Welcome back after a short work-related delay…Lest you fear that we spent all of our Berlin-based days visiting car manufacturers in the countryside, fret not, as we still had two more full days in the city which is nowhere enough time reflecting on it now. Oh well, I suppose we will need to come back again. The weather was pleasant, dry, and perfect for walking around and so we did, of course along with using a lot of the public transit system. As a car guy, I have to say it was liberating to not be responsible for one in the city. A car was not needed or missed at all as the transit was plentiful, inexpensive and convenient.
On Day 8, we had a few things planned so tag along and I’ll at least show you what we saw along the way, and even some of what we saw and did. As stated previously I wasn’t really planning to create a travelogue with lots of pictures of sights but I’ll share what I did take along with all of the random cars I took pictures of…
Before getting underway I looked out over the balcony and saw this reminder to not just speed through the day. 30kmh is about 19mph which is a steady pace allowing plenty of time to take in one’s surroundings. In a car, that is. The walking equivalent might be called moseying which I took as a good suggestion, the 25,000 or so steps we were averaging each day was taking a bit of a toll on our feet. The street signage is also about as large as a later model Mk1 VW Cabriolet in a sunny yellow.
After hopping on the U-Bahn to our first destination we saw this wonderful Mercedes van upon emerging aboveground again.
Painted these colors it was almost assuredly a former police vehicle. Now it’s more of a bohemian travel van espousing peace and freedom. It’s possible that some of the current riders may have involuntarily ridden in this same vehicle in its former life as well, one never knows.
We came to tour a very large building, but upon arrival were told that even though we had been assured we would not need a reservation, apparently we did. Hmm. So we made one for the next day (far below, you’ll get there eventually) and walked a very long way around the building (buildings? They all seemed conjoined) for something else. This is Tempelhof Airport, the location of the Berlin Airlift of 1948-1949 and located right in the middle of Berlin.
Mercedes W123s are seen the world over of course, and while the numbers are dwindling, there are still enough out there to assure one that whatever happens to the world, at the end of it there will be at least a few cockroaches and a W123 roaming around. This one was parked in front of one of the wings of the airport building(s).
Hubcaps all in place, roof rails on top, trailer hitch on the back and clad in white paint, this would have been a fine holiday wagon back in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It still would be today, of course, but back then it’d be a new one.
It is however missing its hood ornament and its front license plate, something that is decidedly not optional in Germany. Otherwise it looks in fine shape, especially with the correct composite headlamps.
I’ve seen German police personnel and they don’t seem any less capable than the ones we have stateside, if anything the opposite is true. But somehow I do not see Denver’s finest even remotely being accepting of riding around in a Toyota Yaris, it likely wouldn’t fit their desired image.
And it’s a Yaris Hybrid at that. For city work though, why not? Gas isn’t getting any cheaper, it’ll get you there just as well, backup is a radio call away, and it can park anywhere without getting in the way. It’s probably easier to drive, park, and see out of than some big dumb SUV too and may even be quicker off the line.
And if they’re good at their job, people will respect the occupants anyway. A radio, a phone, and what looks like a control panel for lights and sirens seems to round out the obvious differences inside vs the civilian model.
It was in exceptional condition as well, and clean. The Europeans in general seem to take good care of their police vehicles from what I’ve (we’ve) seen. The front of the Yaris Hybrid is probably the most intimidating angle and hey, maybe that works, I’d pull over for it if it seemed like that was what was desired by its occupants. Tazen Sie mich nicht, Herr Bro!
Rounding the corner of the building and the city block, I spied this fine Mazda Demio. Short, upright, it’s kind of like a fitter Honda Fit.
Or, what it really is, is a successor to the Mazda 121, better known to us as the Ford Festiva and the early first generation of this was actually sold in Japan as the Ford Festiva MiniWagon. This one is a late first generation from around the turn of the century.
Of course my son gravitated to the Jaguar X-Type, sagely nodding at the parts of it that were in better shape than the ones on his wagon. He was doing a lot of sage nodding. There were a surprising number of these still on the road in Europe with the youngest now 14 years old and the earliest going on 22 years. With 350,000 built over nine years and sharing some fairly common Ford bits (for the better, probably), I suppose that shouldn’t be much of a surprise but they seem to be holding up better than the average Jaguar.
A late-model Saab 900i three-door is always a welcome sight, hard to believe it’s over 30 years old.
And after rounding the final corner here we are at the beginning of the main Tempelhof runway with my son hydrating himself with another giant juice box. His hoodie is a memento from my first trip to Eugene back in 1992!
The airfield area has been converted into a very large public park with the paved runway and taxiway areas great for long, straight walks as well as rollerblading, bicycling, windsurfing with skateboards and the like and just marveling at how long runways really are. These aren’t actually all that long as far as runways go with the one we walked measuring at 2094 meters (1.3 miles). During the Berlin Airlift a plane landed here every 45 seconds and in total 2.3 million tons of cargo were brought in to West Berlin to (successfully) foil the Soviets blockade of it.
After eventually making it to the end of the runway (at the halfway point things were looking a bit dim to be honest, we thought we could see the curvature of the earth with nothing but horizon visible ahead but it may have been thirst) we emerged back into a neighborhood and found a fine later BMW E30 coupe right off the bat. Well, I did, the others went to look for a bathroom. Which wasn’t available but there was a porta-potty which belonged to a construction site right there on the sidewalk. While we don’t make habits of visiting porta-potties in general, this one was cleaner inside than most hotel bathrooms, in fact it was immaculate. A very pleasant surprise indeed and one noted again during yet another emergency visit to another one later in the week.
And what would any walk be without sighting yet another red Volvo 240, a wagon this time? Or 245 in proper parlance I suppose.
Located in a more working-class neighborhood, this one clearly helps its owner to provide the daily Brot.
Fiat van-based campers have been popular in Europe for ages and keep on chugging along, virtually all are diesel and mostly turbodiesel at that.
As in Denmark, another MkII VW Golf, in this case a very basic model judging by the wheels and around 1986 or so vintage based on the vent window and bumpers. Besides the paint issues, it otherwise seems quite well preserved with no clearly evident rust. The VW Golf has been the best-selling car model in Germany every year since 1981. It was last outsold in 1980 (by the Mercedes W123). In 2015, 270,000 were sold in Germany. That means a country with the population of 81 million, so a quarter that of the U.S. For reference in that same year, the Ford F-series sold 780,000 in the U.S..
So on a per capita basis the Golf outsold the F-Series (not just F-150) in its respective home country. The Golf IS Volkswagen and that’s not counting the ones sold everywhere else in Europe and the rest of the world. But that did make me curious and the total in 2015 was 899,000, a figure that has been exceeded several times since then.
And this Dacia Sandero kept building our budding romance, here in white with unpainted bumpers I think this is about as base as they come.
Exciting for its unexcitingness, these just do what people expect or need of them at a rock bottom price. As we’ve seen they are popular all across the continent.
Ooh, a Renault Express! Over 1.7 million sold with most being cargo models this is one of the I believe rarer passenger versions complete with roofrack, curtains, and large windows, it’s apparently part of the German #vanlife now. The last of the passenger versions were built in 1998.
And another W123, a rarer coupe version this time in the color that has taken over all Mercedes-Benz models as a whole. I don’t think North America ever got the coupe with hubcaps, we usually received the bundt alloys. As much as I like those alloys, the color-keyed hubcaps were such a touchstone of Mercedes-Benzes when I was a kid, it’s such a little yet brilliant thing to set them apart from all other cars.
We made it to the Brandenburg Gate and walked through it. From 1961 to 1989 when the Berlin Wall existed, this was inside the no-man’s land area between the two sides and thus not accessible. Now it’s a symbol of reunification and visited by throngs of people at all hours of the day and night.
After we got back to our apartment, one of my sons and I went out to get more beverages from the supermarket but took a different way to get there in order to see a few more streets and explore a few more potential eateries. That didn’t disappoint as curbside numerous interesting cars presented themselves starting with this Ford Ka.
And then a Mercedes 190, I’m thinking around 1990 or so vintage?
A well-used city dweller missing its rear bumper cover which I don’t think is really kosher either long-term in Germany.
A W124 estate in a sort of metallic eggplant color was a very welcome sight, and in wonderful condition, circa 1994 or so.
The 3-pointed star towers figuratively over the grille like the TV tower does literally over the Alexanderplatz.
A Chrysler PT Cruiser! A Cherished Symbol Of America! And not just any PT, but a convertible. 300,000 or so of these (PTs, not just convertibles) were sold outside of the United States. I know they have their fans, but of all the choices of cars available in Europe, how did so many choose a PT Cruiser? And how will they ever ship them all to Phoenix, Arizona where they are all preordained to end up?
There’s retro done badly and then there’s retro where it’s just perfection and not even really retro, just how it is and how nature intended it to be. And the Jaguar XJ was perfect, akin to a Porsche 911. They never should have changed it but I sort of understand why they did. Or maybe not. No, actually I don’t understand at all. And now there is no more XJ so obviously I was correct. They should have just left well enough alone, how much worse could things have gotten? They’re going to get worse now, believe me.
The black car on the right is a current generation Peugeot 308 Wagon, it looks just as dynamic as the current 508. But what’s the white CUV on the left facing us and turning?
To some of us they don’t all look exactly the same so I knew it was something I did not recognize as anything else. It’s carrying Munich plates but that doesn’t mean anything.
The car behind it is a Tesla Model Y, perhaps one of the ones actually produced just outside of Berlin at one of Tesla’s newest factories. The Model Y was the best selling electric vehicle in Germany last month, and the fourth bestselling vehicle of all propulsion types. In Europe overall it has been the best selling overall vehicle multiple months already. I don’t think they are going to fail anytime soon after all.
But what’s the white one?
It’s a BYD, a Chinese EV from the company that Warren Buffett, the Sage of Omaha, is a huge investor in. You may dislike or know little about EVs and you may think all CUVs look and act the same, however if that’s the case then you’d likely agree that the future might look bright for this to the detriment of other vehicular options out there. Why not pick this over some of the others?
A normal wagon for our European readers who are yawning at all of the everyday-mobiles I’m offering up, yet one of the more interesting and popular pieces of forbidden fruit for us in North America, the BMW E30 Wagon (or Touring). Even with hubcaps, this 35- year-old design looks great, especially in this green. Dry corn for beautiful people, indeed. (Wha?)
But I also like the shape of this current Toyota Corolla hybrid wagon as you’ve likely noticed if you’ve been reading this series. Like the shoes behind it, it too will likely last a lifetime. Good color too.
I can’t say I love the styling of this Peugeot 309 5-door, but it’s over three decades old. Peugeots aren’t as disposable in Europe. And other stories…
Across the street was a Polestar showroom. Polestar is an EV brand owned by Geely, the Chinese owners of Volvo, and are sort of a collaboration with them but have been spun off as a separate company. You’ve likely seen them, they are sort of blocky looking modern Volvo-esque styled sedan/hatchbacks. My son got in and got comfortable very quickly. The dash is fairly conventional compared to some EVs.
Here’s an example of a couple of the cars (not my picture), there’s at least one in my neighborhood and several around town. This showroom looked pretty much like this but with three cars instead of two. Modern, an attendant that let us look to our heart’s content, zero pressure, and no BS. I think if you actually wanted one, you could order it via a tablet right there or do so at home. Or on the U-bahn via your phone. Probably even mid-flight if you signed up for wi-fi…In other words, the default way auto sales should (and in many other places, can) be.
I got in behind him, he’s shorter than me but it was still pretty tight back there (6’1″, 32″ inseam…), I had been under the impression they were larger. A Tesla Model 3 has more rear legroom, sort of the difference between Honda Civic and Accord. Or what you might expect the difference between those to be at least, I haven’t been in a newer Civic in some time. If you dislike a lot of things about the Tesla form factor inside and/or out for whatever reason, rational or irrational, you may like Polestar. Pricing is somewhat similar. Currently made in China, but a South Carolina factory is being built in order to take advantage of the option to have some of your own taxes refunded to you.
Bigger screen in the middle but lower than some, about the same size as in a Subaru Outback, overall a clean modern design, very Volvo-esque. The view through the window is that BMW wagon again. However it was starting to get late so we left to do our shopping.
But just before ducking back into our building we came across this excellent condition Opel Kadett, the better and original version of our Pontiac LeMans a la Daewoo. This is the real deal and historically the VW Golf’s biggest competitor, it was good to see some of these still going about their business as well.
We then all went out for dinner and found a great little Italian Bistro at Hackescher Markt, located literally underneath the S-Bahn tracks. I ordered a bolognese and it was excellent. Actually I don’t think we had a bad meal anywhere in Europe, everything seemed very fresh, prepared with care, and since most staff are paid a living wage, tipping ranges from just not done to kind of rounding things up a bit. Taxes are also included in the menu prices. So even if something seems a little more than at home initially, at the end of the meal the actual out the door cost is often lower. As long as you drink beer instead of soda, that is. Not a problem for me, I’ll do my part to help the family budget.
My wife had something interesting planned for later in the evening, so we set off back towards the Brandenburg Gate again after dinner in order to be at the Bundestag (German Parliament) for an 8pm tour! The Bundestag meets in the Reichstag building not far from the gate and while I was doubting they’d even be open after 5pm, it turns out the building is accessible between something like 7am and midnight. Who knew? Not me.
Here it is in the daytime via my favorite trick, that of the photo of a postcard at a vendor across the street. It’s a quite impressive building and was completely modernized (including the rather obvious dome on top) by British architect Norman Foster after the German reunification when the seat of government moved back to Berlin from Bonn. We were part of a tour group that was ushered inside after lots of security processes and led by a volunteer lawyer that works in the building. He first asked where everyone was from and it turned out there were a lot of eastern european representatives there (Moldova, Montenegro, Ukraine, Latvia etc) as it turned out they were part of a future ambassador’s tour that was learning about other forms of government in order to eventually become part of their own governments. We were the only people from the U.S. on that particular tour.
In short, it was a very interesting tour, we visited most of the building and learned much of the history of it as well as of Germany itself. The Bundestag is roughly analagous to our House of Representatives and is the German Federal Parliament, directly elected by the people. The building has a large rooftop walk-around deck with views down into the building.
And in the center is a very large dome with a spiral pathway to the top.
Once on top, you can look down into the actual chamber. We went in there as well and sat on the balcony seats that are just above the outer row visible here. The way the seats are arranged changes every election (they can be moved) and the groupings represent the various political factions that have been elected. As you can see it’s not symmetrical or laid out with clear pathways to the exits, the groupings correspond to the various factions, some of them being rather small and as such lots of deals and alliances are struck in order for any smaller group to have any say (which happens a lot and seems to work for the most part).
It was quite educational, interesting, and historically enlightening. I’d highly recommend booking a tour in advance (at no charge) if going in the area and even remotely interested in architecture, history, and/or politics. Or just looking for something to do after dark perhaps.
After our tour we walked back through the Brandenburg Gate and turned to check it out all lit up. My son took this and a few of the other pictures that evening and was gracious enough to allow me to borrow them. And that finishes up Day 8. But wait, day 9 is just a short night’s sleep away, upon waking and heading downstairs for the next day’s touring we were greeted by this:
Yes, a Trabant limo was outside our building. Actually I believe it was for the hotel across the street but still, we hadn’t even seen a regular Trabi as of yet, so a very stretched one with a double rear axle was quite the sight.
I’m not sure if they start with a regular Trabant or if the whole thing is custom. Obviously the engine and chassis are very different from what normally is supplied. Still, it was quite a sight… What could be better than seeing a stretched Trabant?
How about TWO stretched Trabants? Amazingly a second one rounded the corner as I was taking some pictures of the first one and ended up parking in front of the black one. But my family was far ahead by this time so I had to run to catch up.
Climbing out of the subway a short time later we saw my wife’s car in Berlin Taxi format. Cabbies the world over are not generally known for purchasing vehicles to earn them money that aren’t reliable, useful, durable, efficient, or a good value for money. Make of that data point what you will. It wasn’t the only one and it wasn’t only here that we saw them and other models employed in the field.
Parked across from the Disgusting Food Museum (I didn’t realize it was there until seeing the sign just now) was this timewarp special first released in late 1986, an original Opel Omega that further down its evolution would see the U.S. as the Cadillac Catera. This here though is the original and this spec seems to me how a lot of them were.
It’s quite a large car for Germany and obviously took a close look at what Audi was doing a few years earlier. Actually the whole Opel line went very aero about this time as well. In 1987 this was voted the European Car of the Year, which means it beat out the new Audi 80 and BMW 7-series, so not an off year as far as worthy candidates were concerned.
The badging shows it having a 2.0i engine which would be about average for its era and size. For being registered in Berlin it’s in amazing condition.
That held true for the interior as well. I wonder if something is broken though with the shifter stuck in Drive and the key being able to be removed. It looks comfortable though and the automatic would have been a fairly rare option.
This one took me a little time to figure out and may be the first time we’ve seen a Kia Retona at CC (edit: it isn’t, we saw a Chilean one last year). I guess everyone’s gotta have their Jeep clone. These date from around the turn of the century and all I could really find was that they were considered highly unreliable by German owners.
Then again, this one is still running around Berlin so how bad can it be. Apparently power was supplied by either a Mazda inline 4 or a turbodiesel inline 4. Like any self-respecting German it sports a tow hitch as well. You’d be surprised how other cultures seem to be able to tow all kinds of stuff without large pickups. I know, I know, sorry, I’ll stop.
All of a sudden it seemed I was in a twilight zone seeing cars I’d never seen before, here’s another one. Some sort of hatchback, I don’t recognize the logo and it’s not an EV, the usual suspicion when faced with an unfamiliar badge these days. But it isn’t.
It’s a Lada! Wow, not what I was thinking or expecting. It looks quite competitive from a styling perspective, slap a Nissan Versa Note badge on that and people will line up for the inevitable $199/month lease.
Lada 2192 is the actual model, apparently also known as the Lada Kalina. This is a second generation model built through 2018. There was also a station wagon, which could maybe be considered a Lada car in comparison to the hatchback.
By appearance anyway it seems completely competitive, it’s a shame what its country of origin has indirectly done to itself (and directly to others) though, so overall I see Lada sales dwindling outside of their homeland.
I was sort of eyeballing the Audi A7 parked here when this rolled in! I was trying to be subtle about getting a picture but the guy in the back saw me immediately. This is a Polish-registered FSO Polonez Atu, a relatively rare sedan version of the Polonez. The Polonez line was built until 2002. The Wiki entry mentions that these for some reason are a very popular car to drive on a particular event named the Zlombol Charity Rally, looking at the stickers that’s exactly how this particular one is marked.
Just as interesting was the note that they were very unreliable cars until the mid 1990s when Daewoo of all people got involved and improved things, which certainly makes you perhaps adjust your perspective on how bad they were before. This particular one has been modified slightly by its owner to make the Polonez badge read Bolonez. As a fan of meat sauce on my pasta I heartily approve.
Speaking of performance cars, the Dodge Challenger is a relatively popular car in Europe, this is far from the only one we saw, virtually always in SRT 392 or Hellcat form. This was taken from the Holocaust Memorial (actually named the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe”), which is a very large installation of various heights concrete blocks all of the same width and length.
It sits on a piece of land that undulates with narrow passages between them forming sort of a very large grid with the smallest blocks under a foot high (as seen in the right foreground of the photo with the Challenger) and the largest about fifteen feet tell. The passages go up and down between them and are cobbled. There are a total of 2711 blocks which isn’t really symbolic of anything in particular, it was supposed to be about 4,000 yet after calculating it all out, it turned out that only 2711 would fit on the property. It’s an interesting installation as by walking around it just makes you think and like the best art isn’t trying to beat you over the head with a specific point. You could spend a lot of time there thinking which perhaps is part of the point of it. (This picture wasn’t mine, I took it from the web, that’s the Tiergarten park in the background, building are all around the other three sides)
A little later I was busy taking a bad picture of this Peugeot 106, one of my favorite little Pugs, made easier as it was braking behind a bus that was stopping. When I turned back around, my daughter and her roommate were standing there. They just randomly were on a bus and decided to get off and we happened to be passing right by at that exact time. Alrighty! And Berlin suddenly felt very small for a city with over 3.5 million inhabitants.
BMW sold its i8 around the world yet they aren’t seen very often. A lot has to do with the fact that it looks a lot faster than it is, it’s actually a hybrid car and fairly practical (as supercars go) and fuel efficient. It turned out though that many people that want a car that looks as fast as a rocket actually want to go as fast a rocket, so it turned into a bit of a dud. BMW, if you need someone to help you with your market insights, I may be available on a consultancy basis, please contact me through the link at the top of the page.
It does look good though.
Underscoring my earlier thought about Berlin perhaps being a small place after all we saw our old friends from this morning again, driving by without a care in the world.
Most of this morning’s pictures so far were more or less around where a large section of the Berlin Wall remains along with Checkpoint Charlie (one of the previously controlled crossing points between East Berlin and West Berlin). There are a number of free and very interesting installations that give an excellent history of, well, the history that was made there.
I borrowed this picture from my son’s camera roll as I remember it well, having seen it numerous times in my lifetime; it’s a photo taken by a news photographer of a 19-year-old East German border guard named Hans Konrad Schumann jumping over the barbed wire to escape to the west during construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961. It’s since become a very famous image and is just one of the many stories of similar people risking their lives to escape the east, not knowing if they’d survive the attempt and even if so, ever see their families again. Here it’s now a poster for sale in a nearby shop around the corner from where the actual event took place.
Shortly thereafter we saw a Trabant drive by.
Followed by a Trabant wagon.
And another, at which point I realized that it was possible to rent a Trabant and drive it around. Sorry, I did not avail myself of the opportunity. We were down the street from TrabiWorld, apparently a business celebrating all things Trabant.
It seems they have cornered the market for Trabants. There must have been hundreds parked in their lot.
There’s also what I think was a separate Trabi Museum on another part of the same street, with probably the two most un-Trabant vehicles in front of it, a Tesla Model Y and VW ID.3.
Both cars were apparently rental cars judging by the markings on them.
I still believe VW is making a mistake not offering the ID.3 in the US. There are a lot of ID.4s running around in my area, the ID.3 is smaller and seems a good size, it seems kind of in between the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y which while those are on the same platform do have different interior dimensions. The VW would seem to split them and be cheaper than their larger model. Of course it may be that the smaller car isn’t any cheaper to build.
Another decommissioned Mercedes emergency vehicle although this one retains most of its former identity having been part of a fire brigade.
You could almost #vanlife it with rollup doors to the great outdoors! Actually those are just large storage compartments behind the rollups, and not a whole opening wall to the full interior.
The U.S. never got the Smart ForFour, only the ForTwo. It didn’t have the charm of the smaller car, but even that was lost on most of us with the changes that were made to it. In Europe though Smart had a good run, with the Smart Roadster probably the most interesting (you’ll have to google it, I didn’t see one this time).
Selling weed is profitable almost everywhere, and the green gets you the green to get the green (in color) car. This Lamborghini is a Superleggera version (says so on the side), so the lighter weight will make it more economical which then makes it more green as well. It’s not that hard being green after all.
Another neighborhood, another Fiat camper. Campers the world over seem to come in the same boring white, tan, cream, and brown colors. At least this one has a red lower section, like a large boat I guess.
Fiat vans seem to last forever when in camper form. Can anyone date this, I’m going with mid 1980s?
We finally got back to our tour of the Tempelhof Airport but this tallboy VW camper was parked in front. Along with a later Saab 9-5 wagon of course.
Ooh, the Saab is one of the very late 9-5s when they got the Tammy Faye Bakker eyeliner treatment! And oh no, it looks like the van has got the boot on the right rear wheel! Something must have happened to make it stay too long and run afoul of the parking police.
Of course it wouldn’t have been moving very quickly even without the boot, sporting as it does the big D for Diesel. And while we get names such as Vanagon, the Germans in Germany just cut straight to the chase with “Bus” and “Transporter”.
However it was now time for our tour of Tempelhof Airport, or at least the building(s), we saw the actual airfield yesterday. Upon meeting the group, the guide warned us it would be a lot of walking, a lot of stairs, and no breaks. Jawohl, Frau Tourkommandant! It turns out that Tempelhof Airport is still not completely finished, it’s always been a work in progress since it was first built and some of the inside part of the main building is and likely will remain incomplete. Nowadays the main airport in Berlin is Berlin Brandenburg Airport but beyond Tempelhof there were also Tegel Airport (now closed) and Schönefeld Airport (now incorporated as Terminal 5 at Brandenburg).
We walked a long way to get to one of the hangars. Inside it was all brick but a lot of the former airline related offices are now leased to other private companies. PanAm (formerly PanAmerican) used to fly from this hangar amongst many others.
The hangars are quite large. This particular one had large pavers on the floor except for one large section where it turned out a bomb fell through the roof during WWII, blasted a huge hole in the floor and was later patched with asphalt. Some of the hangars can be rented for events or even weddings if that’s your thing.
While Berlin was obviously a prime target for bombing runs, Tempelhof Airport was mostly spared, likely due to the allies seeing the potential strategic value of it going forward.
As can be seen here from just outside the hangar we were in, the airside of the hangars and terminal are arranged in a vast semicircle.
Looking the other way from pretty much the same vantage point shows the terminal with gates under a vast canopy and more hangars on the far end. The radar tower is a leftover from the American air base that was established here after the war until being decommissioned in 1993. The airport was also used for regular commercial flights until 2008.
While no air traffic uses the airport anymore, the fire vehicles are still here. Some are obviously newer than the ceasing of airport operations but others are fairly old. On the left a relatively new wagon, perhaps a Skoda, I can’t really tell, then a Mercedes fire engine, then a much newer MAN fire engine and a Mercedes Sprinter ambulance.
More firefighting vehicles. A ’90s Passat on the left, then what looks like a VW LT28 or similar based vehicle, and then a Mercedes Sprinter ambulance and a Mercedes truck. The stairs are the gates, you’d come down onto the (covered) tarmac, then into the plane via a portable set of stairs, no movable jetways here.
Once inside, here is the entrance from the gates to the main terminal space with the luggage carousel in the center distance and ticketing counters on both sides. In this case, both departures and arrivals used the same space on the same floor, kind of like a train station (or a small modern airport).
The building had almost no power turned on and was a bit weird walking around with it being literally empty, except the “Restaurant” neon was lit somehow without having an operating restaurant attached. The arrival and departure boards were empty of course, one misses the clattering sound of those things tumbling the letters and numbers when faced with a silent one.
We also went into the basement and saw the bomb shelters that were down there, very grim spaces where people waited for very long hours, something we are again seeing on the news with Ukrainian residents sheltering in subways etc. But we also went upstairs and saw where the USAF had their space, along with bar, bowling alley (since removed) and basketball court.
A huge wall hanging shows the entire airport. The white Mercedes W123 wagon was at the lower left, the Toyota police car at the lower middle to the left of the right building wing and the blue VW bus was dead center at the bottom. The runways are in the distance where we walked the day before. This was taken at the USAF open house in 1989, thus there are various USAF aircraft positioned on the tarmac for city residents to explore and all of the parking is taken, it was a very popular (annual) event. The hangars are on the left and right of the middle of the picture and the main terminal is dead center.
The guide wasn’t kidding, when we were done with a lot of walking and many stairs up and down, our dogs were barking! So we headed home…
Where we were greeted by our old friend, the Plymouth station wagon whose parking neighbor to the right had vacated their spot allowing for a better rear 3/4 view. One last evening of dinner and beverages, then we went to bed in order to catch the train back to the airport in the morning while my daughter and her roommate hit the clubs for one last night out and headed straight to the airport from the clubs in the middle of the night for their 5am flight…Stay tuned for our next installment when we fly towards the south again, but not too far this time.
If you missed anything so far, here are the links to the previous installments…
Wow, that’s a lot of photos. You are clearly a better short notice photographer than I, when on vacation I see an interesting car go by THEN think about my phone.
Didn’t know that Tempelhof airport is now a park/museum. Very cool and testament to the thoughtfulness there. If we had a large unused airport in the middle of Toronto we’d probably put condo towers on it.
And I surely don’t need to worry about any Dry Korn if I ever go to Berlin, one of my occasional sayings is “well, we are not the beautiful people” so that precludes me from entering the store.
I was hoping my Bill Gates chip implant would give me bionic photo-vision with memory to auto-sync downloads to my laptop, it’d be far easier to blink twice quickly than having the phone handy. Alas, no luck on that count, and after all that talk I heard about the chip and all…it may have just been a hoax.
It’s good to have lots of open space in the middle of a city, makes you feel less enclosed, it certainly worked there and that’s a massive space. You’re right about the condos though. In Denver the former Stapleton airport is now all homes, and DIA is way out in the country.
I didn’t enter the store either. I don’t like my korn dry.
That old airport as shown in the aerial photo is a beautiful design! And the variety of cars is really interesting. Especially the continued viability of the Trabants. Weren’t those 2-cycle engines? I would imagine they have all been repowered by now with something a little more environmentally friendly.
This vicarious European romp has been enjoyable.
The last two years (1990-1991) had a VW 4-cycle engine. I don’t know what all these have. Could well that they’ve been updated, or?
The sedan at least had smoke coming out of the tailpipe when on the throttle, so maybe not. Or just worn out. They didn’t sound healthy 4-strokes either (but neither does my mailman’s Iron Duke in his LLV 🙂 ). Maybe Trabants are exempt? Either way there are very few on the roads, and these were obviously a commercial enterprise. The limos though definitely were powered by something else than the stock cars/wagons.
Trabi World is actually a tour company — I believe you follow your guide around in your Trabant, who I guess must point out the sights over a radio or something. My sister and her new husband just did one of their tours in Dresden just a few weeks ago while on their honeymoon. I didn’t think to ask if their car was a 2-stroke or 4-stroke (and I doubt she’d have any idea), but she did mention a lot of fumes, so that kind of smells like a 2-stroke.
Jim – Thanks for all the car photos. The green BMW wagon is a deserving starter; what an ideal shape, size and color that car is.
The 123 coupe was available in the early years with body color wheel covers in the USA. This was before the 300CD version with the bundt wheels. I had a ’79 280CE in a rose metallic with matching wheel covers. These were standard.
The eggplant metallic 124 wagon paint is called “bornite”. It looks nice on the wagon (never seen it before) but absolutely stunning on a 124 coupe (which I have seen in the USA).
I am anticipating more car photos. Did you get to “Classic Remise”?
Thank you for the info! Yes the green BMW wagon looks great, it’s wild that BMW didn’t really come up with the idea themselves, it was apparently originally a custom side project of someone who worked there.
I did not get to Classic Remise, in fact didn’t even know about it so thanks for that as well, it’s at the top of the list for the next time I’m over there!
Thank you for the info! Yes the green BMW wagon looks great, it’s wild that BMW didn’t really come up with the idea themselves, it was apparently originally a custom side project of someone who worked there.
I did not get to Classic Remise, in fact didn’t even know about it so thanks for that as well, it’s at the top of the list for the next time I’m over there!
Jim, you’re a most excellent CC tour guide.
I’d be curious as to how those Trabi limos are built.
Tempelhof is quite the place, and huge for a prewar airport. Hitler tended to think big, eh?
As to why the ID3 isn’t sold here: it’s not between the Tesla Y and 3 in size; those two are almost the same length (3: 184.8″; Y: 187″); the ID.3 is only 167.8″ long; it’s Golf -sized, and that’s a size that’s apparently become too small for most Americans. Think Nissan Leaf; or don’t.
The really big reason is that in order to qualify for the federal EV tax credits, it would have to be made here, and VW clearly saw that its sales potential was too small to justify that.
Some fine CC finds; the Omega was somehow unexpected. Took me back…
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!
I had meant that the VW ID.3 is bigger inside than it looks. It’s more upright than the TM3. The TMY is slightly longer than the TM3 but also has more second row space than the additional length indicates (3″ if I recall) making it seem much more spacious than the TM3 and obviously is taller. Yes, I understand why the ID.3 isn’t sold here since it’s not built here, I suppose it *could* be but people don’t seem to want efficiently sized vehicles as you insinuated. Or they can’t be made cheaply enough (yet) to offset that.
The EV tax credit IRA thing (build it here or lose out) is interesting in that it’s almost acting as a chicken tax as with pickups, except this time lots of manufacturers are already here, already in on the (almost) ground floor, and the form factors lend themselves to other makers’ core competencies. And the domestics (beyond Tesla) aren’t really firing on all cylinders. More of the import brands will be building their EVs here soon.
Yes, I wasn’t expecting the Omega either! It was the only one I saw, my uncle had two (wagons) in a row, both were sold to buyers that were taking them to the eastern bloc to resell in the early 2000’s, I suspect lots of them ended up there.
I’m a dull guy .The only car I envy is your take on the Toyota Corolla hybrid wagon which is not available in Canada where gasoline is expensive -not like in europe- but much more expensive than in the u.s. . All because our market is dictated by that of our south neighbors who only have taste for ‘cross’ .Note that most toyota car models -except for the tiny Aygo- offered in europe are only hybrid.
Well you did get Ladas once upon a time whereas we did not…
20 years ago Toyota was a non-player in Europe, now they’re everywhere, all of it due to hybrid. Whereas Mazda used to be very popular (as far as Japanese cars go anyway) and now I saw very few of them…
Mazdas are far more popular in Austria. Toyota has been selling well recently – not just because of the hybrid which they had for almost 20 years but due to a new range which managed to shake off the “old folks car” image.
”Well you did get Ladas once upon a time whereas we did not…” Oui quelle chance !
So much interesting stuff here – I love the cars that are complete head-scratchers to me, like the Lada (never would have guessed Lada by looking at the car) and the Polonez. Looks like the Zlombol is sort of an Eastern European Great Beater Challenge type of event, with charity sponsors. I guess if I were going to drive all over Europe in an aged Eastern Bloc car, one of those biggish Daewoo-ized sedans would be my first choice.
And speaking of Daewoos, that Opel Kadett is a car I doubted still roamed the earth anywhere by this point.
Somehow I never realized that North American W123 coupes didn’t come with those painted hubcaps. I agree that the painted hubcaps were a great touch on those cars.
Interesting tours of the Bundestag and Templehof Airport too – thanks for including all the detail here!
Constellation above said that some of the early W123 Coupes did have the hubcaps over here, so I guess I was incorrect, they are rarely seen though, along with the Coupes themselves.
The Lada especially was interesting, we only ever hear about the Niva and the Fiat-based on, never the newer offerings.
Glad you enjoyed the tour!
Sehr schön, vielen Dank!
The Toyota wagon is a Corolla TREK -capitals, according to the manufacturer- with 2 cm (!!) extra ride height compared with the usual TS/Touring Sports aka Corolla wagon.
And just like the police, I also opted for a Yaris 1.5 Hybrid as my new company car.
You did? That’s great, I look forward to reading more about the Yaris, it’s like a new puppy, your Supra can teach it a few things in the evenings in the garage…
Something struck me as different about the Corolla but I couldn’t put my finger on it, thanks for clearing that up. The extra 2cm must help with the occasional raised cobble in the road. It’s just another nice thing we can’t have.
…how to grow from a 1.5 liter 3-cylinder to a 2.8 liter inline-6, for example.
That’s right! It’s already got little bulging fenders, so as long as it keeps downing the unleaded, it’ll get there.
I have enjoyed this series immensely. I don’t know you had the time to snap all those pictures, as I know that my wife and kids would not have the patience for me to do so, as I already lag the crowd as it is. On the other hand, if they popped in for some dry korn, or Lululemon, I would have plenty of time to shoot all the pictures in the world.
It’s amazing to see so many of these older vehicles still on the road, which is perhaps a testament to rigid German annual inspections and rigorous maintenance schedules. Many are closely related to vehicles sold in the U.S. that garnered checkered reputations for reliability, such as 1980s VWs, so perhaps quality was higher in vehicles sold in the domestic market?
Last, while I realize these pictures were highly curated to highlight vehicles most likely to be of interest to CC readers, it doesn’t seem as though Berlin has the same level of charging infrastructure for EVs as you reported in Copenhagen. Is that so, or just not shown here?
Thank you, I’ve gotten pretty good at spying a subject, speeding up a bit, snapping a pic and then catching up. I do tend to naturally walk a bit faster than my wife does so it works out…And she’s more likely to detour into a store than I am which helps.
I think a lot has to do with the ubiquity of the cars, there are simply more Golfs and W123s and Peugeots sold there than here and thus more tend to survive. Yes, the cars do tend to get more maintenance and inspections so whenever something goes wrong, it’s one thing and not “the final straw” on top of the twenty other things that have been ignored for years. Also, the mechanics are familiar with them and the parts are commonplace. On the flipside you’re far more likely to see an older Dodge Caravan or Cherokee in the US than in Europe, even though they were sold there too. Although I guess I did see a Cherokee and a PT Cruiser…
No you aren’t seeing things, I happened to come across far more charging stations in Copenhagen than I did in Berlin (and a greater percentage of EV vs ICE cars). We probably walked similar distances in both cities and I just randomly snapped things of interest in both, I didn’t seek out chargers in CPH or avoid them in BER. It is possible that I simply happened to walk in the right areas in Copenhagen, I don’t know, but the Scandinavians in general seem to have adopted EVs to a greater degree than the rest of Europe, especially Norway of course. Although with stuff like the Model Y often the top selling vehicle of all in Germany (and the VWs also quite popular) this’ll either change or the infrastructure is set up differently or in different places. Note also that Copenhagen has 600k or so residents while Berlin has 3.6 million and Berlin (from what I saw and where I was at least) had a greater degree of socioeconomic variety on display. Things like perks for EVs also play into that, for example you’ll find more EVs in cities with congestion charges (like London) than it cities where anything goes and presumably the infrastructure would be more likely to support that as well then. I’m not sure of the differences between CPH and BER as far as that goes. Although I did see that some German cities (Berlin and Munich included) have adopted the “E” as the last digit on the license plates for EVs which then gets the car/owner some bennies such as free or reduced price parking etc.
W123 estate for me please.
OOI, did that generation of Volvo 240 get a rear wiper on the enlarged rear window?
Templehof looks fascinating – IIRC, the stub towers are the tops of many staircases, required in the plans as the Nazis intended to use it for mass rallies.
And it looks like Norman Foster did the usual excellent job with steel and light on the Reichstag.
We were last in Berlin just weeks after the reunification, and depending where you were going, the subway trains were either not bad at all or 40 years old with wooden slatted seats. Plenty to Trabbies around then.
That’s interesting about the Volvo, ours all had the wiper as far as I know, at least on the later models. I enlarged the original picture and where the wiper would be there is a bodycolor plug or at least a filled in cutout. You can see a circle and it’s body color inside so not just missing the wiper. That car seems to have had bodywork done, the tailgate and part of the right pillar are a different shade of red so maybe it’s newer tailgate sheetmetal without the wiper hole punched out and they never replaced it? Or it was an option in Germany, I don’t know. One of the Volvo-philes here might know more…
All the subway trains we were in were modern-ish, although now that you mention it I vaguely recall the older type with wooden slatted seats from when were were there last (’96 or so?).
You got me google image hunting Volvo estates…..that doesn’t happen often….
My first hunch was that a repaired and adapted tailgate had been added with a non standard glass but Google shows that the larger glass was the spec for the last cars, with a rear wiper in the position you indicate.
So, assuming the wiper was not a delete option (surely not a Volvo practice anywhere) the question moves from “where did the glass come from?” to “why has someone gone to the lengths of blanking out the wiper pivot position rather than fit the wiper?”
Suggestions on a postcard to the usual address…..
This is the correct tailgate and window for the later cars. And quite clearly, it did not come with the wiper as both the hole for the wiper shaft as well as for the wiper washer nozzle, directly at the top of the window, have been blanked out. Presumably/obviously this was the case for some of these, to not come with a rear wiper. I found at least one other one on a Google image search.
In Germany, the rule is: “Every (outer) equipment of the car has to work.” If not, TÜV will ask you to repair or to remove it. If you opt for the latter, the parts have to be removed in a way, that excludes any endangering of pedestrians or cyclists.
So, if you remove the tail wiper, it has to be removed completely, including the shaft.
BYD is a often seen brand here lately Chinese cars have been on sale for a while a black MG SUV lives outside the appartment block Im in looks nice too, not that I want one, Trabi limos really unbelievable except I saw the photos who do they transport I wonder good collection of cars some I rarely see like a Lada we havent had those cars new here for 30 or more years looks like they lifted their game since then too, nice tour, where next?
Thanks so much for taking us along, Jim. Certainly interesting to see photos of cars we’ve only read about perhaps, and some I was totally unaware of, like that “Bolonez” sedan. I always used to cop flak for taking too many photos of cars.
I have to wonder about the W123 – has it even been honored in some modern art or industrial design museum? Or maybe social history? It seems such a classic piece of industrial design, with just enough style to not impede function, without appearing too minimalist.
I have to think that Opel Omega is a much cleaner design than what Holden did with it.
A friend has a Fiat camper; an unusual vehicle choice here in Australia where Fiat has little presence. I had no idea they were so common in Europe.
I wonder how many EVs it takes to offset the emissions of one Trabi? 🙂
Great post – especially enjoyed the Tempelhof and Bundestag tours.
I haven’t seen a Yaris Police vehicle here in Japan yet but I’m sure they have them – walked by a small Police Box the other day and a Daihatsu Tanto (kei-van) was parked there.
It’s nice to see the Europeans still attached to their wagons – it’s a shame we’ve deemed them dinosaurs in the US. It seems as I get older, I become even a bigger station wagon guy. Pretty soon I’ll be wearing plaid pants and white shoes….:-)
Thank you! Both places were extremely interesting and big points to my wife for researching them in advance, I just go with the flow (mostly).
It was quite jarring to see a Toyota police car in Germany. Not that there’s anything wrong with it per se and the Yaris is made in France and the Czech Republic, both EU countries, yet I never would have thought I’d see a foreign make in the livery.
The Europeans do love their wagons but they are welcoming a stranger into the garage as well in increasing numbers, the crossover…
What you wear in the privacy of your own home is entirely your own business, Mr. Brophy, and we shall not judge. 🙂
That green BMW wagon is just…perfect!
That’s what I came here to say, foremost. An enduringly fine design in a highly desireable colour and sweet condition.
While some of the cars were interesting I very much enjoyed Tempelhof and the history the airport represents. Fortunately Europeans tend to lean towards saving their old buildings/structures for their historical value which we tend not to do at all many times. I remember the period when the Old San Francisco Mint building (1874) life was being debated. National Historical Landmark gave it some protection. Eventually restored, unfortunately by a private company, for weddings, parties, corporate events and so forth. However, there are no public tours so consequently one cannot see the formidable vault floor from days past. So saved but turned into money for a private company…boo!
It is interesting that Tempelhof has been kept as a historical entity. When I visited in 1964 we flew into Tegel on Air France from Frankfurt. According to Wikipedia Air France had to switch from Tempelhof to Tegel when they started using the Caravelle as they required a longer runway than those at Tempelhof. As a 14 year old I found it interesting but for my parents the Airlift was not that long in the past.
Rear wiper was standard on all 240 Estates in Germany from day one on.
Would be surprised if it was different somewhere else in the world. As it clearly was a safety feature that demanded not much expense.
The posting above refers to the Volvo 240 wagon …
In Germany Bmw, Mercedes and Audi are for obvious reasons not seen upon as so prestigious as in the rest of the world.
This together with many germans being very careful with money means one can find so many well maintained older cars there which are very basically motorized and equipped, hence all the hubcaps.
The Opel Omega is a fine bit of work from the “wrong” brand. Although aerodynamically styled like the Audi 100 of 1982, it actually is aerodynamic, 028 cD versus the Audi´s commendable 3.0. The Kadett shown here is from the same period. Both design hold up well and I think if Opel´s image had not taken a mysterious nose dive at the end of the 80s these cars would get more design recognition than they do.
Aren´t Berlin streets really nice, with all those trees?
For all those interested in the Omega story, I recommand this:
(Many other videos on euro cars to see on his channel)
The straight-six Senator version was a very fine large car. Hard to fault.
Neither badge was anywhere ‘premium’ enough and sales dwindled.
From a US perspective, try imaging a ‘Honda’ Legend. Not that calling it an Acura helped much…
Snobismus was by then a thing.