CC Capsule: 1938 Steyr 200 • It’s Not Polite to Steyr

One sunny afternoon in the third week of September 2007, I arrived at my hotel near the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) after a train ride from the airport; a long flight from Toronto, and a cab ride from home. I’d given myself a couple of extra days in advance so I’d have a fighting(!) chance at being awake for the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting in nearby Darmstadt, but giving in to sleep would have spoiled that plan by severely prolonging and aggravating the jetlag.

I dropped my baggage at the hotel and went out walking in Wiesenhüttenstraße (“Meadow Huts Road” sounds a whole lot less hilarious). So stoned on sleep deprivation was I, with my brain constantly popping out of gear and giggly mirth over things like the street name and the van with MIETWAGEN spelt out in big block letters (it means “rentcar”, but looks like “meat wagon”—German is inherently funny), that it took me a moment to reckon out whether I was hallucinating this car.

It was real, I’m pretty sure. I think there was some kind of event being festivated; I don’t recall the particulars, but the car was part of it. No cordons or anything—evidently Frankfurters, even in the medium-sketchy railway station district, could be trusted to behave themselves in accord with all applicable DIN standards. So I stepped up and took a few pictures.

I don’t often get to scrutinise a car I know absolutely nothing about. Usually there’s at least some shred, even if it’s just some bit of trivia about some aspect of its lighting system, but this? Nope, not a thing; I was just completely blank about it. That’s still the case, pretty much, but I do know those amber front Blinker (turn signals) are a much later retrofitment.

This, Damen und Herren, is a hood ornament.

And this is a Scheinwerfer, I mean headlamp. I guess I wasn’t quite completely out of my mind, for something caught my attention about it.

Specifically, this logo on the lens. The famous, iconic car-lights kitty cats belonged to Marchal; “cats” plural because there were several versions of the Marchal kitty cat before the corporate owner of that fabled brand carelessly threw away its many decades’ worth of brand equity. But this is not one of the Marchal kitty cats; it’s an ersatz-Katze (see? German is funny). Besides, Marchal was an extremely French brand, and this is an extremely unFrench car. I think, and image-searching suggests, it’s much more likely this car would’ve come with lamps from Bosch or Hella or one of those. Also, I have a weak recollection of seeing this kitty cat on another generic/unbranded/imitation headlamp, maybe.

I don’t remember why I didn’t take any pics of the back of the car, but I didn’t. I found this pic of the same car on Wikipedia, though, so I guess that means it was at least mostly real after all: