Paul Heesch / translated by D. LanghoffJulian Beekmann

Discovering slowness

At some point, cars transformed into something more than just carriages with an engine—and began moving the world at a new pace. The early 20thcentury marks the automobile pioneers’ era as Carl Benz invented the modern car in Mannheim in 1886. Enthusiasts at Allgemeiner Schnauferl-Club ASC (‘general snifting club’) preserve automobiles of this period as a part of tech-cultural heritage—and how! When the Baden-Württemberg-Palatinate-Saar division of the Schnauferl Club calls for the annual rally into the Odenwald, a big social event is sure to switch into high gear.

 

At the meeting point inHeidelberg, the veteran cars’ paint shines, while the brass of the instruments and the wine poured both sparkle. Proud owners of well-kept, pre-war cars are excited about the joint ride in the country.

 

“We are like a family,” says Lars Kahl, who organizes the tour together with Hans Plewe, ‘maker’ of the ride. “We have known each other for years and sharing such an extraordinary hobby forges a bond between us!” In his everyday life, Lars is head of the Mannheim company for office fittings and furnishings Kahl Büroeinrichtungen GmbH. As soon as he sits in his car, a 1975 Alfa Romeo GT Junior, he can let go of any work-related stress. “When it comes to slowing down, there is nothing quite like a ride in a veteran car,” he goes into raptures. “But I left the Alfa at home, because only pre-war cars are accepted for today’s drive. Our oldest vehicle is 114 years old, made in 1904!”

Lars Kahl planning the classic car route.

 

The 60-kilometre tour starts in Heidelberg and runs along the Neckar river in the Odenwald deep into the hilly Kraichgau region. “We take our time. The cars are not fast,” Lars explains. And off they go—with backfires popping and exhaust pipes releasing clouds of smoke and with a choir composed of many different engine voices.

The members of the club, founded in 1900, maintain historic vehicles in this millennium and make sure that these cars don’t just gather dust in some museum, but brighten up the region’s roads as driving memorials. For this purpose, the owners naturally have special tools from the year dot in their garages and make an effort to come by light petrol so that the engines snift beautifully. Snift? The general snifting club’s name derives from the typical sound that the snifting valve, used as intake valve in four-stroke engines, makes.

“Wherever we go with our veterans—we always look into happy faces”.

Unhurried, 26 veteran vehicles chug past Heidelberg Palace into the green Neckar Valley—along the legs of the tour: a break for photo-taking at the smallholding Gut Langenzell, another one for a nip of sparkling wine at the Neckarhäuser Hof estate and finally the equally relaxing conclusion at the RösslWaldhilsbach inn.

 

It is a very special feeling to sit in the huge convertible, property of Mannheim ASC vice president Dr. Hans-Gert Schweigert. He enjoys inviting guests for a tour. A gentle breeze touches your ears, the legroom is infinite and people wave at you in joy everywhere. “It is a great experience,” Hans-Gert Schweigert says, “wherever we go with our veterans—we always look into happy faces, people beam at us.”

Theresa Unold next to the old Benz.

 

If you take part in an ASC rally as a guest, you can unwind excellently and you have time to enjoy the beautiful landscape. Today, a young lady and her grandmother take part in the rally: Theresa Unold is only 22, but she has been a veteran cars enthusiast for a long time: “Our old Benz was parked in our grandparents’ garage and I loved the tours in it already then,” she says, “and as soon as I got my licence, I was at the wheel.” At school, Theresa attends the advanced Physics course, so she knows all about engineering. “You cannot start such a car that easily, unless you really know it,” she reveals, “immobilizers were unknown and not necessary at that time.”

 

Lars is delighted that the club attracts a young member, as this is what he is responsible for. “The second youngest member is 40,” he says with a smile, hoping to win even more young enthusiasts. The International ASC Classic Gala, the “Concours d’Elegance Automobile”, held in the Schwetzingen Palace gardens, has, in any case, become a famous attraction—a veterans’ event with more than 150 vehicles that made history in engineering, starting from the day that modern mobility was invented in Mannheim.


www.asc-schnauferlclub.de