Essen Motor Show
Power meets Emotion
That's an apt description for the annual extravaganza of all things motoring that is
the Essen Motor Show. It grew out of the old Jochen Rindt Show but has long
since ceased to be a purely motorsport event and is none the worse for that. The
mere fact that well in excess of 400,000 people are lured through the doors of
Essen’s huge exhibition complex during the Show’s ten-day run is evidence alone
that they are doing something right.
Motorsport does still play its part though, with many of the manufacturers
(particularly the Germans) using it as an opportunity to announce their plans for
the following year. Audi hosted a big press conference to confirm that once again
various privateer teams will be running the all-conquering R8's’in various events,
particularly Le Mans. Their trio of serial winners in the shape of Frank Biela, Tom
Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro will concentrate on the DTM where Biela and Pirro
will drive official A4’s and Kristensen will replace Laurent Aiello in the Abt team.
Goodbye Smokin’ Jo
Elsewhere, Mitsubishi took the wraps off their latest rally car. It looks a lot like the
old rally car but now has a bookshelf mounted on the boot! Opel were confirming
some of their DTM driver line-up (but couldn’t yet say whether or not Heinz-Harald
Frentzen would be joining them). More significantly, Jo Winkelhock was on hand to
say that he was hanging up his helmet after 25 years of racing. Smokin’ Jo is of
course best known for his touring car exploits but I shall always remember a little
story he told against himself at Le Mans the year he was a member of the
victorious BMW team. This little incident took place during one of the qualifying
“I was badly baulked by one of the GT cars,” said Jo, with that sheepish grin of his.
“When I eventually got by I gave him the old one-finger salute. But, I forgot I was in
an open car and the wind nearly dragged me out of the cockpit. It took about half a
lap to get back into my seat properly!
Getting in Tune
Back to Essen. Germany has a vibrant tuning industry and this is its showcase.
Now, there is supposed to be a bit of a recession going on but there’s not too
much evidence of it here. Time was when the Golf was the mainstay of the
industry, but evidently the enthusiasts have all grown up and got families.
Everywhere you looked there were Porsche Cayennes. There seemed to be a
serious competition on to see who can fit the largest wheels and the lowest profile
tyres – but doesn’t the latter rather defeat the object of a 4WD? Or shock horror,
perhaps they are not used off-road! Improving the exterior looks of the gruesome
beast would take some serious work but TechArt have had a go at the interior by
giving it a yellow steering wheel, instrument cowl etc.
Just to keep a perspective on things though, there are still some imaginatively
modified Porsches to be found with the likes of Gemballa and TechArt providing
some serious performance whilst Hamann got carried away as usual. Their
current obsession is fitting ‘butterfly’ doors to everything and the Porsche has not
escaped their attention. You wouldn’t want to get trapped in the supermarket car
DaimlerChrysler can now claim to cater for all sections of the Sportscar market.
Starting at the bottom, the intriguing little Smart Roadster-Coupe has already been
‘got at’ by tuning company Brabus. Then when you tire of the tiny machine - or
grow legs – you could progress on to the Chrysler Crossfire or the Viper. And of
course when you’ve really made it the McLaren-built Mercedes-Benz SLR awaits
you. Then when you’ve lost your licence they’ll take you for a circuit ride in their
DTM-spec taxi. Yes, it’s painted cream and has a Taxi sign on the roof. Who says
Germans don’t have a sense of humour?
Won't Get Fooled Again
The theme of this years’ central display was ’55 Years of Ferrari in Formula 1’ and
a truly mouth-watering display of red Grand Prix cars were to be seen. Sharing the
same hall were the weird and the wonderful, ranging from a flattened Volvo (crush
‘em all, I say!) through strange design exercises such as the Xeno 111 and a
collection of amazing ‘bikes from Daytona to some truly extravagant coach-built
leviathans from the ‘thirties.
Ferrari featured in the classic hall too, where under the heading of ‘Ferrari Days’
an eclectic selection including 275LM, 275GTB, 250 California and 365GTB
Daytona were to be found.
ADAC or ACDC?
Another central display in the Galleria was the ADAC’s celebration of 100 Years of
German Motorsport and beginning with a 1903 Laurin & Klement motorcycle took
you on a tour through history, right upped date, Porsche inevitably representing the
sportscar side of things with 908 and 956 things.
Well, that was Essen for another year. Only a fleeting one-day visit this time and
it’s not really long enough to do justice to the 20 crammed exhibition halls.
Better than not going at all though!