2014 Germany: Most-Popular Historic Classic Cars

The Volkswagen Beetle (Käfer) remains Germany’s favorite historic car while Mercedes is the top classic car brand for H plate “old-timer” registrations.

VW Beetles in Autostadt
VW Beetle – Germany’s favorite historic vehicle © Volkswagen Media Services

At the beginning of 2014, the VW Beetle (Käfer / Sedan) was still easily the most common historic vehicle on German roads. The Beetle was followed by the Mercedes-Benz W123 (E class), which had moved into second position two years ago. The largest number of cars with Germany’s H number plates for historic vehicles is Mercedes-Benz cars followed by Volkswagen. In Germany cars older than 30 years in sound mechanical condition and in a mostly unaltered state may be registered as historical vehicles (H plates), which qualify for tax and insurance benefits as well as being allowed to drive in town centers where special emission rules are enforced.

Historic Vehicles in Germany

Mercedes-Benz SL
© Daimler

The number of historic cars (H-Kennzeichen) in Germany increased by 9.9% to 279,250 cars on January 1, 2014. The total number of historic vehicles registered with H plates is 314,000 including cars, motor cycles, trucks, buses and any other vehicle requiring registration plates in Germany.

Vehicles in Germany older than 30 years are considered “old timers”. Old timers in an unaltered state and in good mechanical condition may be registered as historic vehicles and receive number plates identified with an “H” at the end of the number. Such registration usually gives tax and insurance benefits. H-plate cars may also be driven in city centers where many older cars are banned due to high pollution. 62.2% of cars older than 30 years in Germany are registered as historic vehicles.

Most Popular Historic Vehicles by Brand in Germany in 2014

The most popular marques for classic cars in Germany in 2014 according to the VDA and KBA were:

RankBrand H2014 H2013 H2012
1Mercedes-Benz 67’105 59’965 53’767
2Volkswagen 52’152 47’537 43’720
3Opel 16’746 14’497 13’221
4Ford 16’091 14’455 12’855
5Porsche 14’815 13’932 11’654
6BMW 9’947 9’150 8’303
7GM (USA) 7’975 6’372 5’585
8Alfa Romeo 7’635 7’086 6’458
9Fiat 7’243 7’029 6’236
10Triumph 6’651 6’414 6’048
Mercedes-Benz Aerodynamics Photo
© Daimler

Mercedes-Benz cars easily remained the top choice for classic car enthusiasts in Germany, or its high number of H-plate registrations confirms the long-term quality of Mercedes cars.

The gap to second place Volkswagen has widened in the past few years – to a large extend helped the popularity of the W123 Mercedes that now mostly qualify for H plates. A further boost can be expected as the W201 (190) models are reaching the 30-years cut off point.

All the top ten brands saw an increase in H-plate registrations in the past year. (The VDA probably swapped the figures for Porsche and Opel in error a year ago.)

The biggest surprise is probably the presence of Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Triumph on the top-ten list. These brands are not generally considered to have been the most reliable, or rustproof, but clearly the older ones have their fans in Germany. In a separate study last year, the VDA found that old timers are often better maintained and increase in reliability as only better samples survive and weak parts are replaced by better quality. H-plate cars are rarely the main mode of transportation for owner and thus cover only limited mileage.

Popular Classic Car Models in Germany in 2014

The 15 most popular historic car models in Germany according to the VDA and KBA were:

BrandModel H2014% Change H2013 H2012
1VolkswagenKäfer (Beetle) 29’1357.9 27’002 26’857
2Mercedes-BenzW 123 11’70432 8’869 5’921
3Mercedes-BenzSL R 107 9’05112.5 8’048 7’103
4Porsche911 / 912 7’61817.4 6’489 5’500
5Mercedes-Benz/8 6’778-5.1 7’145 6’821
6Mercedes-BenzW111 / Heckflosse 4’905-1.6 4’987 4’965
7VolkswagenBus 4’4180 4’418 3’593
8Mercedes-BenzW113 / Pagode 4’140-0.4 4’155 4’096
9OpelKadett 3’3902.3 3’313 3’133
10Mercedes-BenzW 116 3’2311.1 3’195 3’128
11Mercedes-BenzW 108/109 3’052-0.4 3’064 3’010
12BMWBaureihe 02 2’7861.4 2’748 2’641
13OpelRekord / Olympia 2’656-3.6 2’758 2’676
14Alfa RomeoSpider 2’61010.2 2’368 2’027
15VolkswagenKarmann Ghia 2’3661.5 2’332 2’260


Mercedes W114, W123 and W124
© Daimler

The 15 most popular historic car models in Germany have remained the same during the past year but five models saw a decline in the total number of cars registered with H-plats in Germany. Four of these were Mercedes-Benz cars produced mostly in the 1960s indicating a generation change where younger people do not feel the same connection with these cars. Many of these classic cars are often not particularly valuable and as an older generation passes away or gives up on driving, their children and grandchildren often find it not worth continuing the maintenance and upkeep of rarely used cars.

Car models that can expect to increase in significant numbers on the H-plate register in the next few years include the Mercedes-Benz W123 and Porsche 911. The Mercedes-Benz W201, or 190 “Baby Benz”, produced from 1982 to 1993 is still registered in significant numbers in Germany and may well appear on the top 15 list soon.

Top Ten Historic Registered Vehicles in Germany in 2014

Six of the top ten historic number plate registered cars in Germany are Mercedes-Benz models but the VW Beetle is still easily in the lead.

Volkswagen Beetles
© VW

1. Volkswagen Beetle

The Volkswagen Beetle (Käfer in German or long simply Sedan) was the most-produced car ever and a top seller in Germany for decades. The last new VW Beetles were sold in Germany more than 30 years ago and the increase in H registrations are due to cars imported from other countries, or owners belatedly discovering the advantages of H-plate registrations.

Mercedes-Benz W123 T
© Daimler

2. Mercedes-Benz W123

The Mercedes-Benz W123 was produced in Germany from 1976 to 1986. The cars in sedan, coupé and station wagon format were hugely popular and in 1980 was the top-selling car model in Germany – the last time the top slot was not occupied by the Golf.

The number of H-plate registrations for the Mercedes-Benz W123 increased by nearly a third last year following a doubling the year before. The number is expected to increase strongly in the next three years.

Red Mercedes-Benz SL R107
© Daimler

3. Mercedes-Benz SL R107

The number of Mercedes-Benz SL cars of the R107 series with H plates grew steadily in Germany during the past few years.

The Mercedes-Benz SL R107 was produced from 1971 to 1989 and being exceptionally well constructed it is not surprising that so many survived and more can be expected to receive H plates in coming years. Only the G-Class had been produced as a single model for a longer period by Mercedes-Benz.

4. Porsche 911 / 912

Porsche 912 in green and silver
© Porsche

The number of Porsche 911 / 912 with historic plates in Germany has also been growing steadily in recent years. Like the Mercedes-Benz SL R107 the Porsche 911 benefits from a very long production period: 1963 to the present. Porsche 911s sold in large numbers in Germany during the early and mid-1980s so a further increase can be expected.

The Porsche 911 took fourth place from the Mercedes-Benz /8 – the only position change amongst the top ten most-popular historic vehicles.

5. Mercedes-Benz /8

Mercedes-Benz /8 Coupé
© Daimler

The Mercedes-Benz /8 or W114 / W115 saw the biggest total decline in numbers of the top 15 most-popular historic cars in Germany in 2014. The /8 was produced from 1968 to 1976 and although a classic Mercedes in appearance, especially from the front, is not as reliable and easy to use as regular vehicle as the subsequent W123, which is still hugely popular.

The Mercedes-Benz /8 more than any other model on the list suffers from a generation change where the younger owners do not feel the same emotional connection with the car. These cars are fairly cheap and often not worth maintaining for economic reasons.

Mercedes-Benz Heckflosse with Pan Am jet
© Daimler

6. Mercedes-Benz W111

The Mercedes-Benz W111 Heckflosse similarly saw a drop in total H-registrations numbers.

This Mercedes-Benz from the early 1960s (produced from 1959 to 1965) with discreet American tail fin (Heckflosse) styling is also suffering from aging owners and less interest from a younger generation.

7. Volkswagen Bus

VW Bus Old TImer Meeting
© Volkswagen

The Volkswagen Bus also has the benefit of a long production run that spans several model changes. The original bus – officially called Type 2 – was produced from 1950 onwards. The VW Bus has several models since and names – often not official – included Kombi, Transporter, Microbus, Samba, Bulli and Camper. The first water-cooled buses should start to qualify for H plates from next year.

8. Mercedes-Benz W113

Red Mercedes-Benz Pagode
© Daimler

The Mercedes-Benz W113 Pagode also saw a small drop in the number of cars registered on H plates. The W113 was produced from 1963 to 1971. It replaced the iconic 300 SL, of which the Gullwing cars are the most famous, but are available at far lower prices. However, prices are generally high enough to make it worth selling the car on rather than simply scrapping it.

9. Opel Kadett

Opel Kadett C Models
© GM

The Opel Kadett was produced in Germany from 1962 to 1993 and went through five major model updates. The small Kadett was hugely popular and in the 1980s often second in sales only to the VW Golf.

The name Kadett was dropped in favor of Astra in 1991.

10. Mercedes W116

Mercedes-Benz ABS adveritsement
© Daimler

The Mercedes-Benz W116 was the S-Class of the 1970s produced from 1972 to 1980. It was the first production car featuring ABS brakes.

See Also:

2013 – Most Popular Historic Vehicles Registered in Germany

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.