• Philipp Wente

The history of the automobile.

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Oldtimer collection. In a former factory building in Hersbruck, Franconia, the Dauphin family created a unique place of communication and a noble event location. A place of amazement, enjoyment and dreaming: the Dauphin Speed Event houses an outstanding collection of 160 precious automobiles and 300 motorcycles.

"Let me tell you a story. I had a good friend who lived in South America. We often visited each other. One day we were talking about my passion for collecting. My friend said to me: Oh, the things you collect. I'm collecting something else. This one.' And pulled out of his pocket a thick bundle of dollar bills. Out of honest conviction, I replied: You know what? You're a poor man. How can you do something like that? Collect art, collect anything you enjoy.'"

Everything we do," Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin continues, "is about exactly that. Our chairs and furniture, our wine or even our collection of automobiles and motorcycles should increase the joy in life, the joy in life. Not only our own, but more importantly for us, other people's."

He and his wife Elke, to whom he was married for more than half a century and who died at the end of 2016, as well as their daughter Antje, who has been active in the management of the group for more than twenty years, form the 'We'.

The story of the family empire with an affinity for collecting and cars begins, almost banally, during rush hour in the Frankfurt tram. Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin remembers that the most beautiful woman in the world stood before him, as if from heaven. He, a cavalier of old school, offered his seat. A year and a half later, the business economist from the Franconian province married the merchant with roots in Potsdam. A guy who sees opportunities. And she grabs the head.

In business terms, this was in 1968. Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin prepared a market analysis for Germany for the British office chair manufacturer Evertaut. In Dauphin's eyes this was very promising. As it was difficult to convince Evertaut, he offered to buy the German branch himself - it was the hour of birth of the later office furniture factory Friedrich-W. Dauphin. Shortly afterwards, Dauphin invented a swivel chair that could be packaged to save space, shipped cheaply and assembled conically on site in an uncomplicated manner. In the following years he acquires related companies - including their know-how. And develop this further.

Today, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin holds more than 85 patents. 23 sales and production companies in Germany and abroad are part of the Group, whose headquarters are in Offenhausen, its home town. Father and daughter Dauphin employ around 750 people and have subsidiaries, agencies and licensees in 81 countries. The Dauphin Group is thus also one of the largest manufacturers of office and contract furniture in Europe (private wealth, 03/2009).

The impulse to collect vintage cars came much earlier. Already at the end of the 1960s Elke Dauphin set this. Until then, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin had mainly collected historical handguns and watches as a hobby. With an unpleasant side effect: The cleaning oil stinks terribly. Elke Dauphin suggested collecting something that smells better and is fun for everyone in the family. So > the two bought the first Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. "Because he was so beautiful." Elke Dauphin will drive the not so easily controllable vehicle for decades even at different rallies. A little later, the entrepreneur acquires the first two Ferraris. "Because they were so irresistible."

Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin remembers: "My first own car was a DKW F8. I couldn't afford anything else as a young man back then. But I associate great memories with this little vehicle. My first trip to Europe at the age of 18 with my girlfriend, the tent on the back seat. "Mountain routes in the Alps, Italy, sun, sea...

A few years later, Dauphin is now an independent business consultant, he afforded his automobile dream of the time, an Alfa Romeo Duetto. He drives exclusively with this car, always open, even in winter. Which, of course, isn't exactly good for his health. A four-door Giulia Super therefore replaces the open Duetto. Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin is an Alfa Romeo driver by conviction. And he is still enthusiastic about the beautifully designed designs of the northern Italians.

He also structures his automobile collection in a brand-related way: "It's actually quite simple. I ask myself: Which brand has built special cars? The Ferraris are short wheel bases. The Carrera models at Porsche. I orientate myself on interesting brands and exclusively choose the unusual, the special models. Those who wrote history. This also includes certain BMW models, such as the 328 or the 507. And, look around you, Alfa Romeo, quite decisively. These are beautiful cars. In addition, compared to the sedate Mercedes-Benz models, for example, the pre-war Alfas are incredibly light and sporty cars."

At the back right, in the corner, there is a vehicle that initially doesn't really fit the brands just listed - a red Honda S800 from 1967: "This was the first car from Japan to come to Europe in appreciable numbers - the beginning of Japanese car export success. Dauphin explains that the engine comes from racing motorcycle technology. 67 hp at 8700 revolutions. "That's what the entire German Council of Experts said: "It can't hold, it's gonna break. In order to prove exactly this, the Braunschweig Technical University put the engine to the test. "8500 revolutions, engine running, 9500, engine running, 11000, engine running. Shortly before 12000 revolutions there was a terrible blow. The test bench, it's broken. But the engine continued to run unimpressed. Some gentlemen in the European car industry have become very thoughtful."

The Dauphins were and are also concerned with creating as complete a representation as possible of the history of sporty automobiles. What has become of the beginnings in the early seventies until today, however, was not foreseeable. On the one hand the size, on the other hand the sheer value of individual exhibits. "One always expects that at some point the peak will be reached, the moment comes when prices will not rise any further. But it does not seem to stop," says Antje Dauphin. However, maintaining or increasing value has never been the motivation for collecting. "You can drive a car, you can enjoy it and others can enjoy it, you can collect it," explains Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin. Money, on the other hand, is neither tangible nor comprehensible.

On the other hand, he lacks any understanding for people who hide automotive valuables in cellar garages. "We have set ourselves the goal of showing the development of automobiles and motorcycles and getting people excited about it. We say: "Come here, feel at home and look at everything in peace!

To make this possible, the family opened the glamorous Dauphin Speed Event in 2004, a large exhibition and event hall for up to 500 people in a former factory building in Hersbruck. Outside: a lovingly landscaped park, a mini-Versailles with giant trees over shaped timbers, putting greens like lawn and a pond with Koi. Inside: Trellises made of sacred sheet metal, which can be visited by anyone by appointment. Slit eyes and goggle eyes stare at visitors, mouths grin and pull snouts, horses stand on their hind legs: Ferrari logo, Audi rings, Mercedes stars, Opel flashes shine - 160 European vintage sports cars gather on an area about the size of a football field. There are 300 motorcycle rarities in the gallery. A unique abundance of exquisite quality.

The building was originally an elevator factory, designed by Robert L. Kappler, an important Nuremberg architect. Completely oriented to the north, the interior is largely spared the UV rays that damage the valuable exhibits. It was Elke Dauphin who initiated and advanced the project. Today many events take place here, from company events to private parties and celebrations to trade fairs.

In the meantime, the property has even developed into an essential marketing tool for the Dauphins' core business. Here they welcome business partners from the office furniture industry. To sniff the smell of vintage gasoline, as he says. It's a communication point. A place of wonder, enjoyment, dreaming and lingering.

And it's a place of stories. After all, Dauphin can tell a little anecdote about each of its more than 400 exhibits. "Take a look at the 1939 Bugatti T 57 SC Atlantic Coupé. Ettore Bugatti - il patrone - wanted to build the most beautiful and fastest two-seater coupé of his time."

To achieve this goal, he first used an engine from his own racing department. 180 hp - which was a lot at a time when normal cars had up to 50 hp. To make the vehicle as light as possible, he used a magnesium-aluminium alloy from the aerospace industry. "The disadvantage was that this material could neither be welded nor soldered. Bugatti had to connect the parts with rivets. That's why the car has this characteristic riveted double seam that runs centrally across the entire body."

Because the alloy had crumbled in the following years, the expert lover had the body rebuilt according to the original models. "It's now made of the aluminum that Audi uses today. Everyone hopes it lasts longer. We'll know in 50 years." Today, experts are arguing about how many of these cars still exist. "I know one man who insists there are three worldwide," smiles Dauphin, "but I know six of these three personally." In fact, there must be seven of them. Seven Bugattis, which already had the value of three to four single-family houses when they were first sold.

"Or here, diagonally opposite: the Osca. Three Maserati brothers had founded the company in 1947 to specialize in racing cars. Right next to it: the Cisitalia. The line of his side view, his Flyline, has determined the appearance of most racing cars for 30 years. He was the model of all these beautiful Alfa Romeos, Lamborghinis, Ferraris..."

Once, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin continues, he sat in front of the bar, which is located in the entrance area, over a fresh coffee when a man came in. He said to him: "I've heard that you have a Van Veen Wankel motorcycle here. I'd like to see that." Dauphin offered to take a look at the entire collection. The man, however, beckoned friendly. He just wanted to see this one motorcycle.

Dauphin led him to the rare exhibit. Once there, the visitor asked to be allowed to be alone for a moment, he wanted to enjoy the motorcycle. After about half an hour he came back to the bar, thanked me very much. It was an incredible event for him to be allowed to experience this motorcycle. Why, he didn't say. That would be none of Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin's business. "The glow in his eyes was enough thanks to me. That's exactly why we built this collection."


Oldtimer for the Youngtimer - what has to be considered with the transmission von Sammlungen.

If a vintage car collection is passed on to the next generation, this can ideally be done 100 percent tax-free. However, some important facets need to be taken into account. Martin Lindenau, Arweiler Lindenau Rechtsanwälte, and Dr. Michael Kühn, Sozietät Rittershaus, explain the details:

"The Inheritance Tax Act contains a - ideally complete - tax exemption for cultural property. This is not limited to listed real estate or art in the sense of the old masters. Collections, including collections of vintage cars, may also fall under the tax privilege if the vehicles in their entirety and composition are of extraordinary importance for cultural history or science. The fact that the state is interested in the preservation of vintage cars is already apparent from the Vehicle Registration Ordinance, according to which the vintage car serves the 'maintenance of motor vehicle technical cultural assets'. In its widely acclaimed landmark ruling of 12 May 2016, the Federal Fiscal Court has now clearly ruled in favour of taxpayers in the contentious issues that had previously been neuralgic. The declared willingness of the owner to comply with the rules of the monument protection laws is sufficient to ensure that the objects are subject to the regulations of monument preservation. In order to obtain the tax exemption, it is essential to keep the classic cars in family ownership for at least 20 years and, in consultation with the tax authorities, to ensure that the state has an interest in maintaining the collection. Insofar as the other conditions for tax exemption (including unprofitability and utilization for popular education) are met, a 100 percent tax-free oldtimer collection can be transferred to the next generation.

If the collection exceeds a certain value, it is advisable to obtain binding information from the tax office. If this turns out to be negative, the establishment of a charitable foundation to promote automotive culture would be an alternative. This means that all vehicles - even those without 20 years of family ownership and without a strict collection concept - could be made 100 percent tax-free. And that also for future generations.

It should also be noted that the tax treatment of classic cars in company assets has changed recently. Until the new inheritance tax regulations were introduced last year, vehicles with H-plates were fully exempt from inheritance tax when the company was transferred. Therefore, no inheritance or gift tax was levied if the beneficiary complied with the rules on the continuation of the business.

At the instigation of the North Rhine-Westphalian SPD, the catalogue of so-called administrative assets was extended to include 'oldtimers' and 'other items typically used for private life'. Passé is thus the opportunity to insert a valuable coachwork into the company shortly before the transfer of the company to the son.

What remains are the tax possibilities of a classic car trading company: If the collection is large enough and the owner has already enjoyed buying new pieces and returning individual vehicles to the market earlier, such a company can still be passed on to the next generation tax-free in the future. Occasional exits remain feasible in this construct. Finally, vehicles must be moved and tested from a technical point of view in order to maintain their value.

Anyone who would also like to let friends and family enjoy driving a valuable vintage car - for example as part of a rally - can set up a vintage car rental with his collection. The legislator has decided to permit not only trade but also the transfer of use against payment as a favoured business purpose. The disadvantage here is that the vehicles are not included in the balance sheet under current assets but under fixed assets and are therefore subject to depreciation.

If individual vehicles are to be sold again at a later date, the taxable profit increases to the point of full taxation of the sales price. If, however, the owner can live with the fact that his vehicles are written off to their memorable value because he does not intend to sell them anyway, vehicle rental is the option of choice."


Caution: The biggest collector's errors.

The most dangerous thing for a collector is to buy a car in the situation in which he absolutely wants to have that one, says Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin. Because he had sat in his head that this was exactly what he needed. In such a situation, even the best collectors make mistakes and forget their own valuation, which they actually have in mind. "And so I have already made purchases for which I have paid far too much. Because I really wanted the car. Maybe because it was so beautiful." Fortunately, the rapid increase in value in recent years has been able to correct some of his mistakes.

Under no circumstances should a car be bought without having checked it for defects beforehand. "You won't believe how often this has led to disappointment. Unfortunately, this did not happen to me only once. Almost exclusively on cars we bought from America." An example: He wanted to buy a Ferrari without having the opportunity to personally inspect it. So he asked experts and friends to do it for him. Everyone said the car looked great. When the vehicle arrived in Hersbruck, Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin was almost struck by the blow: the Ferrari, which had been outwardly dressed to sell, proved to be a substantial scrap heap. "He was so lazy inside, it was horrible. It has not yet been completely restored. These are moments that really hurt. "And can permanently dull the joy of the beautiful hobby.



Author: Philipp Wente

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