Letter of a participant
Oldtimer in Obwalden Switzerland has an extremely active classic car movement. My wife Fiona and I have lived in the country for two years now and when we moved out here we decided to drive our 1934 Speed 20SB Charlesworth Coupe (car number 16304, chassis number 11316, engine number 11765) out to our new home immediately after attending the Goodwood Revival meeting in 2009. We have been living just outside the beautiful city of Luzern ever since.
The Swiss love both European collectors’ cars and post-war American classics. Throughout the summer every weekend we see Chevrolet Impalas, Studebakers and early Corvettes, together with Rileys, MGs, Ferraris, Jaguars and the occasional Alvis. The Swiss public are supportive of the classic car movement and not only do the owners love to display their cars, but they also love driving them, which brings me to “Oldtimer in Obwalden”. I do not believe that there is any classic car meeting in the UK like Oldtimer in Obwalden!
It requires the closing of one small town, Sarnen, for a complete Saturday and a Sunday morning. It has over 500 classic cars driving out of the town on a mixture of public and private roads to two other locations – a village quite close on the Saturday afternoon and on the Sunday morning over 30 miles to a second town, Engelberg, a ski resort quite high in the mountains. It has been run each Whitsun for 11 years now and is widely supported by the town of Sarnen itself and by the local tourist authority. Over 95% of the classic cars are Swiss registered. It is unusual to see a foreign car at the meeting. We enjoyed the event so much last year that this year we were joined by our friends Jim and Angela Wiggle from the Aston Martin Owners Club. They drove from the UK specifically for the meeting in their 1972 Aston Martin Vantage, the first time that it had been out of the UK.
Early in the morning on Saturday 11th June we set off from our home in Meggen to the west of Luzern for the 30 mile drive to Sarnen. When we arrived at the town we were marshalled into the positions for displaying our cars. The Aston went to an area of the town which was primarily 60s and 70s and found itself with de Tomasos, Ferraris, Jaguars, post-war Rolls Royces and some American classics. We were directed to an area that was primarily pre-war cars. However, with 500 to 600 cars arriving in a couple of hours, just getting the cars displayed is a real organisational task in itself. The meeting opened up at 10 am to the public and was free of charge. By mid-morning there wasn’t an area of the town that wasn’t packed with beautiful classic cars. Although the Saturday morning was wet, it did not stop quite literally thousands of people crowding into the town to look at the cars. We also noted that there is an increasing trend for the drivers and passengers in the cars to dress in period attire. This year I would estimate that even in Saturday’s drizzle about 50% had dressed for the occasion. During the day there were classic motorbike displays, rides in vintage buses, rides in some of the classic cars, a display by an 1899 Locomobile steamer and even a man on a penny-farthing bike, all free-ofcharge to the spectators. After admiring the cars, enjoying some lunch and then some people watching, at about 3pm, the car owners returned to their cars. They then completed the ten mile run to the other end of the lake to Giswil, where the cars then drove through a steam fair and parked up in a new display. Most of this road was public but at one stage it did take us along little used roads in some woods and across streams with single track bridges without sides. Throughout the journey there were people lining the route to watch the “oldtimers” and take photographs. Once parked up at Giswil we all visited the steam fair with its ten traction engines and steam rollers, as well as a steam train, all close to the local railway station.
On Sunday 12th June we arrived back to Sarnen in convoy with the Aston (well, Jim paced his driving at our slightly more sedate speed). We were blessed with lovely weather and the cars were ushered into the town. After a small prize-giving and thanks, the cars departed towards Engelberg. It took about 45 minutes for all the cars to leave Sarnen, being applauded by the locals and spectators. Sunday’s drive is always more of a challenge and great fun. There was an alternative route available for cars which are long, low or slow, because the main designated route has some steep hills and sharp bends, although it was throughout on tarmac roads. Both the Alvis and Aston went for the more challenging route. Having left Sarnen on the main road we went to the next town, Alpenbach, and then drove through the industrial estate, across an active airfield and started our first climb. Using single track roads with hairpin bends we climbed 150 metres up an escarpment to cross through woods to join a main road to Stans. As with the previous day, photographers and spectators were out in force. Getting through Stans was quite slow and caused our Speed 20 to heat up, but once back on the open road we soon cooled down. The “oldtimers” were directed off the main road to Engelberg onto a single track road on the other side of the valley. We drove through barns, over covered bridges and past hang-glider landing fields, rejoining the main road at the bottom of the climb into Engelberg itself. With so many classics, there were some inevitable delays on this long hill. A few cars had to stop because of over-heating (not surprisingly most were older cars as well as an E-Type and a TVR). After several hairpins and a long climb, we were directed off to another small single track road for the final section to Engelberg. This narrow hillside road had some stunning views, as well as a couple of hard climbs and hairpin bends. We drove through a couple of hamlets before descending into Engelberg where we were parked up again by the ever-present marshals. The centre-piece of Sunday was a display of about 100 of the cars in the town park (including Roland Sandi’s 1935 Alvis Silver Eagle roadster), with a further 100 or so parked along the main pedestrian area of the town. The remainder were displayed in a car park close to the town centre. Everyone had lunch at the local restaurants and enjoyed the town, the cars and a local band, before setting off home in the mid-afternoon.
Apart from the very obvious differences from most classic car meetings, the final surprise is that that this meeting is also advertised as a photo-fest”. All the photographers are encouraged to load their photograph albums onto the OiO website so that others can enjoy them. It also means for the car owners that they have the opportunity to collect some photographs of their cars on the road and moving. Within three days of the event there were over 2,000 photographs loaded onto the website! Fiona and I would recommend this event to anyone looking for a focal point to a continental tour. It could even form the centre-piece to an organised tour in the future.
The website (www.O-iO.ch) is only in German, but Ruedi Muller, the organiser, speaks and writes very good English.