Turning 40….Essen Motor Show
Mid Life Crisis?
Essen Motor Show celebrated its 40th birthday with something of a mid-life
crisis, for gone were many of the classy themed displays, visiting celebrities
and the like to be replaced by lots of dubious creations that would have felt at
home in a 1970’s custom car show, not to mention the occasional body-painted
naked lady! Having said that, there was still much to grab the attention in the
massive Messe Essen.
From it’s beginnings in 1968 the show has grown from 7,000 to 105,000 square
metres spread through 19 halls, whilst attendance at that first show was an
impressive 57,000; today it is in excess of 400,000. Such has been the
importance of the event that it has traditionally been supported by many of the
major manufacturers but the precariousness of the economy at the moment
meant that many of them gave Essen a miss, their budgets having been eaten
up by the bi-annual IAA Frankfurt Motor Show just two months previously.
Build them and we will come
VW Audi,Ford and Opel did come to Essen however, and indeed both Audi and
Ford chose the occasion to unveil new models – Audi took the wraps off the A3
Cabriolet and TT Clubsport quattro, whilst Ford debuted the latest Focus ST. As
ever at Essen the focus of most of the attention at Audi and VW was on their
competition activities. The R10 and A4 DTM winner were both prominently
displayed at Audi, as they announced their plans for 2008. Meanwhile, lurking
on the Sachs stand was a GT3-prepared R8. VW gave their latest Dakar racer
its’ first public airing, with Formula 3 also to the fore, following their successful
foray into engine supply last year. The VW Motorsport division, under the
leadership of Kris Nissen, is proving to be quite a success story. There was
even a diesel-powered Jetta destined for a race series in the US. Elsewhere in
the same Hall Porsche were showing the latest iterations of their Carrera Cup
racer alongside an RS Spyder.
Whilst motorsport has rather tended to play second fiddle to the tuning industry
at Essen in recent years, it does seem to be fighting back but there is a little
way to go. The Galleria is dedicated to the sport, with various championship
organisers, circuits etc represented, and even a small area devoted to some of
the specialist suppliers. Hopefully this is a section of the show that can be
extended, but for small motorsport businesses taking ten days out to attend a
show at this time of the year is not a realistic proposition.
Fortunately Essen did remember their roots by putting on a delightfully nostalgic
display of racing machinery to mark their 40th. There to bring the memories
back were Lotus 49 & 72, Ferrari 312 T2, BMW ‘Batmobile’, Cologne Capri
RS3100 and Ford GT40, amongst other things, in a well-lit, well laid-out display.
By contrast, half a dozen current F1 cars were tucked away at the gloomy end
of one of the smaller halls!
Tunes, helps you breath easier
I guess it’s a sign of the times that Halls 10 & 11 where most of the big-name
tuners normally reside, was rather more sparsely populated than usual. Present
however were Brabus, Breyton, Oettinger and Techart, whilst others such as
Lorinser and Carlsson were to be found elsewhere in the show stand-sharing
with tyre companies and the like. After Frankfurt, where everything seemed to
be green-tinted, it was quite a relief here to find that not all of the German
industry has succumbed to the dreaded eco lobby. Didn’t hear anyone mention
their carbon footprint all day!
Brabus have long been masters of the art of squeezing ever more powerful
engines into Mercs, and they show no signs of letting up – they’ve even had a
go at the SLR McLaren Roadster. Special camshafts, a fuel cooling system and
revised exhaust system up the power output of the 5.5-litre V8 supercharged
engine by 24bhp to 650bhp. Brabus’ own limited-slip diff helps improve traction
to give a claimed 0-62mph (100km/h) time of 3.6-seconds and top speed of
Visually, the car is altered via carbon spoiler at the front and diffuser at the rear,
together with 20-inch alloy wheels. The gleaming black show car was also set-
off magnificently by a sunptuous red leather interior, right down to quilted foot
If that’s not powerful enough for you, Brabus have also come up with the Bullit,
essentially a V12 Biturbo engine pumping out a claimed 730bhp squeezed into
the confines of the latest C-Class. It’s anticipated that this ultimate Q-car will be
capable of in excess of 224mph (360km/h), but at a price. Cars will be built to
order from an endless list of options, the starting price being 348,000 Euros!
At the other end of the scale, Austrian outfit MS Design have been collaborating
with Fiat to produce a limited-edition (just 740 cars) version of the new 500,
called the Cup. Essentially a bodykit comprising of front and rear spoilers, side
skirts and 17-inch alloys, together with some suspension mods. It’s not retro fit
though, and will only be available from official Fiat dealers. The Cup will be
available almost exclusively in black or white – definitely not red, Fiat are
reserving that for the forthcoming Abarth version. Apart from the rear spoiler,
which makes it look a bit like a supermarket trolley, the kit works well.
As an exercise in retro style, the Fiat 500 is a huge success, certainly looking
a lot better than BMW’s ghastly pastiche Mini and a huge industry is growing
up around it – this feature was written with the aid of a Fiat 500 mouse
(Topolino, remember?). Sadly though we won’t (or shouldn’t!) see any Abarth’s
rushing around with their engine covers propped open – it’s at the wrong end!
Thankfully white seems to be the new black where cars are concerned; there’s
nothing worse than trying to photograph a show full of black cars with everything
reflecting off them. Porsche tuners extraordinaire overcame that problem though
with an absolutely stunning satin black-finished 911. No reflections but still a
sod to photograph. By contrast, the satin lilac-coloured Audi Q7 looked very gay
and certainly caught the eye, as did the gunmetal Gemballa Mirage GT.
As ever, the classic side of the show was looked after admirably by S.I.H.A.,
the organisers of the spring-time Techno Classica Essen. Their central display
featured a variety of racers from little Stanguellini to Mercedes Streamliner.
Biggest oddity of the show was also to be found in this hall. Not for sale, but
auction house Coys brought along a Hispano-Suiza that the then-owner back in
the 1950’s had chopped on half and bolted the front end to a horse-drawn
carriage to provide transport for his daughter’s wedding. Old cars were just old
cars in those days!
That’s the beauty of Essen though, there’s something for everyone, and long
may it continue. Hopefully this year saw just a temporary blip and we will back
to seeing breathtaking displays of concept cars, Formula 1 etc, back down in
Hall 1A instead of what we got this time. Oh yes, there were a few concepts,
essentially the work of Sbarro and Stola, tucked away in one of the halls, but
not displayed in the way we are used to. Still a great event though, and one to
look forward to at the onset of winter.
Dates for the diary:
29Nov – 7Dec 2008 Essen Motor Show www.essen-motorshow.de
28Nov – 6Dec2009 Essen Motor Show www.essen-motorshow.de
27March – 30March 2008 Techno-Classica Essen www.siha.de
2 April – 5 April 2009 Techno-Classica Essen www.siha.de
John Elwin, 2008