There’s something enchanting, almost mystical, about the marriage of sculptured steel, curving glass and sparkling chrome that is the automobile. Throughout the history of the motor car, an infinite variety of shapes, colors and styles of driving machines have graced the open road.
This automotive gestalt became something more akin to a spiritual experience the moment I walked into the expansive covered hall of the Classic Remise Düsseldorf. The vast number of vintage automobiles on display was impressive, to be sure. But more awe inspiring was their sheer splendor – timeless masterpieces of the automotive art, everything from Italian roadsters to American muscle cars – all looking shiny new and showroom fresh regardless of their age.
Classic Remise – in German the word means “coach house” – is certainly the most unusual auto showroom I’ve ever seen. Actually to call it merely a showroom doesn’t begin to capture the feel; it’s as much a museum, art exhibit and event space. This is definitely not your Uncle Fred’s used car lot. From the outside the structure is big, but unprepossessing. Inside is a different world.
The 1930s building was once a locomotive roundhouse; steam engines were driven onto a giant turntable which trundled around to point the locomotive toward one of two dozen engine stalls where maintenance on the beast was performed. With the advent of diesel and electric motive power for the railroads, steam disappeared and with it the need for such facilities.
In 2006 in a twist of fate, the transportation gods ordained that this building be reincarnated as Classic Remise Düsseldorf. The massive brick roundhouse has been repurposed as a multi-level space with showrooms, garage and service spaces, retail shops and offices. The open area once occupied by the turntable has been covered by a translucent roof – perfect lighting for showcasing brilliant sheet metal finishes. The 200,000-square-foot building even boasts its own bistro overlooking the showroom floor and in the summertime an outdoor beer garden (it is Germany, after all).
Of course, the real stars of Classic Remise Düsseldorf are the cars. Lining the semi-circle are 75 glass garages where the proud owners of some truly unique vehicles display their machines for us to get a glimpse. It’s here I found some intriguing rarities like a sleek VW concept car that looked like it never stopped and a ponderous Mercedes sedan that sat so low, it looked like it would never go. The sedan, I’m told, was once the personal vehicle of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, so I’m guessing carried a bit of extra armor protection.
One of the dealer showrooms is strictly Morgans, both restored originals and new-build reproductions. And just down the hall another dealer is offering a real showstopper, a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham. This hand-built beauty comes complete with its original stainless steel roof, rear-hinged rear doors (remember “suicide doors”?) and a ton of extras. In its day this vintage Eldorado sold for more than a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
Out on the floor, the treasures are everywhere. The first bit of bling to catch my eye was – what else? – an Aston Martin DB5 in what appeared to be mint condition. I couldn’t resist a selfie in front of the iconic James Bond car. Next to it was a nifty little bird’s egg blue Maserati 3500GT that looked like it would be a spiffy Sunday-with-the-top-down ride. Across the way was a pristine ’66 Mustang fastback – retail, a mere €39,900 ($45,500).
The floor is chock-a-block with rows and rows of Mercedes and BMWs from staid sedans to well-loved rally cars, as well as plenty of Porsches of all vintages – hardly surprising given the German affinity for German engineering. There’s even a Porsche diesel tractor, definitely intended for farming, yet the curves are unmistakably the Professor’s handiwork. But the rest of the world is well-represented too: the Italians, the British, the French, the Japanese and the Americans.
In fact almost anything with a motor and wheels is part of the Remise remit. However, more than any vintage car museum appeal, what gives the place its special atmosphere is the energy of a living automotive ecosystem. There are garages, services and dealers for classic cars, where the vehicles are delivered, repaired, bought and sold. In addition this motor head wonderland is topped off with retail shops selling all things car-related from spare parts to clothing, model cars and accessories.
Guided tours are available in German and English to help visitors delve deeper into the origin of the Classic Remise Düsseldorf itself and the history of the roundhouse building, as well as getting a look inside the workshops where the classic cars are being serviced and repaired. The tours are available for groups up to 30 people. Tours last approximately 45 minutes and cost €100 in German or €120 in English, plus 19 percent sales tax per group.
With all the built-in glitz and glamor, it’s little wonder Classic Remise Düsseldorf has become a much sought after venue for meetings and events. The combination of the historic industrial architecture and the extensive display of classic cars provides a one-of-a-kind backdrop for get-togethers of all sizes and interests. Meeting spaces vary from small conference rooms to the 9,600-square-foot Event Hall which can accommodate up to 600 guests, or can be subdivided in several configurations. This space is suitable for large parties or banquets, as well as trade shows, workshops or exhibitions.
The Classic Remise Düsseldorf is located in the Wersten district in the southeastern section of the city. It’s not exactly convenient to get to – the nearest U-bahn stop is the Werstener Dorfstraße station, about a 10 minute walk. But if you’re a car lover, or just appreciate beautiful design through the years, it’s well worth the trip. Hours are 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Mon-Sat, 10:00 AM to 8:00 AM Sunday. Admission is free.
Classic Remise Düsseldorf, Harffstrasse 110a, 40591 Düsseldorf. Tel +49 211 22950570; remise.de.