In just a few hundred years the Dutch managed to rise a country from the depths of the sea. Martin Philippo dives deep below sea level to visit the National Classic Car Day in Lelystad.
In a way it is not such a strange thing that one of the youngest cities in the land has become the venue of choice for one of the largest classic car events in the country. A town with just recent heritage seamlessly connects to a gigantic collection of classic cars, all telling their own tale of recent history. It happens again every year at the National Classic Car Day in Lelystad. OK, the programme isn’t very original, but it does the trick splendidly. A lot of classics, a tour for the participants and a few bands to entertain the audience. What really makes this National Classic Car Day stand out, is the great ambiance of the harbour and the enormous variety of vehicles. No wonder the crowds arrive in great numbers to enjoy all this.
Besides watching a day like this is great for listening too. Listening to the stories being told by the owners that stick around with their vehicles all day long. Mind you, there are a lot of these stories, like the one Mister de Groot tells us. He and his wife just arrived in their Saab 93F. Due to his age and poor health he struggles to talk, but he just won’t give in. We are patient listeners, ‘glued to his lips’, as the Dutch saying goes. He tells us about the days when he worked as an apprentice at some car importer. He names a few makes that have long since disappeared into oblivion, but they don’t count for this particular story. ‘One day’, he continues, ‘my boss calls me and takes me to the port of Amsterdam. Something new was going to arrive! A container was unloaded and inside there were two rather particular cars. The first one was destined for the Dutch Royal Family, the second one for the boss himself.’ He describes how the two puffing and smoking little cars were unloaded, telling us the intriguing story of the arrival of the two very first Saabs on Dutch soil. His own maroon Saab 93 is in a superb condition and has been in the family since new. Alas Mister de Groot’s condition isn’t just as wonderful and the car will have to go. A new proprietor is being looked for, one that will cherish the car just like Mister de Groot has for all these years.
Cue the owner of a beautiful Alvis. He has a lot to tell. So much we even forget to ask for his name. He tells us how he became the new owner of the car in an English pub one day. The British owner had been on the lookout for someone suitable to take over the care for his ‘baby’. Apparently he was the chosen one to become the new keeper for the car. He had just became the man with the important task of guarding the Alvis, saving it for future generations. And Gerrit Verhulst, the man in the red, topless Daf. One of only nine in the entire country. It looks as if it has just left the factory, it is simply brand spanking new. More stories to be told. About being young, about years spent in the workshop of Schoonderbeek Garage in Hillegom. Can it be a coincidence that the childhood friend we ran into lately at the Tulip Rallye is the son of this very garage? It’s a small world after all.
Watching and listening there is so much to enjoy at the National Classic Car Day in Lelystad. Soaking up the many tales and enjoying the cars themselves. The only thing you need to do is feast your eyes and ears. This young town has created itself a beautiful tradition. It should be proud of what it achieved in so little time. It is history in the making already!