Curbside Classics in the Streets of Berlin-Neukölln

When it comes to curbside classics, my neighborhood is truly blessed. The rare combination of people so poor they have to keep their cars on the road and so wealthy and hip they aim for the the outlandish and outdated makes for some truly inspired car spotting – think Eugene of Germany.

Yet while every day I spot a car by the side of the road that makes me want to do a proper curbside classic write-up on the model history, feeding a family and working three jobs takes a toll on my writing time.

So I before I let all these amazing vehicles rot on my hard drive, I decided to invite you all on a walk with me, so as to at least manage a superficial glance on what must be one of the best areas for curbside classics. Here we go!

Judging a post by its cover, today’s walk is going to focus partly, though not entirely on camper vans who have become the thing in my neighborhood lately. There are some streets where every fourth or fifth parked vehicle is a camper van of some sort. This Volkswagen T3 Dehler conversion cought my attention after the recent T4 Dehler write-up by Johannes and also the one by Paul about the T3. I particularly like the two-tone paint-job and the way the roof is integrated so nicely.

I love myself a good classic Toyota and while all sorts of passenger car Toyotas from the early nineties and late eighties are a common sight on Germany’s roads, this is much less true for the vans, particularly this third generation HiAce van conversion. The paint job is particularly creative, as it visually takes away some of the top heaviness of the high roof.

Speaking of Toyotas, the late eighties Corolla liftback is still around in surprising numbers and it has recently grown on me. With built quality at its high point and few electronic gear on board, these things just refuse to give up service. Notice the floating roof with all pillars painted black – just like a first generation Subaru Legacy. Quite elegant!

One thing I really like about car design from the mid-eighties to the early nineties is that many car designs were aiming for elegance rather than dominance. Today, when every sub-compact crossover looks like a tank from a sci-fi movie, the lines of a Opel Calibra look so understated that you barely notice you just walked by a true and quickly disappearing curbside classic. Based on the GM2900 platform which spawned vehicles ranging from Saturn L-Series to the Saab 9-5, the Calibra was, upon introduction,the most aerodynamic vehicle for sale in Europe, with a drag coefficient of just .26. With the 2.5 litre V6, it would reach 147 mph! This example is from Poland where the fine art of keeping old cars running is still known quite well!

Not much needs to be said about the Citroen DS. The question this picture raises for me is why you would drive your Norwegian-plated Citroen DS to Berlin and then park it in the streets like it was an Opel Calibra with a resale value of less than 1000 dollars. But then Norway is one of the richest countries in the world. Safe to say this one has some issues with the hydropneumatic suspension which seems to have retired halfway while raising or lowering the French Goddess.

Back to camper vans, though! The MB 100D would be worth a very long curbside classic by itself and I hope one day to get around to doing just that. Suffice it to say that it is a front-wheel drive Mercedes oddball produced in Spain in the late eighties early nineties which is famous for its packaging and proclivity to rust. To my knowledge, this was the last Mercedes that was propelled by the venerable 2.4 liter OM 616 that debuted in the W115 in 1972. I apologize for the poor image quality, but the barely recognizable decal on the rood reads „Historic Racing Team“ which raises a few questions! Will we see this old chap at the next Histo Monte?

The really fascinating story about the MB 100D (not to be confused with the MB W100 !!!!! – the polar opposite in the history of Mercedes) is the fact that the design dates back it its origins to the DKW Schnelllaster from 1949 which dates back to a prewar design. During my research I actually came across an article Paul wrote about the DKW Schnelllaster in 2010…It’s a small world indeed. If that wasn’t enough, the MB 100D has survived its own death now by at least 20 years. After the end of production in Spain in 1995, the assembly lines were sold to Korea and  after that to China where a modernized but still clearly recognizable version of the Mercedes 100D, the SAIC Maxus Istana, was produced until 2014.

Another vehicle powered by the OM 616 was the Mercedes T2, or Düsseldorfer Transporter, as it was built in Düsselfdorf. In what seems to be a local competition who has the most unlikely camper van this grandfather of Mercedes trucks stands out as much as the courage and skill it takes to park it like that. The Mercedes T2 was briefly offered under the Hanomag-Henschel brand name as well since Mercedes had acquired the Hanomag-Henschel company in the early 1970ies.

One reason for Mercedes to acquire the Hanomag brand was the fact that the Mercedes’ truck line-up lacked a smaller size offering below the Düsseldorfer Transporter which would be able to compete with – and here nomenclature gets really confusing – the Volkswagen T2. As the boys from Stuttgart sealed the deal, they now could offer the Hanomag Henschel F20 rebranded as the Mercedes L 206D / L2 207 / L306D / L307. Fun side fact: the gas engines installed here were bought from Austin-Rover.

This is the most striking van I have yet seen in my neighborhood. While you see the above Mercedes version of the Hamburger transporter maybe once a year, the Hanomag-Henschel version of the same vehicle is, well, let it suffice that I have seen more Ferrari Enzo in my life than genuine Hanomag-Henschel F20s.

I like myself a good bottom-breather and in the famous tradition of front-engined vehicles lacking a an above-bumper level grill ranging from the Studebaker Avanti to the Infiniti Q45, the Passat “stands out” as one of the less colorful offerings. Now, I have a weakness for the Passat B3 wagon which has got to be one of the best packaged vehicles ever built. Rear leg-room is above that of the the Passat’s contemporary, the W126 S-class. As if the bottom breathing wasn’t enough, the Oettinger aftermarket lights give this example an even stranger appearance. This example’s mileage of 250k tells a story of the times when longevity was still a virtue in designing a new car.


I will end this walk though my neighborhood with a true oddball, the Mini Moke. I never understood this car or its appeal, but it probably makes more sense in a place with a climate less harsh than Berlin’s. Here is the complete CC write-up.