. Originally based on Morris Oxford (United Kingdom, 1948), the Ambassador has been undergoing a series of changes, adapting to customer expectations.
With upgraded manufacturing facilities in Uttarpara, West Bengal, Hindustan Motors Limited is geared for production of a more contemporary version of the Ambassador, with features catering to the needs of the present generation.
Ambassador, the only automobile to ply Indian roads for more than five decades now, has carved a special niche for itself in the passenger car segment. Its dependability, spaciousness and comfort factor have made it the most preferred car for generations of Indians. The Ambassador’s time-tested, tough, accommodating and practical characteristics make it a truly Indianised car.”
The above is a quote from the 2004 official Hindustan Ambassador website.
I found India truly wonderful – all the sights and sounds you have read about, the ancient history, the more recent colonial history and… the animals. Not the just the sacred cow. Monkeys, camels, elephants, you name it. But to stick to the automotive theme, it was the taxis that made a lasting impression. Most seemed to be Hindustan Ambassadors. And of course the Bajaj tricycles. One one trip in an Ambassador through Old Delhi our driver spent most of his time driving whilst looking at us in the back seat, at the same time honking his horn in order to clear a path though the congested streets. We all survived.
On a long drive to Agra, to see the Taj Mahal, we encountered numerous accident spots. Quite a few had involved animals, the remains left lying in the gutter. To mark the wrecked vehicles, stones were laid around them. These proved particularly useful when returning after dark, as there was no street lighting at all.
Driving on the Left “Why do Englishmen drive on the wrong side of the road?” I get asked this kind of question all the time. But driving on the left is not as wrong as people may think.
Although there are various conflicting theories, there is some convincing evidence that the Romans kept to the left. The reason was that soldiers should at all times be ready to draw their sword (with their right hand) so they passed oncoming people on the left. Napoleon was left-handed and would therefore have kept his sword on his right side. It is claimed that he therefore ordered his soldiers to keep to the right. Anyway, Napoleon introduced driving on the right in the countries he conquered (which is why Britain and Sweden continued to drive on the left).
In the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1867 and 1918 traffic kept to the left. It was dissolved after its defeat in the First World War. Gradually and for a variety of reasons, the countries and regions that had been part of the Dual monarchy (what is now the Czech Republic, Sovakia, Austria, Hungary Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia and Romania) switched over to driving on the right. A 1934 road atlas I have, lists Austria as a country that drives on the left, at least, part of Austria! In Vorarlberg, Nordtirol and the western part of Salzburg, starting at the town of Lend, they drove on the right.
In Italy there was no rule for the whole country: it was the responsibility of the local or regional authorities. Mussolini put an end to the chaos and directed traffic to keep to the right. This may seem strange, but until that time there was no real need to regulate, and there was very little motorized traffic. Indeed we see the same situation of various other countries, notably Belgium and Spain.
British North America (now Canada) eventually switched to the right, because it made no sense to drive on different sides of the road along the world’s longest land frontier.
And the Middle East drives right because the Ottoman empire, which used to rule most of the region, was heavily under the influence of the right-driving French and Germans at the critical time when its army laid down formal traffic rules in the latter half of the 19th century.
But in most of sub-Saharan Africa, except for the former French colonies, people drive on the left because of the British influence. They do the same in almost all the countries from Pakistan and India to Australia and New Zealand; only ex-French Indochina and the Philippines, an ex-U.S. colony, drive on the right.
Even Indonesia (which was briefly occupied by the British two centuries ago) and Thailand (which was never colonized at all) drive on the left. So does Japan. Korea now drives right, but only because it passed directly from Japanese colonial rule to American (and Russian) influence at the end of the Second World War. And I just don’t know why China now drives right, or if it ever drove on the left.
In South America Suriname and Guyana keep left. Argentina did the same until after WW2.
But by making the ‘wrong’ side his standard, Napoleon has left us a world permanently divided between countries that drive on the right (about 3.5 billion people) and those that drive on the left (about 2.5 billion). Napoleon was a great admirer of the Roman army. If only he had known which side the Romans travelled on, it might all have been different.