32th Borgward International Meeting Bremen 2006
The city of Bremen this year looks back on 100 years of car manufacturing. Carl FW Borgward and its brand automobiles Hansa, Lloyd, Goliath and Borgward, from 1024 to 1961 so it was natural that the 32nd International meeting be held in Bremen
An early rise at 4am, a cup of tea, a bowl of cornflakes and then the doorbell rings, and in comes Danny. Quickly, we load up the Big 6 and within a quarter of an hour Peter Grove, Danny and I are setting off once again on the annual pilgrimage to Germany. At Dover, we meet up with Nick Driscoll in his Combi, carrying his Mother and John Wallis; Peter Clark in his Coupe, with Robert and Mike; and finally George Sinclair in his Combi loaded with spares. Just time for a warm drink before boarding the 8am, Norfolk Line ferry, to Dunkirk.
The nearly new ferry was only about a third full, so we had the unusual luxury of choosing where to sit - one benefit of missing the August holiday period. The channel was calm, so, by the time we arrived at Dunkirk we were in a relaxed state ready to re-acquaint ourselves with driving on the Continent. Unlike Ostend, where you are immediately plunged into town traffic, Dunkirk provides a much gentler introduction to driving on the 'other side of the road'. There are long stretches of road interspersed with roundabouts before hitting the motorway.
In pleasantly warm weather, we bowled along the motorways at 70 — 80mph. Kilometres slip by very quicldy when you are used to miles. I expect the reverse is true for continental drivers in Britain. Anyway, with no hold-ups, only occasional heavy traffic, and a few rest breaks we eventually arrived at the Atlantic Galoprennbahn Hotel, Bremen, about 9pm. There was no mistaking we were at the right place because there was a 1908 Lloyd car (similar to a Ford Model T) displayed in the foyer.
The next day, Friday, saw more and more Borgwards arrive and it became apparent that the area in front of the hotel, although large, was not going to be big enough for the number of cars attending. What a pity the event could not have been held at the rear of the hotel where there was an expanse of mown grass accommodating a horserace course. A welcome addition to the UK contingent was Bob Moore and his Wife in their recently acquired black Coupe. The car looked immaculate, but Bob was not happy with the performance over 60mph. With plenty of knowledgeable people around, it was all heads under the bonnet. The carburettor was number one suspect. It was discovered that the dashpot required oil and that the emulsion tube jet was missing. The dashpot oil could be readily fixed but the emulsion tube would have to wait until Bob got home. When these are fixed, Bob should have a very nice car indeed. Peter Grove took advantage of this servicing interval to change his brake light switch, which had become reluctant to switch off.
On Friday afternoon, Peter, Danny and I decided to go to the Ship Museum at Bremerhaven. Getting there enabled us to test for ourselves the much acclaimed German transport system. It was not lacking. A 20min. tram ride into Bremen; a short wait before a 50min. train ride to Bremerhaven; then, a 10min. taxi ride to the museum. Our only oversight was not to get our
train tickets (obtained from an automatic machine), stamped by another machine on theplatform. For this misdemeanour we were duly reprimanded by the ticket inspector — in English!
The dominant exhibit in the museum was a trading ship, c 1100AD, which had been raised from the mud in the haven. It was by no means complete, but ongoing restoration work was filling in some of the gaps. Bremerhaven, at the mouth of the R. Weser, is a most important German shipbuilding centre. Not too far away are Wilhelmshaven and Cuxhaven. All evocative name from the Second World War. More recently, in the 1960's170's shipbuilding was centred on building oil tankers. I remember, at the time, the modernised German shipyards were very serious competition to our own outdated industry. There were displays of tanker construction and cut-away models. Other display cases were devoted to German naval ships. Again, harking back to the war years, there was an example of a mini two-man submarine, which appeared frighteningly claustrophobic. The men only had room to sit, or lie, in there seats.
Outside, in the dock, was a big brother of the mini sub. A real life U-boat. For a few euros we were able to go aboard and look around. The conclusion we drew was that the crew must have been much nearer 5ft tall than the average. Anyone taller would have developed a permanent crouch and suffered many bumps to the head. Counting the bunks, it would seem there would have been a crew of approaching twenty. I now understand why submarine crews are volunteers. This particular U-boat was built in 1944/45 and thankfully, was never on active war service. The statistics showed that about 60% of the U-boats were sunk.
Back at the hotel, Saturday is the main day of the meeting and an influx of even more cars meant that they were having to be parked outside on the road and adjoining business fronts. By this time, we had been joined by two further members. Michael Gilmore arid Eddie Boyes, who had flown in to Hamburg.
On Saturday afternoon, it is customary for the organisers to arrange a trip out to some local site of interest. This year was no exception and because it was in Bremen, the home of Borgward, it was planned in some style. Our convoy of possibly 100 cars had a police escort through the Bremen city centre out to a shipyard on the R. Weser. Traffic lights were switched off and police manned the junctions. If an interloper car impatiently sneaked into the line, it was quickly turfed out by a police outrider.
At Lemwerder, the Werft Abeking & Rasmussen shipyard build big luxury one-off yachts of the type favoured by the Abramovic set. After a conducted tour, we enjoyed coffee and cakes in the staff canteen before making our way back through the city centre. From there, we diverted to the Sebaldsbrack suburb to make a sentimental journey to the former Borgward factory site. Now, it is owned by Daimler-Chrysler, and it would appear that Mercedes SL Coupes are assembled there. The original, iconic, Borgward three storey office block no longer stands.
Arriving back at the hotel, I was greeted by the news that I had been carrying Eddie Boyes' suitcase in the boot of the Big 6. Unbeknown to me, he had lodged it there for safe keeping in the morning. Despite much nail-biting and praying for our early return, the fates were against Eddie who had to fly off home without his case. Fortunately, he still had his travel documents with him. He retrieved the case back in the UK.
We stayed in the Atlantic hotel our cars in the car park at the front and a racecourse at the back.
Du warst zu gut für diese Welt (You were too good for this World.)
A very late Combi with tail gate that opened upwards.
Hemi head and twin carbs.
Lunch soup and bread rolls.
Hartmut Loges Chairman talking about the convoy to a ship yard and then to the Mercedes factory that used to manufacture Borgwards.
Coffee and cake while talking to the shipyard apprentices.
Mercedes-Benz Factory Bremen.
Borgward Isabella with Mercedes Disc brake conversion.
1908 Lufthansa Lloyd in Hotel Atlantic foyer.
Gala dinner in the Atlantic Hotel.
We stopped to see Anjo Bosman's Big Six restoration and then spent the night at the Holland Moors Hotel Zeddam.
Sunday came round all too quickly
and it was time to begin the homeward journey. We hoped that this year it would
be trouble free — last year we had to contend with a stripped timinggear.
The Big 6 back axle was a bit noisy but that wasn't much different from last
year. All went well until about 10 miles from Peter Grove's home when under
moderate braking the brake pedal started to kick back. Despite this we arrived
home intact. Peter told me later, that on inspection, he discovered a collapsed
wheel bearing, which he has now replaced.
So, yet another German trip is over. We all enjoyed ourselves and look forward to next year when we think it will be in Hannover.
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