Birzai, the first weekend of August and the international antique and classic car show “Timeless Classic” – has long been a combination of the holy trinity, which is ingrained in the blood, the stings and the roots of all pilgrims to the cult of vintage machinery. Once a year, they come to one place, not only from Lithuania, but also from distant countries. It is the largest vintage machinery event in the Baltic States.
On 5 August, at the traditional meeting point of the “Timeless Classic“ at the Sodeliskiai manor, the action has been bustling since early morning. The park of machinery from all generations and all over the world is growing under the eyes of the exhibitors in the pre-start area, and the pens are bouncing around the registration area like crazy. There was plenty to do: when the registration was closed, it became clear that more than 120 exhibits of vintage machinery from Estonia, Latvia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Georgia and Lithuania came to the 16th annual festival “Timeless Classic 2023”. As always, the majority were cars. Collectors of European, American and Soviet cars brought 112 units, as well as one bus, one truck and 7 motorcycles. Although two-wheeled vehicles are not new to the festival, it is only since this year the additional nomination for the best vintage motorcycle has been established. The additional nomination did not exclude cars made in the United States of America. As Egidijus Einoris, President of the club “Klasika” celebrating its 15th birthday, pointed out, the number of so-called Americans is growing every year, so another new nomination for the “Best American Vehicle” is a natural evolutionary step for the festival.
There were more strong (and still first) steps: for the first time in 16 years, the festival organizer finally dared to test how important the festival is to both local and international visitors. As the events and the number of visitors have shown, the festival has become an integral part of the Birzai culture, even though neither the municipality of Birzai, nor any other state organization has ever contributed financially or materially. We will be sure to talk about this later but for now, let‘s take it one step at a time.
Before the big parade we have few hours to take a look at who and what has been brought to the big site of the “Timeless Classic“ antique and classic car show. It is worth noting that this year the number of participants has increased by almost a fifth. In 2021, the 22nd year, there were about a hundred exhibitors, and this year, as we have already mentioned, the number of exhibitors passed the 120 mark. All of them were described in a unique exhibition catalogue, freshly printed every year.
Although the lawn in front of Sodeliskiai manor makes the eyes sparkle with the strangest shapes or the glitter of chrome, old-timers old man of the exhibition always rush to the inner courtyard. With all the due respect to all the other exhibitors, it is here that organizers always line up the best of the best, surrounded by the most famous collectors and restorers. Here we met the multiple Grand Prix winners of the festival, Aleksandras Obymacha, Janis Oskerko and Albinas Monstavicius, who again this year presented the previously seen sports beast of the Le Mans series, the “Bentley Speed 8”, and the oldest car at the exhibition – the 111-year-old “Minerva BB Tourer”.
Next to it is a rare and flashy roadster: a 1959 „Mercedes Benz 300 SC“. It was brought by Marks Mejerovs, another Latvian collector who has won various nominations at the festival. His colleague, and in this case competitor for the Grand Prix, Janis Oskerko, together with the restorer Andrej Rode, brought a perfectly restored “Fiat 519“ to the exhibition. This shiny aluminum bonneted exhibit, known as the car of kings, is believed to be the only one left in the world.
Indeed, it would take several lifetimes to tell and at least describe in a few words the story of every exhibit that came to the „Timeless Classic” festival. We will come back to the most special, the rarest and the most interesting exhibits, but now it is time for the parade. Traditionally, the parade is the start of the biggest part of the festival. Ahead of us is the 17 kilometres in one direction on the route Sodeliskiai – Birzai. A big celebration is already waiting at the Birzai Aero Club, with plenty of spectators along the way.
Just look at how many people in Birzai meet the „Timeless Classic” parade, which is several kilometers long, escorted by the police. Smiles and good spirits are in the air: a lively corridor welcoming fans of vintage machinery stretches across the whole town. Interestingly, the gathering was not by chance. They have been waiting for the parade on the horizon for at least an hour, because the message has been programmed in the subconscious of the people of Birzai for a long time. They know that on the first Saturday of August, an extraordinary column will appear in Birzai with extraordinary exhibits that are only few times a year driven out of the most secret collectors’ garages.
The picture did not change much when the „Timeless Classics” column of vintage machinery arrived at the Birzai Aero Club. The cars could barely fit in, and the event security guards along with the marshals, were buzzing like bees working up a sweat.
At this point, it is time to talk about the fact that the face of the 2023 festival has changed dramatically. It may not have been noticed by first or second-time visitors, but the chroniclers of „Timeless Classic” have noticed a major transformation of the event. First of all, the event became a paid event for the audience. The symbolic €5 for an adult ticket was the best litmus test to show how important and interesting this event is for the people of Birzai, or for the visitors coming from further afield. After all, if you don’t want to or are not interested, you will not pay a single penny!
„It was very difficult to predict how the visitors of the „Timeless Classic” festival would react to the tickets, but we can already see that over the years we have been on the right track: this traditional celebration of vintage machinery attracts people, people want to see it and they do not regret the few euros that helps us, the organizers, a lot. After all, a screen, a stage or a lot of people with different roles in the event do not fall from the sky. For the support and trust of the „Klasika” club, we would like to say a big thank you to each and every person who visited the 16th „Timeless Classic” festival”, – the organisers thanked the fans of the event, seeing how many people flocked to the Birzai Aero Club.
In addition to being able to touch each car with your eyes, take a photo next to it or hear its unique life story, the organisers of the „Timeless Classic” also offered visitors a host of other enjoyable activities and trivia. Perhaps the biggest attraction was the podium with its giant outdoor screen. Anyone who wished to do so could go up on the car stage and talk about his or her machinery. The stage even crackled from the most flashy and heavy Rolls Royce’s, Mercedes’s, to the oldest, strangest and most unique cars. It was hard to tell whether the queue at the podium had even finished, as the cars went on and on in a never-ending loop, with small breaks in between. The spectators, who patiently listened to the interesting stories of the resurrection and emergence of vintage machinery, even in the rain, are to be praised.
Even when the sky broke, the good mood of the „Timeless Classic” was not spoiled. All day long, the Birzai Aero Club was bustling with life: in addition to the car exhibition and their presentations on the ramp, the audience watched on the screen films from the previous year’s festival; the performance of modified cars; and on the podium the traditional fashion demonstrations of the „Santarve” model school, which have long been an integral part of the festival.
While the audience was looking around and the exhibitors were looking at each other, the jury members of the festival finished their work. After all, it should not be forgotten that more than 120 exhibitors competed in as many as 9 nominations. It should be noted that this year‘s awards were not held in a small circle of like-minded people at Sodeliskiai manor, but in the presence of the audience. This is another new step for the festival.
First on the podium was the „Buick Special“ that rolled off the assembly line in America in 1958. The owner of this wheeled craft, Estonian Andrus Jõesaar, took home a new nomination award for „Best American Car”.
After Buick on the podium – „Best Soviet Car”. The award remained in Lithuania and was presented to Rolandas Kripaitis. Rolandas presented a „GAZ 21 Volga“, built in 1958. Looking at this 65-year-old car, one can guess it looks better today than when it left the factory.
Sigitas Zajarskas, a long-time participant in the „Timeless Classic”, won one of the most challenging nominations for „Most Beautiful Car”. You have to admit, it is extremely difficult to choose the one among 120 perfect-looking entrants. The trophy for the nomination went to the resident of Pasvalys for his two-seater „Chrysler CP8 Convertible Coupe“. The car was built in 1932.
The only vintage electric car at the festival made in the United States of America in the 1930s that appeared at the exhibition did not go unnoticed. The award for „Best Restoration” went to Üllar Suvemaa, an Estonian who has already told you the interesting story of the car.
„Best Vintage Car” award and a letter certifying it were presented to Stanislovas Bartkevicius, the flag bearer of the “Klasika“ club. A „Mercedes Benz 290 Cabrio D Long” of the highest quality and luxury found its way to Moscow as a war trophy after the Second World War, and later, by the most unlikely circumstances, to Lithuania. The body of the car, designed in 1935 for Wehrmacht generals, is unique. So far, only 2 of these convertible bodies with a wheelbase of 3 meters 30 centimeters are known to exist in the world.
It did not take long to consider “The Oldest Car“. The nomination trophy went to Albinas Monstavicius for his 111-year-old “Minerva BB Tourier“. The nomination was definitely given not only because there was no other competitor of that age at the festival. The car itself has been meticulously restored, so both it and its owner fully deserve this award.
Another new nomination for „Best Motorcycle” went to Aidas Gicevicius. His restored “DKW SB 500”, built for the Wehrmacht forces, was named the best among the 7 motorcycles that took part in the show. The motorcycle, which carried bad guys with submachine guns, saw the light of day in 1934.
The jury, even before the start of the exhibition, voted the „Mercedes Benz 300 SC” roadster presented in the courtyard of Sodeliskiai manor, as the „Best Classic Car since 1945”. Although the car did not appear on the podium, the prize was handed over to Latvian collector Marks Mejerovs. We have already mentioned that the owner of this car is no stranger to the „Timeless Classic” festival, so he certainly knows what he needs to do to catch the jury‘s attention.
While last year the jury did not agree on anything and the most important nomination, the Grand Prix, was not awarded, this year there were no major disagreements. The top trophy was awarded to Latvian collector Janis Oskerko. He and his team of restorers won the prize with the royal „FIAT 519“ built in 1924. This is the third Grand Prix Janis Oskerko has won at the „Timeless Classic” festival. So far, Mr Janis is the all-time leader in the 16th year of the festival. The closest to him is the Lithuanian collector Aleksandras Obymacha with two Grand Prix awards. In the article prior to the event, the organizers aptly noted that „… the two restoration greats – Rode and Obymacha, are pulling one rare car after another out of their sleeves like magicians”.
With the last awarded handed out and the rain pouring down, there was no need to urge the participants to return to Sodeliskes manor. The exhibition in Birzai Aero Club was over, and the participants returned to the traditional evening party without noticing that more than 5 hours had passed. This is the time when you can take your breath, untie your bow tie and with a glass of a drink in your hand, chat with like-minded people, even listen to a few concerts, and with your lifted head, watch the festive fireworks display that herald the end of the festival.
Perhaps, the annual „Timeless Classic” film should put a full stop here, but before that, a short remark about the winners of the festival‘s prizes or Grand Prix. Even before the event, there were some ill-founded rumor’s in the public space that the prizewinners are always the same and it looks strange. We will say it again and again – anyone can be a prizewinner. And the fact that every year we hear the names of those who are already well-known is a sign that the festival already has its own elite of participants, whose representatives come only for the highest awards. More importantly, the same collectors bring different cars each time, and no car has won the same title more than once.
Now that’s really it. On behalf of the organizers, thank you to all the partners and supporters who attended and rode to the 2023 „Timeless Classic” festival.