In many regards, Brummen is a typical small Dutch town. The gardens there are well-kept, the pace of life goes leisurely and everybody knows who their neighbour is. But surprisingly, this unassuming place is actually home to one of the biggest classic car dealers in Europe - Gallery Aaldering.
Its main showroom indeed resembles a gallery rather than a dealership. The four-story neoclassical building is flooded with natural light. It conveniently provides a suitable, unobtrusive backdrop for the hundreds of classic cars and motorcycles featured on display. In fairness, the building itself is something to behold - its centrepiece is the staircase that lets one overlook all four floors at once.
To understand more about the philosophy that catalyzed the success of the Gallery Aaldering, I sat down for a conversation with its director and co-owner, Nick Aaldering.
The business is now co-run by Nick Aaldering and his father Nico Aaldering. It started as a passion project of Nico that became a classic car dealership in the 1970s. Right now, they are one of the biggest names in the business, selling around 400 cars every year.
Needless to say, behind this success hide years of constant effort and dedication. Nick confessed that he often prioritizes the Gallery to his personal life. In fact, it’s not unusual for him to come to work at 9 a.m. and leave at 6 p.m. He does it to always stay on top of what’s happening at the Gallery.
Each new acquisition goes through a comprehensive check and a test drive administered by him. Nick knows the selling points and flaws of each car by heart and will honestly share it with a prospective buyer. This kind of expertise and transparency have earned the Gallery a complete trust of the buyers, which is a valuable commodity in this business. These days, 65% of Gallery’s sales are finalized without the buyers even seeing the cars - a number that perfectly illustrates the aforementioned trust.
The Gallery has its own workshop, detailers and transport services. This enables the dealership to control every aspect of operations from acquisition to delivery.
Maybe sceptics would be quick to dismiss Nick’s statements about his hectic schedule as a dramatization act, but I got to witness he was not over-exaggerating. During the first hours of my visit, I saw Nick continuously interacting with colleagues, clients and visitors while micro-managing every aspect of the Gallery’s processes.
However, it’s not only the buyers that are fond of the Gallery. The dealer has a reputation among sellers as well. For years, sourcing stock for the Gallery meant seeking out leads and travelling around the globe to buy classics. Now, a significant number sellers contact the Gallery themselves According to Nick, Gallery Aaldering is one of the rare classic car dealers in the world that is willing to actually buy the cars, rather than just accept them on a consignment basis. The dealer actually owns around 90% of the stock. Such commitment and exceptional position afford the Gallery to choose those cars that they truly want. “For me, it’s like cherry-picking”, said Nick.
It doesn’t take long to realize what cars Gallery Aaldering is cherry-picking – the collection is full of both Italian and British examples, primarily from the post-war years. Nick explained why that is the case: “In the 50s and 60s, there were no restrictions on design, there were no safety regulations. However, they already knew how to build cars that were fast, usable and reliable.” And really, pleasing aesthetics are paramount for any car that ends up in his showroom.
Nick Aaldering believes cars are drivable art pieces, hence the name of the dealership. That is not to say he just spends his days looking at them. Nick is an avid driver, be it a Sunday joy drive, or a race like Mille Miglia. He asked, “if you just buy a classic car to put it in a glass box and look at it, why not simply get a Burago?”.
There is no doubt that the Aaldering family is zealous when it comes to classic cars. Still, some concessions have to be made to maintain the business with 27 employees. And some cars are difficult to part with, no matter how tempting the offer may be. Nick told a story of a perfectly original and immaculate, orange Ferrari 246 GT Dino that he still regrets selling. A customer convinced Nick to sell the car, albeit he was reluctant to do it. Immediately, Nick realized that he made a mistake, and tried to retract the deal. Sadly, but with no luck. “It may be hard to believe from the outsider perspective, but sometimes, when you hold onto the car for a certain period, you become fond of it like it’s a dog,” he disclosed. It’s a constant balancing act between the passion and the company’s bottom line.
You may now wonder, what a man that can have virtually any car in the world, chooses to drive? Well, three favorites in Nick’s collection are Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster, Ferrari 246 GT Dino (not the one that got away) and an aluminum-bodied Ferrari 275 GTB4, in no particular order. It’s hard to argue with those choices, especially considering his refined palate for classic cars.
Albeit only very few are fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of an exotic piece that is worth millions, Gallery Aaldering aims to make the classic car scene more approachable. Nico Aaldering is hosting a segment on a Dutch TV show “Autowereld” (Autoworld). Excerpts of it can be found on Youtube, some containing English subtitles. Also, feel free to watch Nico Aaldering introduce two rare Alfa Romeos below:
Youtube is not the only social medium where you can follow the updates from the Gallery. They often post some drool-worthy classic car content on their Instagram account.
If you prefer the real stuff rather than the internet pixels, you can also pay a visit to the dealership yourself. Albeit Gallery Aaldering is not an actual gallery or a museum. But even when it lacks the facilities to accommodate large groups, it still accepts visitors. Just recently, the dealership had a group of blind visitors, who were given velvet gloves so they could touch the cars on display. This way they could experience the design features of cars.
Any classic car dealership is a business, but Gallery Aaldering is obviously the one run by true enthusiasts.