Our Bulldogs at Düsseldorf Carnival

We have to admit, all of us were a little nervous. We had been for a while, up until the event took place. Would everything go as planned? Had we thought of everything? How would the crowd react? What about all the local groups that had already been established for decades – would they welcome us? Would we find our way around in this big city right away? And most of all: what was this year’s crazy weather with all of its unpredictable storms going to be like? Would the storm and the rain eventually ruin everything?

But let’s start at the very beginning. With our new managing director, Matthias Templin, new creative ideas came into play for the Technik Museen Sinsheim Speyer. Long before I met him in person, more or less official sources in the halls of our museum and in our offices assured me that “he is an expert in advertisement and public relations”. Being a genuine carnival reveller – beware of the different German terms, “Karneval” mostly in Western Germany or “Fasching” mostly in Southeastern Germany – and a member of the carnival society Düsseldorfer Ehrengarde (lit. Düsseldorf Guard of Honour), he came up with the idea to participate in this year’s Shrove Monday Procession with two of our noisy Lanz Bulldogs. He probably wasn’t expecting such enthusiasm with the Lanz Bulldog Team; Hermann Layher, the president of our museum, however, immediately offered to provide his private 55-hp Speed-Bulldog for the event. “My Bulldog with a neat couple on top, what a dream come true!” he told me during an indispensable briefing about the specifics of the vehicle and a presidential driving lesson, with a particular focus on gear changing. “You have to slam the gear lever into first gear with both hands! It’s a Speed-Bulldog after all, he doesn’t like the first gear, he wants higher gears and higher speed,” Layher said.

A week later, our forwarding company, which is already well-known to our loyal fans, arrived at the museum’s premises with their green lorries in order to transport the two hot bulbs.

So far, we have had only good experiences with the green lorries transporting the museum’s exhibits. After a rough night on the road through storm and torrential rain, quote “f*** this sh**”, asphalt cowboy Stephan finally made it to Düsseldorf in the early morning. We promptly unloaded both Bulldogs, the HR D1506 (construction year 1938) and the HR9 D2531 (construction year 1952), at six in the morning near the restaurant “Schützenhaus Goldene Mösch”. Had the residents already gotten used to all the noise? I doubt it, at least not at this unearthly hour. The blow torches were hissing and flickering wildly under the two hot bulbs, which was absolutely necessary considering the low temperatures that day. “The Speed-Bulldog has a nose of stainless steel, so you have to check your watch while preheating, there’s no fast way to do that,” engineer Layher told me. However, time was passing by quickly: right in the morning, Matthias Templin arrived and got out of his car, all ready to go with working gloves in his hands: “Everything alright, guys?” I nodded and immediately saw that those gloves would help covering up his blazing red painted fingernails. “Is something wrong with him?” my girlfriend whispered in my ear, perplex. But before I was able to think and smirk about it, I remembered what we were here for: the Shrove Monday Procession.

So, I hopped on the Bulldog, started the gas, activated the glowplug, operated the starter, checked the sense of rotation, and sensitively but resolutely engaged the reverse gear. Wow, the loading ramps were pretty steep and the hissing sound of the air brake system, sounding approximately like “shhheffffff”, made it especially hard for me to trust my colleagues who were supposed to tell me if the wheels were still rolling down the ramps centrically or if I was about to experience a disaster. Scuffing the president’s Bulldog? THE worst-case scenario.

So, I had to focus. Next stop: drivers’ briefing at “Goldene Mösch”. Heiner, my long-time colleague and an institution in the Lanz Bulldog team, took the briefing so serious, he even forgot about our car – standing in the middle of the street, unlocked and with all our tools spread out around it – and literally stormed off to get our registration number. “63.01” was going to be our number. Really? The Technik Museen Sinsheim Speyer had actually been listed as “Hanomag Museum Speyer” and “Unimog Museum Speyer”. Proud of our recently completed start procedure, including blow torches and muscle-powered starters, we were slightly offended by that. They treated us as if we had shown up with just another multi-cylinder vehicle, like the Agri-Technica plastic tractor armada next to us. It must have been a clownish joke, I thought. No wonder, even the organisation team of the parade had been adorned with carnival decoration, already in the early morning. Only a Christmas tree would be ornamented like that back home in Nordbaden, in Southwestern Germany. Generally, however, the sympathetic, open-minded, talkative, cooperative, and delightful nature of the people here in the Lower Rhine region stood out to us. “Next year you have to pull a themed wagon,” people told us multiple times. I guess we will have to let our organisers know that, unofficially, our participation is already scheduled for next year.

On the way to our starting position, we had to take a little break in order to put on the Bulldog’s roof. Usually, that’s a no-go for hardcore Lanz pilots such as our president. Because of or in spite of Templin’s comment “The guy up there is a bit of a clown himself”, the weather god must have wanted to show off his most spectacular self. However, that didn’t stop people from admiring our Bulldogs, on the contrary: Heiner, on his field convertible from 1938, decided to beam just like a ray of sunshine to drive away the rain clouds. After having woken up half of Düsseldorf’s population and having led to the surrender of any device measuring particulate emissions, we finally arrived at our starting position where we had to linger for another five hours before our gears could finally mesh again. However, it was anything but long or boring because the procession started at the end, which is why all the wagons passed by us. It basically rained candy into our driver’s cab. Later, we could redistribute that candy to the children, who had at some point started to flip their umbrellas to catch the candy. Their beaming eyes were the reward for the long wait. It is hard to describe the kind of excitement and enthusiasm you feel when you are part of the procession yourself. I even got to know my girlfriend in a different way: she loved the great atmosphere and clearly enjoyed being part of the crowd whenever she could cheer people on to do a Mexican wave – intoxicated by happiness.

The only issue was keeping the balance on the passenger’s pulpit, especially because of the strong torque increase every time the HR9 sped up. Templin, himself, was covered in colourful carnival decorations by then (just remember his panted nails), including a jester’s hat. Completely stunned, he said: “Dude, that’s Roberto Blanco up there on our wagon! The man is 82 years old and he’s standing up there in the flesh, can you imagine?” He’s just as old as our HR8, I thought. Crazy! As the procession went on, we noticed with every gas ejection that our Lanz Bulldogs – for which the procession was a piece of cake – with their white smoke and their loud noises put on a bigger show than any subwoofer or smoke machine. We were even encouraged, no, ordered by the Prinzengarde, another Düsseldorf carnival society, to turn up our engines and liven things up.

“Dude, my whole jacket is already covered in oil, I have been standing next to you for the past half hour, it’s so crazy and so awesome,” one of the carnival revellers said – and that was one of the longest and wordiest praises we got. Thumbs up, everywhere. Not only from generation Facebook. Parts of that generation were to be found on a Greta-themed wagon, driven by a, quote Layher, “drill machine vehicle”. They quickly had to close their windows after I accidentally put fire in the two-stroke 10.5-litre combustion chamber while partying on the navigation bridge. Driving through the crowd, we got to know what pop stars in the 90s must have felt like. Joyful faces as far as the eye could see. No exceptions. A loud “Helau”, a common greeting for carnival revellers in Düsseldorf, combined with a fire burst of one of the Bulldogs had the same effect as a party drug. Ultimately, the praises about the Technik Museen resounding from the loudspeakers and the associated acquisition of future visitors did the rest. For fans from fans – here, you could experience our slogan up close and unfiltered. Mr. Layher, Mr. Templin, I would like to thank you with all my heart for this outstanding experience, also on behalf of our team member Heiner and my girlfriend Corinna.

P.S.: You are already a huge fan and want to be inspired? Prove it and come to our BRAZZELTAG! Here, you can not only watch the above-mentioned Lanz Bulldogs from afar, like the carnival participants in Düsseldorf, but be part of it and even ride along on one. I won’t go on about what it’s like to smell, feel, and sometimes taste those titans, or what it’s like to look down into joyful faces from the driver’s cab. No candy needed.

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