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If Top Gear did lock-up garages…

  1. No poet or writer ever posited that Nirvana was located in a
    converted tram shed in a post-industrial part of West Berlin, but trust me,
    it’s there. This is Meilenwerk. You won’t stumble upon it unless you area
    particularly clued-up automotive tourist, so consider this a TopGear  top
    tip: if you’re in Berlin for the weekend, for God’s sake, don’t miss this
    place. It will make your eyeballs explode and your heart pump so fast it’ll
    hurt your ribs. It might also severely dent your wallet, but it’ll be worth it.

    Words: Jason Barlow
    Photography: Ripley & Ripley

    This feature was originally published in the May issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. So what is this auto-pleasuredome? A garage, basically.
    Possibly a museum. Or indeed both. There’s a major car dealership in there -
    Ferrari/Maserati’s Berlin operation - and, rather curiously, a Riva boat
    dealer. There are shops specialising in all sorts of mouth-watering automotive
    memorabilia, classic car dealers with stuff for sale that you will almost
    certainly never have seen in the flesh before, and workshops dedicated to
    servicing and maintaining German, Italian, French and British cars. There’s an
    in-house car rental company whose main investor is, apparently, a member of
    leading German industrial rock outfit Rammstein, with an inventory that’s about
    as eccentric as the band’s back catalogue (more of which later - the cars, that
    is… not Rammstein). There’s even a fabulous bistro and restaurant whose
    kitchen is run by chefs with Michelin-starred experience. It’s a hell of a day
    out, in other words.

  3. The first Meilenwerk [Mile Works] opened in 2004 and, like
    all great ideas, is fundamentally pretty simple. Space for parking is at a
    premium in most big cities, which is why if you wander into any NCP or posh
    hotel car park in, say, London, there’s usually something tasty in the shadows.
    Personally, I’d be none too happy to leave my Enzo vulnerable to passing
    anarchists or negligent parkers, never mind the trouser-dropping fees these
    concrete monoliths charge for the privilege.

    Which is where Meilenwerk comes in. Book a space in here -
    for a pretty reasonable €150 a month - and your car won’t just be safe, it’ll
    be on display in a glass box, mounted on a spectacular dual level along with
    hundreds of others. Access to it is available 24/7, the place is awash with
    CCTV and the entire building is temperature-controlled to maintain the perfect
    climatic conditions for its valuable inhabitants.

  4. It gets better, though. Meilenwerk’s manager, Yvo Konzag,
    runs the place very democratically. Anyone can visit, Monday to Sunday, 9 to
    5pm. It’s free to enter. But, better still, rather than adhering to some dubious
    auto-apartheid, he is more interested in housing interesting cars than
    (literally) showcasing the latest big or most valuable thing. “The idea for
    Meilenwerk came from a German property developer with a passion for classic
    cars. We’re interested in all sorts of cars, not just exotica. The location was
    found by pure coincidence, and we always try to find an historic building,
    somewhere of real substance” says Yvo.

  5. Our guide for the day is car designer and entrepreneur Chris
    Hrabalek, who also happens to be the guy who masterminded the new Stratos we
    drove earlier this year
    . Chris runs his busy design consultancy from an office in
    Meilenwerk, but also keeps some of his cars here. A lifetime’s judicious buying
    and selling has netted him a truly remarkable collection. The pinky-red Stratos
    - the original Bertone concept - and turbocharged Group 5 Stratos racer are both his, and two of his Bugatti EB110s (he
    has more) are also stored here.

  6. “Car museums are usually dead,” Chris says. “They’re an
    outdated concept. They also tend to be located outside the city centre. This is
    a living place - cars are coming and going. I guarantee you that if you came
    back here next week, 20 per cent of the cars on display would be different.
    There’s action. People have their cars serviced here. And cars are always being
    sold, so there’s a fascinating turnover.”

  7. He’s not kidding. The moment you pass through the
    wrought-iron gates and into the outdoor car park, you know something unusually
    good is about to happen. It’s quirky, too, so if you have, let’s just say,
    rather Catholic tastes or are frankly plain weird, then prepare yourself. I’m afraid
    I come over all unnecessary when I spot a late-Sixties Ford Consul coupe,
    parked next to one of those glorious corrugated Citroen H vans. Tucked up in
    the far corner is a gently mouldering Eighties Citroen CX GTi, a Fifties DKW
    (one of the precursors to Audi, and one of the four rings of the Audi badge)
    and, best of all, an extremely rare but very tidy-looking mid-Fifties Lancia Flaminia
    Coupe (for sale at €7,800, might need a bit of work.)

  8. That’s just the car park. Inside? Paradise. A veritable
    treasure trove. There’s a double-decked row of glass boxes stretching the
    entire length of the building (itself a marvellous piece of architecture, and a
    recipient of some heritage money that part-funded its restoration). The first
    row contained an Iso Grifo, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Jaguar XK140 convertible,
    a Sixties Corvette Stingray, a Ferrari F355, a Maserati Bora, a Ferrari 599
    GTO, a Mercedes 170S, a pair of Mercedes 300SL roadsters and a 300SL Gullwing,
    a Maserati Mexico and a Ferrari Enzo. All together, all immaculate. In a row.

  9. Opposite that little lot, as you walk in, is a smattering of
    the Rammstein rental fleet. Various Porsches and Mercedes SLs are available,
    but it’s the odd stuff that really catches the eye. I’d never previously given
    much thought to driving round Berlin in a Citroen Mehari, AMC Pacer, New York
    Checker cab, Glas Goggomobil, Tatra 603 or, and I loved this, Sixties Cold War
    Soviet-era Tschaika M13 limo. But you can. Dirk Salomon, Rammstein business
    partner and a giant bear of a man, tells us we really should have booked ahead,
    and his dog growls at us, but he still lets us borrow one of his cars for a
    quick photo op. It’s a gold Chevy Suburban, a car that takes considerable
    chutzpah to drive around Berlin. Or indeed anywhere outside Asswipe, Idaho.

  10. The car dealers inside have an equally eclectic selection of
    stock. There’s a sumptuous Fifties Bentley R-Type Continental with seats
    trimmed in alligator hide (a cool half a mil). Next to that is a Ferrari 400
    (yours for €38,900). A late-Seventies Aston Martin Vantage is parked behind a
    shooting brake version of the über-wedge Seventies Aston Lagonda (ever seen one
    of those? Me neither). Elsewhere, I spot a De Tomaso Pantera, a Jaguar XJ 220,
    a ‘73 Porsche 911 RS, a Ferrari BB 512, Daytona and 575 Superamerica and
    countless covetable Mercedeses. For a car lover of a certain vintage, it’s like
    being stuck inside a giant box of Top Trumps. 

  11. Then we take a tour of the specialists on the opposite side
    of the building. Chris says that they really do adhere to the well-worn national
    stereotypes (he’s a well-travelled Austrian, so he can get away with it), and
    Mauro, who runs the Italian workshop, immediately does his bit by having a
    picture of Sophia Loren on the wall and saying: “When I was younger, if a woman
    came to me for a clutch change, I would make love to them rather than accept
    any payment.” There’s a Sixties Giulia saloon with Carabinieri decals over it
    in his shop and a stunning Maserati 5000 GT Allemano once owned by Fifties
    Hollywood legend Stewart Granger. These are not things you see every day.

  12. As well as Berlin, you’ll find two other outposts: one in
    Stuttgart, the other in Dusseldorf. Visit, if you get the chance. And if you
    happen to be a car-loving property developer with a big vacant warehouse in the
    middle of a major British city, can we have one, please? Seriously. We’d like
    it very much.

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