Forget silver, forget black, the future's orange. Well, that's if this years' Essen Motor
Show was anything to go by. Maybe it was just to ward off the winter chill but
wherever you looked there seemed to have been a healthy dose of vitamin C. Even
the lovely young lady on the Foliatec stand had received a coat of orange paint. Mind
you, she wore very little else to keep her warm! Giugiaro started it by simultaneously
launching his take on the current Mustang in both L.A. and Essen - in orange of
course. The only difference being that L.A. got a real car whilst the one in Essen was
a mock up.
Elsewhere orange abounded from Porsche Cup cars to bewinged Audi TT's. Actually
Porsche Motorsport were divided on the citrus theme with the lemon yellow RS
Spyder curiously rather tucked away in a corner. Oh, and there was a jug of of
oranges and lemons too. Mansory hedged their bets with a two-tone black and
orange Bentley Continental GT; the orange leather interior was a little overpowering
and only went to prove that money does not buy taste. That maxim was backed-up by
Sbarro who brought along a Barbie doll-pink reworked Ferrari Modena Spider - but at
least it wasn't orange.
Missing in Action
Times they are a-changing at Essen. Conspicuous by their absence were some of
the major manufactureres such as Mercedes, BMW, Honda and Toyota, who
normally put-on a big show. However, VW and Audi were prominent, the former
launching their Dakar Rally effort together with new R36 versions of the Passat,
whilst Audi displayed the new drop-top TT alongside DTM and Le Mans racers.
Nevertheless, Audi cancelled the planned press conference to announce 2007 driver
line-ups and racing programmes. Rumour has it many of the old guard are out.
Lotus also took the opportunity to introduce yet another Exige variant to the public.
The local council had reportedly also reduced its financial support for the Show,
meaning that we did not get the usual parade of celebrities. We did however get Mrs
Schumacher, presumably meaning either that Michael is no longer a big attraction in
Germany or that he really has retired from public life. We shall see....
Back to the Tracks
If it was disappointing to see a no-show from some of the big names, it was good to
see Essen taking at least a few steps back towards its roots (it began as the Jochen
Rindt Show) with more of motorsport interest than we have seen in recent years.
With the Galleria being filled with various race promoters, circuits etc, three new
national championships were launched. Jochen Mass was on hand to talk about his
new ASCE (American Stock Car Europe) series. This has been tried before, with new
ovals built at Rockingham, England and Lausitz in Germany but despite best efforts
has never really caught the imagination of the European public. Aside from the
aforementioned venues Mass plans to take his 700hp racers to places such as
Hockenheim and Monza, so we shall have to wait and see. The DMSB, Germany's
motorsport federation, launched a new junior single-seater series utilising Ford-
engined Dallara single-seaters. But isn't this rather an overcrowded marketplace
Perhaps of more interest to us is the fact that Monsieur Ratel has teamed-up with the
ADAC to create the ADAC GT Masters series. Run along similar lines to the SRO-
promoted British GT Championship this features two one-hour races per weekend
and at present the six-meeting series is due to get underway as a support to the
Nurburgring 24-Hours on 7-9 June, with subsequent rounds at Oschersleben,
Eurospeedway Lausitz, Zolder, Sachsenring and Hockenheim. Interest in the series
is high with about a dozen known competitors at the time of Essen. For further
information, see www.adac.de/gtmasters.
Past Time Paradise
Motorsport history played a major part in the Show too. Aside from the Nurburgring
reminding us that it celebrates it's 70th birthday next year, a central theme was the Le
Mans 24-Hours. However, the display featured something of a mixed bag of cars, not
all of which had ever zapped round La Sarthe for a day and a night. For instance, the
300SL Merc was actually a Carrera Panamericana car, the Gulf GT40 and 917 were
fakes, whilst the Rothmans 956 was a short-tail version. Oh, and the billed Peugeot
didn't appear at all. S.I.H.A., the organisation responsible for the historic section of
this Show as well as organising Techno Classica in the Spring, had done rather
better with their celebration of 100 Years of Grand Prix cars, gathering together an
eclectic collection from down the ages.
As always, the German tuning industry was a major part of the Show, and some
serious kit there was too. Don't think Nova with darkened windows and boom-box, oh
no. There was some of that, with one outfit filling the back of a Hummer with in-car
entertainment. Probably only a matter of time before it's vibrating its way round the
mean streets of Brixton. Be worth it just for the fact that it would annoy Mayor Ken
Laughingstock! Incidentally, elsewhere there was a Hummer in Gulf livery;
presumably that's because you'd need your own oil well to run it...
Mansory, aside from slapping lurid paint (and some 'rubber band' tyres) on a Bentley,
having been modifying Aston Martins rather more attractively - bit of an in car with the
tuners, the Aston. Brabus of course stuck with Mercedes, calling their 730hp V12
biturbo S the Rocket. More worryingly, there was one in 'Polizei' livery. And yes, speed
cameras are starting to appear in Germany. Is civilisation as we know it really
coming to an end? If so, it is yet to stop the likes of Tech Art doing outrageous things
with Porsches. ABT continue to improve Audis, displaying a nice polished ali Q7.
If you prefer your AMG-tuned Merc V8 wrapped in something a little more unusual,
how about the converted GAZ and Volga's from Russian tuner Autolion? Further
down the scale companies like Merkur were finding ways of making Fiat Panda and
Grande Punto go faster whilst Alfa specialists Camao had been commissioned by a
customer to build a truly outrageous 147 GTA for a tuning competition sponsored by
Pirelli. As with so many conversions at the moment, this one featured scissor doors
as pioneered by Lamborghini. I'm yet to be convinced of their practicality but they
were to be found on everything from a Smart Coupe upwards. Everywhere you
looked there were shiny wheels, fancy exhausts and all manner of other bits and
pieces to enhance your motor on offer. And judging by the number of large boxes
being carried out the German love affair with modifying cars has not been
bludgeoned into the ground by the petulant Greens.
Me? It's nearly Christmas so I think I'll peel an orange and look forward to the 40th
anniversary Essen Motor Show, starting 30 November 2007. (www.essen-