In the land of 100,000 lakes.
Mercedes-Benz & Friends in Sweden.
Excited anticipation and wistfulness.
As we came closer to our destination of Stockholm, the roads became wider and the traffic heavier. The drivers and passengers were excited at seeing the capital, but a little wistful knowing that the journey of several days through Sweden's picturesque landscape was slowly drawing to a close.
A journey full of unparalleled impressions, emotional moments and full of memories never to be forgotten. A journey in the company of friends through a country of bewitching beauty. Mercedes-Benz & Friends in Sweden.
A reunion with old acquaintances.
Välkommen till Sverige! Around 100 participants with 53 vehicles found their way to Gothenburg. Including many well-known faces: we met the Smith brothers from England again who were at this year's Pagoda meeting and who had a journey of 1500 miles behind them. And Dutchman Gerard den Hertog, an acquaintance from the Eifel race who this time brought his wife, Sidoon, instead of his son, Marinus. On the day of arrival everyone received a detailed briefing about the route, the sights and hotels. Marcel Schuh from Mercedes-Benz Club Management took care of Mr and Mrs Zehnder from Switzerland; regular guests at Mercedes-Benz & Friends. They both proudly showed their "Pagoda" – "the seventh last 230 SL that was produced in January 1968", as Louis Zehnder pointed out. What's more: it also has an autograph of the Pagoda designer, Paul Bracq, in the glove compartment.
"We are delighted that so many people have come all the way to Sweden", were the welcoming words of Georg Wohlfarth, the new Head of Mercedes-Benz Club Management, as her greeted the participants that evening. They could hardly wait for the next day.
Northwards across bridges and by ferry.
Back on the road at last. After a night of rain, the sun shone over the yacht harbour at Stenungsund – only to make way for the rain again shortly after. We got into the 350 SL belonging to Stefan Wießmeier from Bonn who, to be on the safe side, had left the soft top closed. 200 kilometres along the Bohuslan coast lay ahead of us travelling North over many bridges and on numerous ferries. For our driver it is his premiere at Mercedes-Benz & Friends. He had read about last year's event in the club newspaper of the Mercedes-Benz Interessengemeinschaft (MBIG) – "a very enthusiastic report from Sicily" – and had registered at the last minute. The southern Swedish landscape alone confirmed that his decision had been right: we passed woods, lakes and a number of primeval formations of granite which have found their way all over the world from Sweden's west coast.
The first stop was at the Halberg-Rassy shipyard in Ellos where owner Magnus Rassy let us in on the secret of building the finest yachts. "We believe in traditional skills and modern technologies", the boss explained. Quality made in Sweden.
Awed silence fell across the afternoon as we looked at the world-famous Bronze-Age rock carvings at Tanum: 10,000 well-preserved carvings, around 3,000 years old and now a Unesco World Heritage Site. And it was all the more light-hearted in the evening. By the ferry journey to the island of Sydkoster at the very latest, the limits of language were no longer of any importance.
Swabian and Swedish, German and English all mixed up – and it had become clear: really the event should be called Mercedes-Benz & Family as the participants are so at ease and friendly with both each other and the team from Mercedes-Benz Classic.
Impressions of Mercedes-Benz & Friends in Sweden.
Sporty driving through
The next day the sun shone on the Skagerrak coast. Reason enough for Hermann Görke to open the soft top on his 300 SL. Apparently the man from Wuppertal is happy to drive open-topped in any weather. And sportily too – in as far as the strict Swedish speed limit allowed him too. "High engine speeds are a must every now and then, so that the exhaust is cleared out", the pensioner joked. Just the right driver for the longest leg of 330 kilometres. And the silver roadster purred over the splendidly finished roads through the heart of southern Sweden. There was no other traffic or even people to be seen for many kilometres. Only endless woods and lakes – pure and unadulterated nature. Time for our driver to delve into his stock of stories: after all the former businessman bought his roadster 40 years ago and in 1977 was one of the founding members of the 300 SL Club.
Hermann Görke calmly told of his meetings with Juan Manuel Fangio and Eugen Böhringer and how he bought a 300 SL "Gullwing" from the collection of the hotel tycoon, Mariott. Enthusiasm for the historic Mercedes-Benz vehicles could be heard in every syllable. The enthusiasm of our Swedish hosts was also palpable: whenever majestic Pontons and racy roadsters or the exotic vehicles in the group – two G-Classes and an SLS AMG – drove by, even construction workers grabbed their smartphone for a souvenir photo. Rikard Ohlin also beamed when we arrived: "Super cars!" Although he is usually the man at the centre of attraction: this man is famous in Sweden; his shop, "Sillerud's Lanthandel“, has not closed for even one day in 150 years. He and his friends made music for us and together we belatedly celebrated Midsomar including a dance around the maypole.
When we stopped at the outdoor museum in Sillerud the television and radio were there to interview two of the brand ambassadors: Ewy Baroness Korff-Rosqvist and Björn Waldegaard.
and the rally legend.
Both of them are legends of motorsport – not only – in their home country; Ewy on account of her victory at the Touring Car Grand Prix of Argentina in which she won all six legs of the 4,624 kilometre long route in her 220 SE "fintail Mercedes". The elegant 84 year-old could only smile mildly at a day's leg of 330 kilometres: "That is no distance at all!" However she still allowed her compatriot, Björn, to do the chauffeuring. The 72-year-old world champion rally driver sat at the wheel of the fintail for the first time and said: "The vehicle is difficult to drive. Ewy's was a fine achievement." Was she afraid at the time? "No!" And what did her family say? "They knew nothing about it." Today the courageous Baroness prefers water-colour painting to motorsport. "You need to take an interest in new things and continue to learn as long as you live", she said.
The final leg in the "Adenauer cabriolet".
Third day of driving. The drive was 285 kilometres along the banks of Lake Malaren in the direction of Stockholm. The car of our choice was the 300 "Adenauer cabriolet" (year of construction 1954), owned by Siegfried Lückel, Görke's fellow club member at the Mercedes-Benz Veterans Club (MVC). This representative vehicle belonging to the man from Dortmund which was elaborately restored for five years after it was purchased in 1992, seemed the perfect vehicle to enter into the Swedish capital in proper style. However, first we stopped at Gripsholm Castle, built in 1537 as a place of refuge for King Gustav Vasa. After the guided tour there was sufficient time to talk with the mechanics and the attending doctor. But the team under Dieter Straub, head of the workshop in the Classic Center, dismissed the jobs completed up until then as small.
"What is bad for the old vehicles is the extreme heat and traffic jams", explained Stefan Weber. There is no trace of either here. And Dr Markus Schmitt, long-time medical attendant at Mercedes-Benz Classic events is used to more injuries when working at the DTM.
Farewell in Stockholm.
A boat tour took the group to the cultural centre of Stockholm in the evening. At sunset, with a mild late-summer breeze we floated along towards our destination: the Vasa museum which alone justifies a visit to the Swedish capital. The ship named after the family of King Gustav "Vasa" (ear of corn) sank on its maiden voyage in 1628 after only half an hour and was only salvaged more than 300 years later – since 1990 it has been impressing visitors in a museum built specially for it. The perfect place to celebrate the end of a perfectly organised week. This was also the case for Michael Bock too. After all, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic lived in Stockholm for several years until 1961, the year the "Vasa" was salvaged. "Thank you for your loyalty to Mercedes-Benz", Bock said to the participants. "To those of you who carry the brand in your hearts and represent our competence to the outside world as ambassadors".
For next year Michael Bock has promised a special Mercedes-Benz & Friends event on the superordinate subject "120 years of Mercedes-Benz motorsport" and the many related anniversaries: the triple victory at the French Grand Prix in 1914, the birth of the Silver Arrows at the Nurburgring
in 1934, the victory of the IndyCar Penske PC 23 Mercedes at the 500 mile race in Indianapolis in 1994... reason enough to look forward to Mercedes-Benz & Friends 2014. For the time being we say: Hejda, Sverige! We will be delighted to return.