Essen Motor Show
sportscarpros Gallery
 Next page

Turning 40

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 209mph (337km/h).

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 mats.

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
28Nov – 6Dec2009               Essen Motor Show

27March – 30March 2008    Techno-Classica Essen
 2 April – 5 April 2009         Techno-Classica Essen

John Elwin, 2008

 John Elwin
January 2008

 Previous page